C-suite career advice: Katya Linossi, ClearPeople

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? "The main misconception I often hear is that IT is boring and all about coding! It’s just not the case."


Name: Katya Linossi

Company: ClearPeople

Job Title: CEO & Founder

Location: London, UK

Katya Linossi is the co-founder and CEO of ClearPeople. She has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, most recently scaling and leading the technology business that provides digital workplace solutions for large enterprises.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? I wouldn’t necessarily call it advice, more something that I noticed about myself is that I’ve always been open to new opportunities. Whether it was a new role, moving to a new country, or trying something very different; you name it, I’ve done it.

If you are offered a new opportunity and think it will go somewhere, my advice would be to take it!

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? Business decisions should be based on logic, not your instinct or gut feel. The advice of making logical business decisions makes sense, but neuroscience has proven it's impossible to make emotionless decisions.

I made more mistakes by being rationale and not listening to my instinct. Once I started tuning into my “gut feel” supported by data and logic, the success of my business decisions went up significantly.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? The best piece of advice I can give anyone is to be open to new opportunities, wherever they come from. I would not be doing what I am doing today if it wasn’t for that little voice in my head telling me “why not give it a try?”.

Also, be confident in your abilities. This is something I still struggle with at times and I see it so often when we interview women. Women will never apply for a position unless they feel they fit at least 80% of the criteria and so I would love to encourage more women to believe in themselves and to go for every opportunity.

Did you always want to work in IT? Unlike most other teenagers I thought I had my career all figured out. When I was 17, I was convinced I was going to be an accountant. But, that fell to the wayside in my first year of university when I lost all interest in the course!

Moving into tech by chance was one of the best decisions I ever made however, so I have no regrets.

What was your first job in IT? My first role was testing software for a global organisation. I have been fortunate to work in a number of roles from testing software, to presales technical consulting, to running an e-commerce site with colleagues spread across several countries. I finally worked as a web project manager before launching ClearPeople.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? The main misconception I often hear is that IT is boring and all about coding! It’s just not the case.

There are so many exciting careers in IT and when I do school talks, I specifically focus on the many suitable roles for women. One example I give is project management, where the key skills are communication and organisation - both of which come more naturally to women.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Generally, I would say, set yourself apart by being willing to take on new responsibilities, demonstrate how you have been able to achieve results, and be prepared to make tough decisions.

Specifically, for females, it would be to believe in yourself and promote your abilities. As women, we often undervalue ourselves when we’re just as capable as anyone else.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? At university I had a part-time job where the boss came in one day and was congratulated by everyone on winning businesswoman of the year. That moment stood out in my mind and is something I’ve since been lucky enough to achieve for myself.

Being an ambitious person however, I always need something more that I can reach for, so I will only reach my career ambitions once I retire. Even then though, I will probably be onto something else!

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? When you run your own company, work life balance is tricky to achieve. What I have learnt as I’ve gotten older however, is to block out my calendar with “me time”. Whether that is to workout, spend quality time with the family, or have a coffee with a friend, it’s vital.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Nothing - I have been very fortunate to have tried a variety of roles that have all added to who I am today, and to the breadth of experience and knowledge I have. My only regret during COVID-19 was that I did not progress a career in medicine which was something I contemplated in my second year of university.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? It all depends on what role or outcome you want. If you are looking to become a good developer, learning coding whether on your own, from a bootcamp, or science degree all lead to the same outcome as long as you are passionate about what you do.

A degree may help when looking for your first job, but after that your experience, abilities and continuous learning are far more important.

How important are specific certifications? Certifications, in general, are important because they demonstrate a commitment to continual learning in your field. We work in technology and things change all the time, you need to keep up with the technology and trends to be successful.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I would say the ability to learn quickly, being able to effectively communicate and team/collaboration skills. From the moment a candidate corresponds to a job posting, through to phone and eventually face to face interviews, they should demonstrate effective communication skills. This is specifically important here at ClearPeople, where everything we do is centered around collaboration and knowledge sharing, so they’re critical skills to have for the work we do but they also have a great impact on our culture.

What would put you off a candidate? In short, a candidate who hasn’t done any research on the company or the role they are applying for won’t be considered.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? There are a number of common mistakes I see. These are:

Seeming unprepared: Being unable to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the role, the company, or provide clear examples of your past performance shows lack of interest in the job. This can be easily avoided by doing some research beforehand.

Not having any questions: Most interviewers leave time to answer questions, but it’s not just an opportunity for you to learn more about the role, it’s also a bit of a test. The questions you ask often reveal the way you think, and what’s important to you. It also shows you care enough about the job and you want to know more.

Forgetting to follow up: A simple follow up email to thank the interviewer for their time and underscore your interest in the position goes a long way. If you don’t do it, hiring managers may think you’re not interested or simply forget about you.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? You can always learn a skill - it is your attitude to learning and the effort you put into your role that counts.