C-suite career advice: Adrian Taylor, A10 Networks

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? "A Computer Science degree provides a broader foundation."

Name: Adrian Taylor

Company: A10 Networks

Job Title: Regional Vice President of Sales for EMEA

Location: Theale, UK

Adrian Taylor is an established sales leader with over 25 years' experience in developing global and multinational accounts, across a wide range of emerging networking technologies. Having joined A10 Networks in September 2018, Taylor is responsible for driving growth through direct customer engagements, as well as leveraging channel, service provider and technology partnerships. Before moving into his new role, he spent over three years leading software sales at Brocade, which was later acquired by Pulse Secure. Prior to this, Taylor spent 13 years in senior positions at Cisco, where he first developed a strong understanding of cloud computing, while managing teams across EMEA and Russia, and driving a large proportion of channel and cloud sales for the business. Always one for a challenge, Taylor likes to push the limits within his role and explore new ways of driving A10 Networks' product sales forward, while finding new and disruptive routes to market.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? This would be to personally own and understand where you want to take your career. It's important to be flexible in accepting the positions you are offered, as long as they don't take you away from your chosen career path.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I was once told that if you relocate abroad for a few years, it's easy to come back. This is definitely harder than it sounds!

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? Be clear on what life experiences you want from your career. Make sure that when you accept a position, commit to it fully until you have achieved success in that role. It also helps to find a good mentor who can guide you, either throughout your career in IT, or in individual roles.

Did you always want to work in IT? I always wanted to do something very technical, so IT was a good fit! It proved to be a good decision and I thoroughly enjoy working in the sector.

What was your first job in IT? My first role in IT was to program industrial process controls. I then moved into internal sales, which largely involved hunting through a phone book to generate leads. How times change.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? That IT is a boring industry to work in. This is certainly not the case; once you find a role that you enjoy, it will always be interesting.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? It's important to try to consistently raise your game, pushing yourself forward and never resting on your laurels. There is always some aspect of your role that you can improve on or make better. Aspiring c-level executives should also proactively seek out opportunities to take on the required responsibilities, demonstrating that they are capable of succeeding at that level.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My main ambition is to lead an entire company. I have led departments on a global scale but have not reached the very top within a business…yet.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I have an incredible family and a very supportive wife. They allow me to fulfil my ambitions either within work or outside.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Looking back, I now know there are times when I could have pushed myself even further, in the early stages of my career. However, I believe I have learnt from this; I'm always looking to take myself out of my comfort zone, where possible.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I would recommend a Computer Science degree. It provides a broader foundation, while enabling a more diverse skill set to be developed.

How important are specific certifications? This all depends on the position you wish to obtain. If you wish to demonstrate knowledge in a specific area, certifications help a lot if they are recognised across the industry.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Drive, intellect and demonstrable performance are always a good sign of a promising candidate. We want to work alongside passionate people who can help to inspire others, but which we know will meet and exceed expectations immediately.

What would put you off a candidate? Vagueness and negativity are always a turn-off in an interview; if you are not excited when trying to secure a job, there's no reason to believe that you'll bring enthusiasm in the role.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? A lack of preparation and content is always frustrating to see. Always prepare your key messages ahead of an interview and spend time thinking about how you'll communicate these to your interviewer. Testing your answers with somebody beforehand is always a good way to prepare.

Candidates have to remember that interviews are a two-way process. It's a great opportunity to find out more about the company and drive some of the interview yourself. Leaving the interviewer to ask the questions will demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm and interest.

The old adage of: ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail' is never truer than in an interview. Putting in the work beforehand will make candidates feel calmer in an interview. Subtle body language points are also important to consider; keep your hands in front of you and visible, think through your answers, look your interviewer in the eyes and remain positive.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? In my experience, having a mix of both skill sets will give you a greater level of confidence. Everyone around you will benefits from your experience, which will make you stand-out to those in senior positions.