C-suite career advice: Mark Cattini, ClickSoftware

How important are specific certifications? "Not that important. It's more about practical experience and attitude."

Name: Mark Cattini

Company: ClickSoftware

Job Title: SVP & GM of Field Service Management

Location: Burlington, MA, USA

Mark Cattini has extensive global experience running software companies and a relentless focus on world-class customer experiences. Before joining ClickSoftware, Cattini was CEO for Autotask Corporation, a SaaS business management platform for IT Service Providers. Previously, he served as CEO for MapInfo Corporation, a publicly traded company that provided location intelligent solutions primarily to large enterprises.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? You need to be really clear about the value you add, in whatever you do. I learned that at Lotus. Every decision, presentation, action you take, don't go through the motions. Think about how you can maximise the value for your company every day. Put the company first and add value.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I've always been a guy who likes to have fun. Years ago I was in sales, and I had a manager that said I needed to change and be more serious. I realised you can try to improve your strengths, but you still need to be who you are. Too much energy trying to be someone you're not isn't a good thing.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? Balance technical proficiency with an understanding of the business and the purpose of IT within that business. What's the driver, what's the business value, what process are you trying to improve. You need to have a balance of technical and business understanding, wherever you are.

Did you always want to work in IT? No. It happened by accident when I was young. So many processes were being automated, and through my use of technology, I was steered in that direction. At the time, I didn't even know what a career in IT was. By using spreadsheets, things that once took me days were taking hours. I was modelling the costs of corporate photocopying around the organisation, modelling different plans from different vendors, modelling variance analysis on spreadsheets enabled me to do so much more so much quicker, it taught me the value of going into IT.

What was your first job in IT? Technical support for a British construction company, Taylor Woodrow. I was on the phone lines configuring PC's. In those days we were installing software and memory boards onto the PCs.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? That it's different than anything else. That it's its own special environment. It's about adding value; business value and the basic business principles are the same. It's about serving customers, managing costs effectively and working efficiently.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Be coachable, figure out how to add value, and learn to accept feedback without being defensive. Then you really progress quickly. All the basics of hard work, treat people fairly, but in the end you have to be coachable.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? Yes I have. My ambitions have been to be part of a team that builds great/valuable companies and have fun doing it. Working with great teams and great people. I just want more of it.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I have a reasonable balance, a little too much work and travel. It's too easy to work with a mobile device. Although it's better than it has been in the past. We're a global business and less than a third of the people in the company are in the US, and it's important to be present in all the geographies where we have people. I owe it to the team to be among them and our customers.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Nothing really. I feel very fortunate on a macro level. I've been blessed to work for some good companies, in good markets, with great people.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Computer science degree, and not necessarily because of the piece of paper. From my perspective, the broader knowledge set you bring to the table, the better. IT is a very broad subject, coding is a small part of it.

How important are specific certifications? Not that important. It's more about practical experience and attitude.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?  I like the right attitude, a positive can-do team-oriented attitude. Some the of smartest people on paper have been the poorest performers in real life. Experience is the second one, practical experience in the role, and then lastly a willingness to learn, open-mindedness.

What would put you off a candidate? When the conversation is more about what I can do for them rather than what they can do for me. When someone is too focused on their career and what this can do for their career. Convince me first about why you would be great for the company. Put the company first, first.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? You have to come prepared and know about the company. Read about the company. Not being prepared on the company, and too much emphasis on me and not you.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? A mix, it depends on the role, but for the most part, for senior jobs, you need to be able to have a 360-degree view of the world.