C-suite careers advice: Andrey Khusid, Miro

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? “I think people assume that being a functional expert is enough to get them a job…”


Name: Andrey Khusid

Company: Miro

Job Title: Founder & CEO

Location: Amsterdam

Andrey Khusid is the founder and CEO of Miro, the online whiteboard for visual collaboration. Khusid has a rich background in design, winning several design competitions in his youth and running a creative agency for 7 years. In 2011 he founded Miro to bring his innovative design approach into the world of technology.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? The best advice I was given is that a company can only grow as fast as its CEO. That advice has helped me remain humble, keep myself in the mode of learning, and prepare myself for the challenges that lie ahead in the next phase of our company’s growth.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I’ve always thought the worst advice is anything centered around trying to follow money to find success instead of following your passion to find success. It takes 7-10 years (or more in my case) to be successful as an entrepreneur, and that’s a long time to go to work every day on something you’re not passionate about. But if you’re working on something that’s really important to you, you won’t burn out or give up, even when it’s difficult - which I promise - at times it will be.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? The tech industry isn’t a contest to see who can write the best code, it’s a competition to see who can deliver the most value to users day in and day out, and also provide them with moments of delight. With that in mind, you must learn to think like your user. Research what’s important to them, talk to them directly as often as possible, and try to experience your product and brand from their perspective.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No. The truth is that I arrived in tech in a roundabout way. Before Miro, I was the co-founder of a full-service creative agency that did things like graphic design and video production for our clients. I was very happy in that role, but as I experienced challenges in the creative process I started to get the itch to get into tech. The challenges I faced were particularly around brainstorming remotely and clearly conveying our ideas to our clients, and I wanted to solve them. I knew through experience that whiteboards were a simple and powerful way to share ideas in person, and I thought surely there had to be a better way to whiteboard virtually.

What was your first job in IT/tech? I’m not sure if this counts as IT, but I started my career as a video producer and editor. This was a fantastic experience, and because of the technology involved, it translated to IT very well. It also taught me to approach problems creatively, to over-deliver within constraints, and to work effectively with my team and communicate clearly with clients - all of which have proven to be invaluable later in my career as a CEO.

What are some common misconceptions about working in tech? I think the common misconception is that you need to come from a background in engineering or development, and this simply isn’t true. At Miro, we have amazing talent from all backgrounds, including former journalists, teachers, nonprofit workers, and civil servants. Technology users come from every industry, so a diverse team with many different experiences and perspectives is going to make your team stronger.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a C-level position? I think a great executive is someone who can ask smart questions and internalise and synthesise new solutions across the business. You also need to recognise great talent and be able to help that talent make connections to solve problems. Listening and learning are some of the most important skills you’ll need in the C-suite.

I’d also advise people to surround yourself with a diverse team. There have been many studies indicating that diverse teams perform better than homogeneous ones, and I think prioritising all kinds of diversity early in building a company will help you build products that appeal to wider audiences and make your business more resilient in changing markets.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My ambitions are constantly evolving, but yes - I’m very lucky to work with the team we have and to have enjoyed this success together. My company currently has about 350 employees and over 6 million users. My new ambition is to build a company and platform that is behind all of the world’s positive changes. When humans save the planet, cure disease, and explore space, I want to know that the Miro platform was there behind the scenes being used by the teams that made those things possible.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? “Balance” is a subjective metric to measure. Someone who is obsessively passionate about their job could do it for 100 hours a week and never tire. On the other hand, a person who doesn’t like their job may struggle to make it through Monday.

As a CEO, I work very long hours. Some people may look at my life and say it’s not balanced, but I love my work and I feel balanced. I still have time to spend with my family, I still take vacations, and I still spend a good amount of time disconnected. But even when I’m working long hours, I’m happy and feel energised.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I’m very happy about the success Miro is experiencing and our team.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I think that varies from person to person depending on their career goals. If you want to be a developer, there are countless examples of people coming from bootcamps then achieving high levels of success in their career. If you want to design hardware, chips, or complex data architectures, you’ll probably need the depth of knowledge that comes from a complete CS degree. That said, there are also many examples of successful founders who do not have higher learning degrees. I’d advise people to do what they feel is best for them and what they think they need to meet their goals.

How important are specific certifications? This is another example of where you should consider your personal goals. Don’t just take certifications or pursue jobs blindly. Look closely at their descriptions and assess whether they will help you meet your goal. If you’re struggling to get hired in a specific technical role or struggling to earn a promotion with more responsibilities, then it may be time to look into new educational opportunities.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Skills and abilities are very different from position to position, but values are extremely important to me. I am always looking for candidates who I think will help us lead by example. At Miro, that means effectively communicating and collaborating with teammates from around the globe to create a better product for our users.

Related, I believe being customer-centric is a critical value in tech. Custom-centricity is vital to every role in a company to ensure your product is valuable, your brand is resonant and targeted, and that your sales touch points are painless to customers. I like it when people can put themselves in our customer’s shoes and advocate for them.

Curiosity is also something I look for in all employees. I believe that the best solutions come from cross-functional collaboration, and people who are curious enough to learn about all functions of the business are able to make interesting new connections.

Finally, I think passion for the product is one of the most important things. I think people perform best when they’re passionate about what they do, so if a person is not passionate about collaboration software, a job at Miro probably isn’t the best fit for them. I always ask the question “why do you want to work here?” so I know that helping teams collaborate is something that really appeals to them.

What would put you off about a candidate? A lack of humility is very off-putting to me. In startups especially, we’re all learning from data that’s constantly evolving to try to make the best decisions. When people think they have all the answers up front, it’s a red flag.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I think people assume that being a functional expert is enough to get them a job, when what I really want to see is how you think critically and apply your learnings across a business. One of the best ways to show that is to research the company and the market, and ask specific and thoughtful questions. Show that you’re not here because you think you have all the answers but that you know what questions to ask to help us improve our business across the board.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I think a mix of technical and business skills is important. Developers should have an understanding of the impact of their work on the business; likewise, sales teams should have some understanding of what happens behind the scenes to fulfill their commitments to customers. What I think is most important and often overlooked are soft skills. This includes the ability to convey ideas clearly, form a rational argument, overcome conflicts, lead people, and steer projects. These skills will become even more critical as the workforce evolves to be globalised, multicultural, and diverse.