Name: Adrian Ivanov
Job Title: Chief Customer Officer
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
To trust your judgement. As a fairly analytical person, early on in my career I’d come up with what I thought was the right answer and then I’d seek out more information or data to validate. In high growth environments you often don’t have time for that or have access to data so you need the confidence to make decisions based on what you have. The data may be available to allow you to adapt as you see fit moving forwards, but it is not always there when a decision needs to be taken.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
I was advised that you should always be looking for your next opportunity and I think that if you’re doing that then you’re not 100% focused on being successful in your current opportunity.
I see far too many resumes from candidates who have been serial ‘job-hoppers’. I look for people that have demonstrated that they can stick with something and that when they face adversity they have the confidence to persevere. Those that get through the adversity reap the benefits of a huge boost in confidence, inevitably leading to more success.
It is easier sometimes to leave and go and do something else under the guise of pursuing a new opportunity, but the reality is you probably learn more if you try to see it through. It may not result in a successful outcome, but trying to persevere is very important.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
If you want to get into more of the business side, for example sales, marketing or service, I’d advise starting out in a technical role so that you understand really what it takes to develop a solution in technology.
I got a degree in finance and I ended up in a software company. The closest I could come to this was a product strategy role where I managed both the inbound gathering of business requirements, to develop the product roadmap, and the rolling out of the solutions once they were developed, to both the sales team and to the external markets. As a result, I gained a strong understanding of how a software company develops solutions and brings them to the market.
Once you have that fundamental grounding you’ll find you can make use of the knowledge and experience gained in other functions within a company.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Breadth of experience is very helpful. If you’ve only worked in one function and just keep getting promoted up in the same area, you’ll eventually find yourself overseeing other functions to which you have never had much exposure. Sure, it’s possible to achieve success without that, but I have found that breadth has helped me incredibly.
I may be a little biased, but I think at some point in one’s career everyone should give sales a try. Even if you find you’re not very good at it, at least you’ll have an appreciation for how difficult it can be. As one moves up in seniority within an organisation, there is a tendency to become more involved with selling in some way or another, whether it’s selling their company or its solutions.
Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
In my previous role as Head of Global Sales I had the opportunity to oversee our sales development teams. This is an entry level role into the sales organisation and employees have the typical profile of a recent college graduate with maybe one ‘professional’ job before getting hired into FinancialForce. I had the pleasure of watching many of these individuals progress in their careers, moving up to Account Executives and some of them onto to their first line management roles. I really enjoying mentoring and helping develop individuals.
In terms of advice, I certainly don’t try to give the answer. I try to provide different perspectives, which perhaps they’re not considering, and help them arrive at the best outcome. It’s all part of the learning process.
I always pass on what I consider to be a very good piece of advice I once received. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. So if things are going really well, don’t get complacent. Conversely, if things seem very challenging, try to persevere and don’t get too stressed out as things will improve one way or another.
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond