C-suite career advice: Martin Brunthaler, Adverity

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? “Do something that you love, are passionate about and get excited about.”

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Adverity

Name: Martin Brunthaler

Company: Adverity

Job Title: Co-Founder and CTO

Location: Austria

As CTO for Adverity Martin Brunthaler is responsible for executing Adverity’s technological vision and strategies, as well as ensuring their clients are utilising the full potential of the platform. With over 10 years’ experience in technology, Brunthaler has previously been involved in the creation of two other successful businesses prior to becoming a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Adverity. His experience spans ecommerce, mobile and now data-driven marketing, with first-hand experience of the crucial role that technology and data can play when harnessed properly.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Never stop learning. To be as effective as possible, it is important to be in an environment where you are continuously developing and building upon your existing knowledge. It is essential to be ambitious and productive to achieve better results. That is why Adverity is a great place for an approach of this nature as we are never content – we always want to do more, be more, and provide better results for our clients.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I have been given so much advice over my career, some of which I decided not to listen to. I was once told by a manager that becoming a consultant was a good idea if I wanted to solve problems and make things happen in the industry. His belief was that as a consultant flying in and out of projects it would be possible to get exposure to the bigger, weightier problems facing the industry and make an impact. Fortunately, I didn’t take this advice too seriously and to this day I still don’t believe it rings true.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? Do something that you love, are passionate about and get excited about. It is also important to get out of your comfort zone to develop skills outside your current area of expertise. Do not be afraid of failure.

Did you always want to work in IT? I have always been more interested in the practical side of things rather than the theoretical side. IT was a good fit for me as I am a very technical person and it’s proved to be a great decision – I love working in this sector!

What was your first job in IT? I started with hardware, developing a time tracking system with magnetic card readers based on micro-controllers. Looking back, today’s tools and computation power are so much more accessible compared to 25 years ago.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? For me, it is that the IT industry is only for extremely technical people, and attracts those who are slightly more introverted. It’s not as hard as it might seem and if a person has commitment and a genuine interest, anything is possible. In my experience, I have met and worked with some of the funniest and creative individuals in my career path. As for the idea that it is a male dominated industry, traditionally this may ring true but addressing this are a number of initiatives such as Girls Who Code, a non-profit organisation driven to increase the number of women in computer science and IT related careers.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? There is no correct route but I would advise aspiring c-level executives to not get too attached to the technology side of things. It is essential to also focus on other aspects of the business whether it is marketing, sales or finance, to get a better understanding of how the business works. By having a good and broad understanding of the business, you can make informed strategic decisions and this demonstrates you are capable of succeeding at any level.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? Personally, I have never been driven solely by a career ambition, as first and foremost my priority is to enjoy my work. If I were to choose one, it would simply be to stay independent and to be in an environment where I am continually growing and learning.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Since I enjoy what I do this can sometimes mean the line between work and life is somewhat blurred so there’s always room for improvement. However, as a husband and father, it’s important I try to keep it balanced as much as possible.

Technological advancements and new innovations continue to simplify our lifestyles, which is helpful. For example, the combination of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionised many industries but looking at what we do on a daily basis a lot can be automated even without applying such technologies. Automating small tasks makes our lives easier and ultimately gives us more time to focus our efforts on the important things, whether that be at work or home.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? There is nothing I would change. Along my career path I have been very fortunate to have met the right people who have helped me. I started business related work when I was fifteen and began working with PCs from the age of ten years old, so my interest in the industry developed very early on and has continued to flourish.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I would advise a bootcamp to individuals who are practical minded and not so much into theory. A computer science degree can most definitely help but I am a tinkerer and would prefer a bootcamp over theoretical studies. It truly depends on the type of person you are as to what route is right for you.

How important are specific certifications? It depends; there are some really good ones out there but it’s hard to know how to identify them. As soon as you get one there will be a new certification available, so it can be difficult to justify this. In saying that, my overarching thought is that obtaining certifications recognised by the industry are useful in ensuring you achieve a combination of skills and real-world experience.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I look for attributes and mindsets that indicate an individual has motivation, technical understanding and will be a good cultural fit. Skills and experience can be developed but it’s very tricky to find someone that is driven and motivated. This industry can be challenging at times and it is important that people can stay positive when facing obstacles.

What would put you off a candidate? Someone who is stubborn and unwilling to learn. In this fast-paced industry, being inflexible can be a real threat to a candidate.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? There is no pattern, and personally I feel no one should make an employment decision purely centered on mistakes – within reason. For me it comes down to how prepared you are. In my experience this is not a frequent issue but when candidates have clearly not put the time into preparing and researching for their interview, it can be off-putting. Companies these days have a vast amount of information available on their websites, on social platforms and on the internet so there really is little excuse.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I would say a balance of both technical and business skills, and it is very rare to find someone that has the perfect mix. The combination of both skill sets opens an individual to a greater level of experience and this can make you stand out from the crowd. With technology being a driving force for many organisations, it is important to be able to communicate the benefits of your technology and also have a good understanding of the business from the ground up, to be able to identify the wider implications.