C-suite career advice: Graham Jackson, Fluent Commerce

What would put you off a candidate? "Confidence is good. An air of entitlement isn't."

Name: Graham Jackson

Company: Fluent Commerce

Job Title: CEO

Location: Sydney, Australia

Graham is a seasoned executive with more than 23 years' experience in sales, retail and technology. Before becoming CEO of Fluent Commerce, he was the Senior Vice President of APJ and China for SAP Hybris, where he was responsible for a major growth in the company and market share across the region. 

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? If you feel you have stopped learning or growing in a role, then it's time to move on. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you stop learning, you will be irrelevant in no time.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst advice would be to stick to a business plan, no matter what. A well-thought-out business plan is crucial for success, but so is the agility needed to seize opportunities as they arise and adapt to changes beyond your control.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? I would recommend someone dipping their toes into different opportunities and roles, to find out what excites them the most. Don't let yourself be lured into one corner of a business too early; experiment and let yourself really find out where your skills and curiosities lie.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not always. I had always been interested in technology, but I initially started life as a financial derivative trader before turning to technology.

What was your first job in IT? My first role was managing a digital media sales team. This enabled me to gain some first-hand experience of managing a team within a high-pressure environment. It also provided me with many key skills that I still carry with me today.

What are the common misconceptions about working in IT? The obvious one would be the stereotype of IT folk being a bunch of ‘introverted nerds' which just isn't true anymore. It's as vibrant and varied as any other industry.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? I would say it's essential to read and research a lot. Always have an opinion you are willing to voice

and don't sit on the fence, as this won't get you noticed. I'm not afraid to be wrong on things; being corrected or disagreed with won't stop me from sharing my viewpoints.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? Running a large, globally recognised software company. With Fluent Commerce growing as it is, I am

getting closer and closer to this goal.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? That's a work in progress. I will say that at the moment I don't have the perfect work-life balance but it is better than in previous roles. I travel a lot, but I'm committed to blocking time out in advance for family or leisure activities, to make sure this doesn't get filled up with work commitments. I try and avoid travel on the weekends as much as possible.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I think every role so far has taught me a lot. I wouldn't want to miss any of the skills I have acquired along the way.

Which would you recommend: A coding boot camp or a computer science degree? This totally depends on the role and career path. But I'd recommend a coding boot camp for everyone.

How important are specific certifications? The industry does still value certifications, so they are very important if you are going for a tech role like a software developer. However, I would say this is less the case for more commercial roles.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?

It is difficult to speak about required key skills in general, as this all depends on the role.

However, I do look for these personality traits:

What would put you off a candidate? Confidence is good. An air of entitlement isn't.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Don't pretend to be everything to everyone, it's not authentic. Find how you work best and what your strengths are and highlight them - show genuine self-reflection.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? It completely depends on the role you are going for. However, most roles would require a combination of both.