C-suite career advice: Robert Bailkoski, Logicalis

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? "No. I did a law degree at university, and very much saw my future as a lawyer..."

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Logicalis

Name: Robert Bailkoski

Company: Logicalis

Job Title: CEO

Location: London, United Kingdom

Bob Bailkoski joined Logicalis Group in November 2015 as Chief Financial Officer and was appointed Chief Operating Officer in March 2018 before taking the role of Chief Executive Officer for the Logicalis Group in March 2020. Bailkoski brings over fifteen years of international experience to the Group and has lived and worked in Australia, Switzerland and the USA.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Rather than a specific piece of career advice, what I have always personally found to be most valuable is witnessing the behaviours of those around me throughout my career and learning from them. However, I was given one piece of advice that has always stuck with me, and that is to be curious.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? During the economic crash back in 2007, I was told to keep my head down and keep myself to myself. But I did the opposite and continued to be curious and ask questions and I kept my job while those who kept their heads down were the ones who were eventually let go. I think by offering my opinion, even if it was wrong or didn’t add value, it allowed those around me to see that I was able to contribute and add to the business.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Keep learning. IT is such a fast-moving industry, so the skills you have today might not be completely relevant tomorrow. You must keep up to date with the latest trends and be able to have enough knowledge in every discipline to sound credible. It’s no good being a network engineer for example and that’s all you do; you must have a broad scope and that means continuous learning.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No. I did a law degree at university, and very much saw my future as a lawyer. But during my degree I came to realise that what I wanted out of career was broader business experience. I was agnostic as far as the industry went, but I wanted to have experience of being involved in the running of businesses and making decisions around how businesses would work. Having said that, these days whatever industry you are in, whether that’s travel or building materials for example, technology and by association IT, is so dominant that you can’t escape it. So, in a way, everybody is destined to have a career in IT, whether that’s intentional or not.

What was your first job in IT/tech?  My first job in IT was when I joined part of TUI travel back in 2011. Although I was the Finance Director for the division, I had responsibility for IT within that function. It was during this role, that I had my first direct exposure to IT, IT problems and how IT can both hold back businesses and propel them dramatically along the transformation journey.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? The one that immediately springs to my mind, is those two guys down in the basement in the IT Crowd sitcom. People often assume you’re just an administrative, back-office function, and therefore is boring, geeky and so on. But, these days, and increasingly so, IT is at the heart of business and is a central component of business decisions, propelling and driving organisations forward. So, the reality is that you’re much more at the heart of driving business transformation and business decisions.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? My two pieces of advice would be to keep learning and to make sure you build relationships.

What does it mean to be in the c-suite? It means you’re more than just an expert in one area, so you need to make sure you broaden out your knowledge base, and you don’t just have one specialism about you. You must have a wider business knowledge, and this is the key differentiator between the c-suite and the rest of the organisation. To achieve this, continued learning is essential.

As your career progresses, the relationships you have made throughout your working life become even more important. Always be engaged and interested in what people have to say, because you never know what you will learn from other people and how that will help you in your own future.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I’ve never really had a career ambition as such, but I've always strived towards making sure the business I work in is successful. What I want for Logicalis is for the 6,500 employees to feel successful and have pride in our organisation. So, I guess my career ambition is to be the CEO of a winning organisation and to help drive this.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Before lockdown I would say no – I was travelling a lot and flying to various countries. But during lockdown I’ve found it easier to get the home/work balance right. I still work as much as I ever did – the difference now is that I have the time back that I would have spent commuting to work every day or travelling to different countries and have been able to spend this on my home life.

My day is quite long, but the flexibility I now have to go for a run during the day, or have lunch with my family has been great, I have been very strict at making sure that I am breaking up my days by spending some time doing the things I love.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? There isn’t much I would change about the route of my career path. Hindsight is a great thing, and although there have been parts of my career that I have enjoyed less than others, they have all played a part in developing and contributing to the skills I have today.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I think this decision comes down to personal preference. There are lots of ways to get into your chosen careers which can either be a university degree, an internship, apprenticeship or a bootcamp. Personally, a lot of my experiences and skills have been developed through on the job training and a personal desire to constantly learn. Without this desire, it wouldn’t have mattered whether I did a coding bootcamp or a computer science degree – the passion must be there regardless.

How important are specific certifications? Again, this depends what career you are going into. For some roles for example, qualifications are a necessity, however for others not as much. What I tend to look for more than qualifications is the ability for candidates to demonstrate their skills and showcase relevant examples of where these skills sets have come into practice and how they have used them. For me this is a much better way of being able to tell if a candidate has the relevant mindset to bring to your organisation.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?  Demonstration of capabilities, intangible organisational fit relating to mindset and whether the candidate has something to offer more than just the capability component.

What would put you off a candidate? People that have absolute certainty with their views, opinions or even their own capabilities. People that have these strong views and won't entertain any other ideas, are very difficult to coach and train, and if I notice this characteristic during an interview, I am immediately turned off. It means you’re not open to new ideas and that isn’t a characteristic you’re looking for in an employee.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Trying to answer a question when you don't know the answer. There is nothing wrong with saying I don’t know or saying I don’t know but let me try and answer off the top of my head. That honesty is much better than trying to blag your way through an answer. And from my experience this is a very common mistake among interviewees.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Mix of both. But of course, it depends what your ambitions are – if you want to be a technical expert or specialist in a certain area, then you don’t necessarily need wider business experience. But if you’re looking to further your career and continually progress to a leadership position in your department or business, then you must combine that technical knowledge with some clear business skills as well.