C-suite career advice: Martijn Theuwissen, DataCamp

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? "I remember someone saying that 'eventually every business becomes a people business'."

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? I remember someone saying that "eventually every business becomes a people business." It was good advice. They also said that eventually, as you grow, it becomes all about the people. I see this at DataCamp as well.  

I also received great advice around the importance of market timing and how it plays a big part in determining your success along with the quality of the people you work with. Success is also determined by resilience and determination and being able to work well with smart and capable people. 

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst advice generally comes from people who do not have skin in the game. And that applies to small things right up to when you face big crises. I learned not to listen to them too much.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? For those who've received a job offer or are interviewing with a specific company, I'd advise them to look at the people who are working there. Ideally, you don't want to be the smartest person. This probably also applies to non-tech sectors as well. You want to surround yourself with lots of smart people you can learn from. 

Also, check out the business and try to avoid being distracted by the hype. Focus on companies that are looking to build a financially conservative, solid business in tech. They can ultimately be the most interesting companies to work for. 

Did you always want to work in IT? No, not necessarily. I ended up in tech by pure luck. I always knew I wanted to do something on my own. At one point, I even looked at owning a frozen yogurt franchise because there aren't very many of them in Belgium. It wasn't a case of tech or nothing for me. 

What was your first job in IT? DataCamp! Before that, I worked at Coca Cola.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? That tech is all attractive work and having a job in that field is the highest good. I also think about the expression "the grass is always greener on the other side." Sometimes it feels that people believe the "greenest" field is a job in tech. 

There are many fulfilling careers out there — like teaching — that are not necessarily tech-oriented. Not every career should revolve around tech.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a C-Level? Abstract problems away from you. By that I mean, hire people that will allow you to push issues or problems away from you so you can focus on the bigger picture. 

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? To be part of building a great business. Specifically, to continue making DataCamp the best business and product it can be. It's an ongoing journey for any business leader, so there's really no end in sight. You always have targets and goals. I'm from the "you can achieve your targets, but can never achieve your goals" school of thought. Your goals should represent an aspirational utopian world, and every time you hit a target you are one step closer to that aspiration — but perfection is never possible. 

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, yes. If you ask my spouse, no. It's not a balance, it's a circle. Life overlaps with work and vice-versa. That's how I look at it. Maybe that's to rationalise it to myself!

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Your career doesn't start with your first job, it starts with how you set yourself up for your first job. I would have probably studied something with more hard skills. I would have possibly pursued an engineering degree, rather than the one in economics and business that I have now. That's one thing I would change. 

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Computer science degree, mainly because a coding bootcamp is about applying a particular framework. It will teach you a particular craft with a certain set of tools. A computer science degree will teach you first principles so that you can work with many more tools and so you can do many more crafts. 

Someone who comes out of a coding bootcamp will probably end up in web development as one of their only choices. Whereas someone with a computer science degree will have the opportunity to do much more: web development, infrastructure, data engineering, etc. A computer science degree teaches you the fundamentals, which make your knowledge base much stronger. 

How important are specific certifications? I think it depends on the certifications. For example, I'd really appreciate it if my doctor had certain certifications! Certifications are important if you're looking for something that might be difficult to test during an interview if someone has the necessary skills or skill set you need. That's when certifications become more valuable.

For example, do you need a certification for web development? Probably not. But if you need to know how to operate a certain machine, or if you have the latest certifications in using certain cloud tools, it's definitely going to help. It creates trust. 

The more specific the trade or technologies, the more likely a certification will mean something. 

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Raw intelligence, hunger, and job expertise. I'd add references, too. 

What would put you off in a candidate? Lack of self-awareness. Someone who isn't aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Embellishing your resume. Chances are high that the interviewer will know you've embellished your resume and will ask deeper questions to be sure. That's when things become uncomfortable. Don't take that chance.

Not knowing who's in front of you in terms of who they are and what they do. Find out beforehand and do your research.

Not having done your research on the company. You'd be surprised how often this happens, but many people don't do their homework before an interview.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? If you have the raw intelligence in place, and the hunger and willingness to learn, it doesn't really matter. For example, I can easily explain the core business principles of DataCamp to a technical person, and they would fully understand it, and vice-versa. So it's more about the type of people you hire. It doesn't really matter if they are more technical or business-oriented, as long as they are open to learning the other side. If you're a technical person and you understand what's good for the business, and you can explain it, that's a great skill. The same goes for people on the business side. If they understand the technology and can explain the benefits derived from it, that's great, too. 

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2