C-suite career advice: Werner Knoblich, Red Hat

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

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Werner Knoblich

 Company: Red Hat

 Job Title: SVP and General Manager of Europe, Middle East, Africa

 Location: Munich, Germany


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?

Actually, there are three great pieces of advice that I've really taken note of and I'd find it hard to choose between them:

i) Always strive to make sure that your ego doesn't get in the way of making the right decision. Successful people always question themselves and continually seek new approaches to problem solving.

ii) Take the time to make sure you have the right people in the right roles and don't be afraid to move people around, if you can see a better fit for the team.

iii) Never take short-cuts when hiring, it can take time to find the right person – but it's worth the wait.


What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?

I think the key here is to be certain of your own path – if the advice doesn't fit, then it's probably best not to act on it, or to at least refine it so that it better fits your situation.


What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?

Securing your first role is a two-way street, not only do you need to be the right candidate for the job, but you also need to target companies that are the best fit for you.  A well-established HR process and employee training program are really important factors.  Red Hat takes the on-boarding of new employees very seriously and for new 'Red Hatters', our New Hire Orientation course is an important introduction to Red Hat's unique culture.  Similarly, we are very strong on providing continuing education for employees, for example Red Hat Training offers certifications and classes on our products and Red Hat University offers an established path for career growth.

Taking the time to find a company that's a good fit for you means you're more likely to be in that first role long enough to skill-up in the right areas.  Not only will you learn the technology, but you'll also have the time to gain invaluable insight into the business problems the technology addresses. This is absolutely key in such a customer-centric industry.


What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?

A sole focus on domain expertise will single you out as a potential high-flyer, but stepping up to a c-level position means putting greater emphasis on soft skills, such as communication, leadership, people management and decision-making.

For me, it's less about 'telling people what to do' and much more about ensuring my team feel empowered to lead and have all of the skills and support they need to make sure their own teams are successful.  Ensuring that employees fully understand your vision is an important way of making sure they are fully engaged, motivated and working towards the same goal.  This in turn can remove the need for micro-management and really empowers team members to make key decisions that are in-line with the company's broader thinking.


Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?

I always encourage my teams to live by the core values of trust, honesty, fairness and respect.  No matter what level you are in a business - or aspire to be - staying true to these principles will pay-off.