C-suite career advice: Sultan Saidov, Beamery

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? "Not showing they really understand and want the role..."

Name: Sultan Saidov

Company: Beamery

Job Title: President and Co-founder

Location: London, UK

Sultan Saidov is the Co-founder and President at Beamery, where he has been leading the strategy and design of the next generation Talent Engagement platform since day one. He is a frequent speaker on all things product, recruiting, data and GDPR, and an awardee on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? That it's important to always ‘pay it forward' and help others where you can. It is also important to understand how you can add value, and if you can afford the time help without thinking about your own benefits — because you never know when people will unexpectedly help you back.

What was the worst piece of career advice that you received? That you need to build a career and amass experience before you ‘go off on your own' and launch a business.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not specifically — I always wanted to build things, and my first business was building computers when I was 14 and the speed with which a tech business could be built has always appealed. In terms of work, I've never worked in IT other than as a founder (I worked in finance).

What was your first job in IT? I worked on the team responsible for launching the first commodities trading platform at Goldman Sachs.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? That you need to know how to code or that you have to be very technical. Such skills are much easier to pick up in the right company and team than people expect.

What tips would you give someone aiming for a c-suite level position? To think in longer timescales and to abstract yourself from immediate problems. It's important to learn how to solve bigger problems, including how to coach and motivate other people to do that with you rather than only focusing on your own contributions.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? To help create a world where more people work in jobs they love — and I never expect to completely reach that goal, only to keep getting closer.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Yes — most days I am able to compartmentalise work from life, but there are certainly times when life has to be temporarily put on hold.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Learning technical skills, and programming, sooner.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a career as a programmer, I'd say a computer science degree, as you need to learn to be versatile and to solve problems, not just to learn a language. However, many coding bootcamps are fantastic, and a computer science degree is by no means necessary for a successful career in coding.

How important are specific certifications? For most roles, not very important. There are areas where there may be a regulatory requirement — such as data protection — that require certifications. That being said, there are many certifications that help a candidate stand out.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Curiosity (continuous drive to learn, to ask why, and improve), communication (both verbal and nonverbal, sometimes with specificity for the kind of role involved), and ownership (ability to take responsibility and execute)

What would put you off a candidate? Not displaying the above skills.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Not showing they really understand and want the role — and know what they are getting themselves into.