C-suite career advice: Mike Turner, Capgemini

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

[image_library_tag 991aafca-f81e-404c-b9f7-a04944802526 110x153 alt="24-01-2017-mike-turner-capgemini" title="24-01-2017-mike-turner-capgemini - " width="110" height="153"class="left "]
Mike Turner

 Company: Capgemini

 Job Title: Global Cybersecurity Business Leader, COO, CSO and CISO

 Location: London, United Kingdom


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

I’ve received several pieces of advice that I see as interlinked and, looking back, have been the most valuable, ones that as my career has progressed I’ve sought to pass on to others. The absolute key one is to know what it is you want to get out of your career. Sounds like an incredibly obvious and fundamental goal, I realize, but it’s deceptively simple. I know countless professionals who have worked incredibly hard to achieve something, reach a certain position, or make a move, only to discover that it wasn’t really what they wanted at all. As you move upwards and grow, your career goals will of course shift, but at any stage I would say it’s critical to be clear about your target and the work/life balance you’re seeking.

Once you’re sure of your goal, there are two further pieces of advice I was given that have helped as my career has progressed. The first I’ve taken from a book by Marshall Goldsmith of the same name, ‘What Got You Here – Won't Get You There’. This is particularly true when looking to break into a senior or leadership position, where relying on a skill set that’s helped you excel to that point won’t fully equip you for that next step up. The second is to leave a strong legacy. You’re unlikely to move upwards if doing so will leave chaos in your wake, it’s your responsibility to leave a strong team and have a succession plan in place to make sure any transition is as smooth as possible.


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

I was once told something that I could scarcely believe at the time and have never looked to follow, since as it seems so wrong-headed, yet it’s a practice I’ve seen some carry out. A senior figure advised that when you take on a new leadership position, you should immediately change everything. The mission, people, processes - everything.

The reason I think this is such a poor piece of advice is that it assumes that everything in place is weak. I’ve never once found within a business or unit for absolutely everything to be without merit. There are always, at the least, a few positives even within an underperforming business. This could be a team, people, product and these are the elements that will be crucial in growing and transforming the business. It may well be that you need to make some changes, but doing so without properly assessing the situation first is, to my mind at least, ludicrous.


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

The pace of change in this industry is sometimes terrifyingly rapid, something that’s become particularly true in the last five years. The leading solution today will not be the best within months, sometimes weeks. This is especially the case with cybersecurity, which even by the tech industry’s standards is fast-paced. I would therefore say that staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the market is vitally important. Building a long career is all about evolving and adapting, and having the knowledge to do so.

For those just starting within the tech industry, I see two common mistakes. Never be afraid to ask for help. Some entering the tech world think this is seen as a sign of weakness, but I believe it’s the opposite. Those who acknowledge areas of weakness, who seek out advice and are willing to learn, are the people who invariably succeed. The other error is fear of failure. Don’t be scared to make mistakes, it’s learning from these that helps us grow as professionals.


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

You have to be a subject matter expert in something. People will seek out those that are the most knowledgeable in one domain (for instance Cybersecurity Delivery, Operations, or Audit/Assurance). That said, within my field specifically, just because it’s a technical industry, don’t assume because you’re a tech expert you’re best placed to succeed. You need to be strong in other areas as well, particularly if you’re looking to break into a leadership position. Of those other areas, being a people manager and having a real head for business I would say are particularly important.

At a personal level, I think it’s hugely important to be very self-aware. Seek feedback, not just from senior figures, but from peers and junior staff also. Know your weaknesses and focus on adapting and addressing them, rather than concentrating on what it is you do well. Previously, I worked in the military, which as you might imagine fosters a certain set of habits and mentality. While these were entirely appropriate and successful in that environment, when I moved to the private sector in my early 30s I didn’t immediately think to adapt, and they were inhibitors. Thankfully, I realized this quite early on and focused on these traits, evolving them to suit my new environment and growing professionally as a result.


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

I try to follow through and pass on the great advice I’ve been given throughout my own career. Where I’m most proud is actually the people whom I’ve supported  exit my business or change their focus due to them figuring out what it really was they wanted out of their career. Ultimately, I think in whatever small way I helped those individuals decide what would make them happy, and that I firmly believe is the most important thing to get out of any career.