C-Suite Career Advice: Brian Gentile, Chairman & CEO, Jaspersoft

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Brian Gentile

  Company: Jaspersoft Corporation

  Job Title: Chairman & CEO

  Location: San Francisco, CA

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

“Treat everyone like a customer.” This wisdom was given to me by my very first manager as I started my career as a sales engineer at NCR Corporation. Although others would give me valuable ideas at later points in my career, this one has stayed with me throughout and has influenced the way I approach every relationship.

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

The world needs people who build things and have the skills to act on big ideas. I would recommend studying a STEM subject (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), to gain at least a working understanding of computer science technologies. This type of knowledge and insight creates relative personal distinction, enables a greater variety of career opportunity and allows for potential advancement in the highest expected growth areas of the global economy. 

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

Careful what you wish for ;-)  In Silicon Valley, it's common to see people early in their career aiming for a top-level role, when the reality is that patience and experience matter. In this regard, I subscribe to a basic risk-allocation theory: if the risk to the organisation you are joining is reduced by your hire (with all of your skills and experience), that's an unusual but powerful scenario. If the risk to the organisation you are joining is increased, then you may (but not necessarily) need to re-think this position. To be clear, you and organisations don't grow without risk. But it should be managed risk.

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

I've counseled many high-performers to take positions lateral to their current role in order to gain crucial experience either nearer to product development or nearer to the customer.  In technology, we build things and we sell things, everything else is overhead.  Indelible skills are gained by participating directly in either of these two parts of an organisation. Often, these high-performers have gone on to even greater achievement and success by following this advice. One of them is currently the CEO of a high-growth Silicon Valley start-up!