C-suite career advice: Kevin Kimber, Rimilia

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? “The main thing I tend to look for might surprise you: softer skills.”


Name: Kevin Kimber

Company: Rimilia

Job Title: CEO

Location: London, UK

Kevin Kimber has been a part of the Rimilia team since 2017, and now leads as CEO. Kimber’s background includes serving as the Managing Director of SAP’s UK Cloud business. Before SAP, he was the European founder of ServiceNow, where he helped grow the company from less than $1M in annual revenue to more than $140M. He was also a part of the executive team at Zuora where he led the EMEA division.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? A piece of advice that really stuck with me was not to be afraid of taking side, or even backward, steps in order to progress your career.

Careers aren’t linear like they used to be, and there’s no set roadmap for what to do. Instead, focus on finding the right company for you with a talented leadership. It’s at these businesses that you’ll learn the things you need to, broaden your skills and build a more varied and successful career over time.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? Someone once told me I needed to be aggressive in order to get what I needed from staff members. I just simply don’t believe this is the best way to get the best out of people, and it’s a dated way of managing people that’s no longer fit for purpose. I strongly believe the way to get the best out of people is to treat them with respect, be clear on expectations and lead by example.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? You couldn’t have picked an industry with a richer wealth of opportunities available, so the only real limiting factor is yourself. Understand your motivations, what you want to achieve, and what type of environment you work best in and then focus on translating that enthusiasm to prospective employers.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? To be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do after university!

I graduated with a business degree without a clear plan, but was fortunate that my first job was in the IT industry. That early role ignited a fire in me and I quickly realised the huge opportunities that the industry could provide. I haven’t looked back or considered another industry and after 20 years working in this sector, I still have the same fire to this day.

What was your first job in IT/tech? An account manager for a software vendor, looking after existing customers. 

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That you need a high level of technical knowledge to work in the IT industry.

Of course, there are a number of roles where you need to be deeply technical, but there's so much opportunity for people who aren’t across the wide spectrum of roles in the industry. For example, If you’re business-minded and can translate business requirements into the outcomes that technology will underpin then that’s just as valuable as a full-stack programmer or be a machine learning expert. 

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Firstly, it’s not a race. Secondly to succeed in a c-level position today individuals need to have a broad understanding across the business and its different functions to be successful.

Anyone aiming for a c-level position will need to have high levels of curiosity and interest, as well as an openness to move around in their career and take other roles in order to broaden their skill sets. Be open and accept that there’s always something new to learn about the business.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My career ambition is to build successful companies that have a significant impact in their market.

If you look back at my career to date, it’s been less around climbing the career ladder, and more focused on delivering innovation, and addressing business problems that haven't been addressed before and changing people's perceptions as to what’s possible in a market.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Work is a part of life so I don’t see the two as separate things to balance, and that’s truer than ever today. Technology enables us to work from wherever we are and also provides more flexibility which enables choice about how we structure the day or week to ensure delivery at work and time with the family.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Life is too short for regrets. That’s easier said than done, but I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing.

You can only play the hand you’re dealt and take the opportunities as they present themselves. All experiences, positive and negative, are learnings. All of the opportunities and challenges I have encountered make me who I am today.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Chocolate or cheese? Beer or wine? It all depends on the individual.

A coding bootcamp could be just as impactful to someone’s career as a computer science degree. It’s what you plan to do that matters. Some fields still place a heavy emphasis on having been to university, while other areas favor the hands-on experience provided by a bootcamp so if you were presented with two candidates, one who’d been to University to study computer science or one who’d left college to join a large tech firm as an apprentice, who is the better candidate? My point is there is no prescribed route.

How important are specific certifications? There’s an interesting debate regarding the role education has to play, and what role educators have in preparing students for the working world.

20 years ago, when I went through university, getting a degree was a given if you wanted a real competitive edge in the job market. There has definitely been a shift away from that school of thought since then. There's still a place for higher education, but you can’t ignore the growth of hands-on apprenticeships and broader range of opportunities available to people entering the workplace today. 

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? The main thing I tend to look for might surprise you: softer skills. Assuming that to be in an interview, the individual has the necessary experience and/or qualifications then I want to really understand the candidate’s motivations, passions, and get a sense of how they handle success and failure.

It’s one thing to have the required skills on paper, but I want to know how they’ll apply those skills and what they’ve learned to my company. I want to know what makes you tick and how you’ll use it to impact my company, I’m going to want to hear more.

What would put you off a candidate? Candidates that don’t do their due diligence and research – you can always tell whether an applicant truly wants the job by the questions they ask and more importantly, I want to see if the candidate has really taken the time to think about whether we are the right company for them

By the questions they ask, they prove to me what research they've done, how much thought they’ve given to the business, and how curious they are.

An interview isn’t just an exercise in getting a job offer but should be a process for the hirer to assess whether a candidate is a good fit for the company and for the candidate to assess if the company a good fit for them as an individual.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Again, research is key, and asking questions to help both parties understand whether employer and employee are a good fit is vital.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? It depends on the role but increasingly it’s both – you have to be able to translate technical requirements and technical features into business outcomes and benefits.