C-suite career advice: Gert-Jan Schenk, Lookout

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

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Gert-Jan Schenk

 Company: Lookout

 Job Title: VP of EMEA

 Location: Amsterdam / London


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

Two pieces of advice stand out. Stay loyal to your values -- be open to advice and feedback, but at the end of the day, it's your values which should guide your decisions. And second, don't waste time because that's all we have in life. 

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
“Give him or her a raise and that will make them stay.” People will only stay at a company or in a role if it matches their goals in life. As a leader, you need to understand what is motivating your employee - why they're waking up every day. In most cases, money isn't the main motivating factor. 

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
Learn how to program. When you speak the language of your industry, you will go much further. Also, learn what value your product or solution brings to the customer -- people often become too disconnected from the actual value their product is providing. 

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Be authentic and always be open to feedback and new learnings. Authenticity is key for two reasons. One, being authentic is more efficient for you personally. You won't lose energy trying to be somebody or something that you're not -- as a stretched executive, energy conservation is key. Second, people will see right through you if you're not authentic and won't want to work with you. 

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

Irrespective of what business you're in, as a leader you're in the people business. A lot of people forget that. They get so lost in what they think is important in their company and they get sidetracked about that truly critical part, the employees. I've seen companies with the best products fail because the company is lacking strong leaders and people. Vice versa, I've seen average products win when there's a strong team in place.