C-suite career advice: Ajai Sehgal, The Chemistry Group

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

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  Ajai Sehgal         

 Company: The Chemistry Group

 Job Title:  CTO  

 Location:  Seattle, WA & London, UK


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
Looking back, the best career advise that I have ever received is advice that I have not always followed and each time I didn’t, I regretted it.  That advise is: When choosing a job, choose who you are reporting to wisely.  If you have doubts about your manager or in the case of a CEO about the board you are working with, walk away.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
The worst piece of business advice that I have ever received I chose not to follow.  That was to play the political game and ignore the facts to get ahead.  The short-term gain would never be sustainable and following this advice would have eaten my soul.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
The advice that I would give to someone starting their career in the tech industry is to never stop learning and work out loud.  Technology moves like the wind on a blustery day, if you stop learning you will fall behind.  You will learn more if you “work out loud”.  For example, don’t be afraid to speak at conferences, document what you do in blogs and open it up for comments.  The knowledge available in the global tech community will help accelerate your work and help you avoid mistakes that have already been made.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Here are some tips for someone aiming for a c-level position:

  1. Learn to make quick decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence.  If you are wrong, learn that fast and be prepared to admit it and change direction.  If you wait to have all the necessary information to make the perfect decision, by the time you do, you will have already failed.
  2. Listen to the people who work for you.  They have more time to spend on the details.  Over time you will learn whom you can trust. Rely on them and replace the others. No C-Level executive has the time to know everything.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
The career advice that I have given that I am most proud of:

  1. Treat those who work for you like you would treat your family. Have high expectations but maintain your compassion and caring.  When your people genuinely know that you care for their career and well-being, they will go to the end of the Earth for you and the company.
  2. If you must let someone go, do it with compassion with clear reasons as to why.  Even though they may not immediately realize it, relieving someone of a position in which they are failing and giving them the chance to find a role in which they will thrive is doing them a huge favor.  One day, they may thank you for the opportunity.

Those whom I have mentored who have taken these and the tips in the previous question to heart have done very well in their careers, most notably the current CISO of Expedia.