C-suite career advice: Jean Canzoneri, Ogury

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? "There are three main skills that I look for in candidates - curiosity, accountability/responsibility, and autonomy/decisiveness."

Name: Jean Canzoneri

Company: Ogury

Job Title: CEO

Location: France (But Ogury has offices in UK, FR, IT, ES, DE)

Jean Canzoneri is CEO of mobile journey marketing firm Ogury. A serial entrepreneur, at the age of 19 Canzoneri co-founded his first company called Find a Way, a street marketing agency, he then sold his shares to his business partner and co-founded BeeAd in 2009. In 2012 BeeAd was bought by Ebuzzing for over €25M and now operates in US/UK/IT/DE/SP/FR. He is also a co-founder of Mozoo, one of Europe's largest AdTech companies.


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? One of the business angels that I worked with for my first company, Thierry de La Brosse, a big entrepreneur in France, said to me 10 years ago: "There are killers and lovers in this business, and we are lovers. For business partnerships, don't go against your nature."

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst business advice I have received was ‘Stop being paranoid and worried'. Well, interestingly, in the fast-paced technology world, only the ‘paranoid' survive - it is costly and exhausting at times, but necessary to keep you constantly motivated and drive innovation.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry? Curiosity is the ultimate virtue if you want to work and progress in any sector. When you are curious, you get more opportunities, and you can add value to any business by being proactive and inquisitive.

When we set out to start Ogury, I didn't know much about tech, data, or marketing - but I was determined to invest all my energy in learning as much as possible about the sector, and as you can imagine, hard work pays off! My advice is - if you really want to understand something, you will - don't be scared, be curious and persistent.

Did you always want to work in IT? The short answer would be ‘no', interestingly. My passion lied in music initially - while looking into monetisation models, we found that this could be done successfully via a mobile marketing company, so that's what we did. In a sense, ending up in mobile marketing solutions was pure serendipity.

What was your first job in IT? Funnily enough, my first job in IT was as a CEO. Fresh out of school, I followed a different direction, focusing on my music, and then I decided to move into mobile by creating my own company. I didn't know much about what the role entailed, but if you care enough about the product and you are committed to making a difference, everything falls into place eventually.

Even now, I'm still very product-focused as I want us to offer the most cutting-edge technology available in the space and constantly raise the bar. In that sense, I also act as a  CPO I guess, more than your ‘average' CEO does. I'm more operational, enjoying the actual technology more than conventional ‘business as usual'.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? The most common misconception would be that to work in IT you have to be technical - this is not true at all. You need to have the right spirit and mentality to simplify complex issues, not to necessarily be able to read code. All you need sometimes is to know how something should be done and what it means.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Curiosity always helps on any level, and I can't stress this enough. It's essential to have a good grasp of the market at all times to drive your company forward. That's where a savvy CEO comes in - to dictate what the market needs, by sharing their forward-looking vision and evangelising something different and new.

You also need persistence to change yourself along the way. Lifelong learning and constant innovation are key to stay ahead of the curve. For example, when it comes down to product launches, you have to be one step ahead of your clients' needs. Sometimes clients don't necessarily know what they want or what can truly benefit their business' bottom line, and they may want to adopt a market trend just to be in par with competitors. Essentially, you need to know what your clients want before they do, and offer a great product catered to them.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I feel like I'm on track with the career ambitions I set out for myself, and definitely heading towards the right direction. I have reached a responsibility level where people trust me, and Ogury has established itself and grown rapidly in a very short period of time. But most importantly - I want to successfully lead this team where it wants to go, becoming a "unicorn", and confirm the vision we are all evangelising.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Work-life balance can be sometimes tricky for CEOs. I have a tendency to want to be very involved and solve every problem, and I could definitely learn to delegate and focus more on the ‘life' aspect! As the company grows, this is becoming increasingly challenging, and that's where you need good people, strategic hires, to help you scale while keeping our ethos and culture.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? There's always things you could do better - I do find that there is a certain level of maturity and calm that comes with age; you learn not to make rushed decisions and be patient in your reactions, making more strategic decision where needed.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? How important are specific certifications? Both academic qualifications and work experience are important from an employer's perspective. Degrees can definitely be a helpful filter to hire efficiently, because they can narrow down your candidate pool to a very targeted and talented group. If someone's been to MIT, Stanford, Polytechnique and so on, that would of course give them a competitive advantage.

However, curiosity, entrepreneurship, and a drive for innovation are imperative skills. It's not necessarily about the background, it's about initiative, and savvy employers are always on the lookout for talented people.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? There are three main skills that I look for in candidates - curiosity, accountability/responsibility, and autonomy/decisiveness. Whilst it can be risky hiring someone with these qualities, it can be very rewarding as the right candidates will have the freedom and capability to own projects and hit the ground running.  

What would put you off a candidate and what are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? One of my biggest pet peeves is arrogant and lazy people; candidates who are not humble are a nuisance for most employers. We absolutely adore self-starters with a go-to attitude and high proactivity.

Most interviews are more chit-chat and less structure. It's important to do your research in advance, provide answers to all questions, and complete any tasks given on the day, highlighting your skills in a concise and tangible way.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? If I had to choose, I'd say it's better to have technical skills, because business skills are easier to acquire. The latter are either innate or easier to pick up as you go. Even when it comes to my own family, I would definitely want my daughter to aim towards joining a big engineering school when the time comes, so she can grasp that technical knowledge, which will continue to be in high demand for the coming decades.