C-suite career advice: Venkat Rangan, Clari

"I would recommend frequent online courses and coding bootcamps to update your skills and keep up-to- date with the latest technologies."

Name: Venkat Rangan

Company: Clari

Job Title: CTO & Co-founder

Location: Sunnyvale, CA

With over 30 years of technology innovation and leadership experience, Venkat Rangan currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Clari Inc. Prio to Clari, Rangan co-founded Clearwell Systems, Inc. in 2004 and served as its Chief Technology Officer. He serves as a Director of Clari Inc. Rangan holds 12 patents.


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? For being successful, it is more important to master the Emotional Quotient aspects, with genuine feelings for generating mutually beneficial solutions to problems.

What was the worst piece of career advice that you received? For one of the jobs that I was offered, I got the advice, "Take the job for the experience". This was an offer from a large company with a brand name. However, it was clear within a year that it was a mistake. You should always take the job that excites you the most, offers learning opportunities and will help you grow.

Did you always want to work in IT? I have always wanted to work in companies that build products to solve big enterprise problems. Technology products have been transformational in the economy, generating huge amount of value, and I've been fortunate to be able to participate in several such product companies.

What was your first job in IT? My first job was managing a lab for the Computer Science department in my university where I was a grad student. I managed multi-user Digital Equipment PDP and VAX computing environment, and enabled thousands of undergraduate students learn the C Programming Language. Very soon, I was involved in procurement, vendor relations, software/hardware installations etc. It also gave me the experience running a large operation, addressing system availability and reliability.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? One of the misconceptions is that bright, smart people will get the job done, leading to hiring talent from top schools. Unfortunately, the more common recipe for success is the ability to work as a team, with proper coordination among team members, proactive alerting of problem areas, and understanding where your work fits in the larger picture. This requires strong communication skills, more than raw coding or subject matter expertise.

What tips would you give someone aiming for a c-suite level position? Besides keeping up with all the latest technology shifts, focus on EQ aspects, such as those outlined in Conscious Business by Fred Kaufman.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I would like to start, build and grow a company, take it public and maintain its long-term market viability. Clari is one of the most ambitious projects I've taken on to date. It's been a dream of mine from the start leverage AI to solve big enterprise problems starting with the sales process.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I do not distinguish work for the company from personal or family obligations. My life is my work and my work is my life, hence there is no need to balance anything.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? In general, I have no regrets on my career path. The only decision I might revisit is not completing the PhD program I was enrolled in, which may have given me an opportunity to teach as well.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? A computer science degree is foundational and would not substitute it for a coding bootcamp. I would recommend frequent online courses and coding bootcamps to update your skills and keep up-to- date with the latest technologies.

How important are specific certifications? Certifications in Cyber-security seem useful in establishing your credibility. For IT skills, while certifications are not important, the work a candidate puts in to earn a certificate, when complemented with hands-on work at a job, would be helpful.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? At Clari, we look to see if the candidate has the ability to work in a team setting. Are they able to handle the stresses of IT job with calmness, are they proactive in avoiding fire-drills, do they have a tactical as well as a strategic mind in solving problems?

What would put you off a candidate? If a candidate claims they were a "victim" of circumstance and displays negative sentiments about their current employer.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I would not hire candidates who disparage their current employer or current manager. Candidates should have a good answer for what their career path would be like over the next two and next five years, as well as why they are interviewing at my company.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? My observation is that candidates that seem to do well are those that had a strong technical background earlier in their career with business skills acquired along the way as they gain experience. So, depending on the position and level, I look for an evolving skill set with greater business skills as they mature into more impactful and leadership roles.