C-suite career advice: Ryan Wong, Visier

How important are specific certifications? "Honestly, not important at all. But, the act, and desire, of learning itself is invaluable."


Name: Ryan Wong

Company: Visier

Job Title: CEO and Co-founder

Location: Vancouver, BC

Ryan Wong is the President, CEO and Co-founder of Visier, a cloud-based analytics platform that helps business professionals ask the right questions, see important truths about their business, and plan for a better future. A pioneer in the Business Intelligence Industry, Wong brings more than 20 years of Business Intelligence and Enterprise Software expertise to Visier, having led and contributed to the industry’s leading technologies and products.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Learn when to say NO to many good ideas. It can be easy to take on too much at once, especially when there are a lot of good ideas on the table. Saying no, even to good ideas, can help you focus on the ideas that matter most and will help propel you, and your business, forward.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? Differentiate between selling and implementation. Use past tense in your pitch when you are selling, never use future tense because you need to provide the impression of “been there, done that.” Everything is in the past. Learn how to sell by instilling confidence in your presentation. I would consider this advice to be untruthful, boarding on lying. 

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/Tech? You know the children’s storybook monkey, Curious George? Be a Curious George. Be curious about everything and learn as much as you can quickly. Being curious in life and in business will help enormously.

Did you always want to work in IT/Tech? Yes. I have always been very intrigued by technology, the innovation mindset, and the impacts technology brings to the world we live in. I couldn’t envision myself in any other field.

What was your first job in IT/Tech? Software developer.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/Tech? It’s a misconception that you have to be technically savvy to work in IT/Tech. As I said before, being curious and wanting to learn can be a huge boost to someone that may not be technology savvy. There are a million different ways to learn, and always people that are willing to help. We don’t all need to be naturals.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Differentiate between strategy and a list of objectives. These are very different concepts that require different thinking and actions, but yet too many c-level people see them equally. Too many c-level executives still can’t build a sound strategy because they often confuse strategy as objectives.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My ambition has always been to help people see the truth in data — to give them the tools and the knowledge to empower data-driven decisions, so as to create fair, just, unbiased outcomes, whatever those outcomes may be. This is going to be an ongoing journey for me, one that I hope to reach eventually.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Work life balance means different things to different people coming from a variety of backgrounds: culture, geography, age, etc. Personally, I find that it falls into two large categories: People who are passionate about their work and don’t see work as “work;” and people who hate their job and just work out of necessity as the reality of life demands. With the former, if you are passionate about your work, the line of balance can be blurred. There can be many times where those who often talk about work life balance are people who have disconnected their passions between their work and life.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I have no regrets in my career path. Having said that, there were a few missed opportunities, such as joining early startup companies that have eventually gone on to become very successful; you may have heard of a few of these little companies like Microsoft, Google or Salesforce.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? While there has been a lot of discussion around whether a formal education is still relevant in the modern era, I would still advocate that four years of training with a computer science degree teaches you far more than just writing code. Coding bootcamps are great, but they are no replacement for formal education.

How important are specific certifications? Honestly, not important at all. But, the act, and desire, of learning itself is invaluable.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I’d actually say there are four key attributes that I look at in candidates. First, they have to be a self-starter, showing a willingness to put in hard work. They also should have a low ego – it makes for a better working environment. Generally, having a low ego means they are also a strong team player, as no one goes through business strictly on their own merit. Finally, they must possess a willingness to learn.

What would put you off a candidate? The exact opposite of what I would find attractive. Are they full of themselves, have a big ego, or tend to name drop in conversation? No thank you.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I’m always shocked when a candidate uses their time to disparage their former employer. It shows a negative attitude, regardless of the circumstances. We all need to recognise that even with the worst bosses or work environments, there is something important we can learn from it.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Depending on the role, it is easy to choose a mix of both.