Name: Philippe Gelis
Job Title: CEO & Co- Founder
Location: London, UK
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
Never give-up. At the end of the day, it is all about perseverance. If you work hard, and for long enough, at some point or another you will succeed. There is an industry wide misinterpretation within the tech scene whereby people think that industry success comes fast, but actually, real break-through success takes years.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
It may not necessarily be classed as “advice” but the worst thing a person can say to a budding entrepreneur or CEO is that “it will not work”; it is the least helpful piece of ‘advice’ to hear when you are trying to do something innovative.
When we were starting the business, we came into contact with so many people that said “Kantox cannot work”, purely because there is the view that the banks are too big and too powerful for a company like us to ever succeed. However, you need to remember that most people are stuck in the status quo, so by default they will always think that doing things differently is not a realistic possibility.
This is even truer with “experts” in any industry. Whilst they may know the existing industry better than anyone, they are often unable to imagine a different future, meaning that you often hear the phrase “it won’t work”.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
The tech industry is, by nature, extremely complex, and can be even more difficult to understand for those who are not tech engineers. However, you by no means need to be an engineer to work in the sector. Therefore, the best piece of advice I could give is to, essentially, be a sponge.
In order to succeed, learn every day and take in the perspectives of different industry players. Ask for advice from those who have been around longer than you - you shouldn’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer to every question! The industry is great for people that like to work outside of their comfort zone, but this ultimately requires an extensive amount of learning too.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
In any position, including c-level, it is all about the execution and your clients. So, pull your sleeves up and support your team when they face hard times and challenges. Another important tip is to speak to customers as much as you can – these are the people fueling your business so build a relationship with them and get to better understand their needs. A c-level position isn’t just about having a big office and big salary. It’s about bringing your team together as one to provide an outstanding service to your clients.
Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
I always say the same three things to anyone asking advice: take risks and don’t be afraid of falling. Never give-up, because success can take a long time, but with the right mindset and attitude, it will come. Lastly, be ambitious, but in in the right sense – don’t focus on the money. Success might be measured in numbers for some, but it is really about the journey.
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Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond