C-suite career advice: David Fernandez, Netclearance

We ask industry leading C-suite professionals for their expert career advice...

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David Fernandez

 Company: Netclearance

 Job Title: Founder and CEO

 Location: San Diego, US


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
From a startup perspective, the most valuable piece of advice I have been given is to focus on specific market segments. This is also the most challenging piece of advice to implement in reality.
Being able to prioritise the efforts of the company to serve a particular segment of the market, as opposed to doing too many things, is a challenge. As a company, you want to generate more sales and say yes to everything, but that can actually cause a hindrance in the long run.
Pick a market and stick to it. That’s one of the best pieces of advice in order to succeed.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
I’ve encountered people who have given their views on the next steps I should take with the company to grow it, but they haven’t always been the most valuable pieces of advice.
For example, I’ve been told that in the early stages of your company, you should take all the customers you can get to add value, no matter what. This may sound logical, but in my experience, it’s better to have one good customer than 10 poor ones. If I had followed the advice, it would have ultimately impacted my company negatively.
Furthermore, as a CEO of a startup, a lot of my time is spent raising funds for the company. In the past, financial professionals advised me that I should take a larger investment than I needed. This isn’t always in the best interest of the company, however, as you can end up giving away more control of your company, limiting its growth in the long term. A better piece of advice would be to raise the minimum money that you need to get to the next phase. Don’t take it all!

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
The best piece of advice I could give to someone would be to reinvent yourself constantly. Keep learning because technology moves so fast that what you learn today could easily become obsolete 12 months later. Do your best to learn as much as you can on the job and always seek more knowledge.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
It depends on the size of the company, but in a startup, I would say it’s important to learn how to delegate functions. From my own experience as CEO of Netclearance and also from speaking with peers, I have learnt that it can sometimes be difficult to delegate jobs to other members of the team and relinquish an element of control. It’s important to know how to manage people and get the best out of your team, otherwise you can try to take it all on yourself and affect the performance of the company. CEOs can be control freaks – don’t become one of them!
The better you are able to delegate, then the more time you have to concentrate on the vision and the strategy of the company. Learn when the right time to delegate is and trust your team. Good CEOs empower people in their team.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
My background is mostly engineering, and I have mentored junior engineers in a previous role. I managed teams of junior engineers and interns who were fresh out of college. I’d often give them advice on some of the most basic things like how to interview for jobs, writing their CVs and body language. Those particular skills can be tricky to get right and make a huge difference if you get them wrong. I am quite proud to say that those young people that I did help right at the beginning of their careers were able to go on to get that next level job and develop their job roles.