C-suite career advice: Steve Tzikakis, Sitecore

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? “…whatever you do, whether it’s in your career or life more broadly, falling and making mistakes is inevitable.”


Name: Steve Tzikakis

Company: Sitecore

Job Title: CEO

Location: London

Sitecore’s new CEO, Steve Tzikakis, is an experienced digital transformation technology and go-to-market leader with a strong track record for driving rapid growth. Tzikakis is passionate about technology and innovation, deeply committed to putting the customer first, and a strong champion of diversity. 

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve received came from my late father. I learnt a great deal from him, and he instilled in me that whatever you do, whether it’s in your career or life more broadly, falling and making mistakes is inevitable. What’s important is how quickly you can get back up again and continue running toward your goal.

Once you can accept that setbacks and challenges are inevitable, focusing on the little steps that keep you moving forward is the key to success. 

My father also told me to be resilient, and have the courage and boldness to make decisions that I believe in.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I have heard many times that to be successful, you have to devote almost all of your time and energy to your job. But throughout my career, I have found that what has helped propel me to where I am today is having a healthy work/life balance. You absolutely have to spend the time perfecting your craft, but it can’t be the end-all, be-all. You also have to strike that balance with enjoying life.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in technology? I would tell them that a career in technology is all about innovation. The most important thing is to understand your customers, know what innovations and changes will best help to serve them, and then work to put them into place. Even though what you are developing and evolving is technology, never forget that the goal of technology should always be people-focused at heart and aimed at making the world a better place.  

Did you always want to work in technology? My career background is in economics and finance, but I’ve always had an interest in technology, which developed more acutely during the ‘90s. For example, customer systems, sales automation and marketing automation really intrigued me, because essentially they aim to make the user experience better and ultimately improve the lives of customers. Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer is paramount and technology which helps you come closer to the customer and their needs is what I’m passionate about.

What was your first job in IT? My first job in IT was the company I started with friends while I was completing my Masters in London. I had previously worked for my father’s small business; a publishing company, but knew that I wanted to build something of my own in London. So, we set up a company based on what people call CRM today, but what we just called a customer database at the time. This was the 90s when the internet was still in its infancy, and we saw an opportunity to use technology to help small companies better manage customer data.

I learnt from working for my father’s family business to always keep the company vision top of mind, so we put together a compelling product and focused on solving our customer’s problems - showing them why what we offered was best.

At the start, we pretty much lived on milk and crackers while we got things off the ground, but it turned out to be a success and set me on the path for a career in technology.

What are some common misconceptions about working in technology? I think a lot of people think working in technology is all about fancy, innovative, modern offices and buildings – like Google and Facebook.

In reality, it’s the people and culture within the business that drive innovation and make the office a centre of smart thinking and ideas. Many companies have tried to copy the design of offices like Google, thinking that’s the answer. However, it’s really about the values those start-ups have instilled in their employees that brings the best out of them, alongside the space to think, listen, learn and feel valued. This is what has made them so successful.

I believe that companies that invest in their people and encourage creativity by allowing employees to be unrestricted with their ideas will be the companies that generate new, innovative and viable suggestions – that’s what leads to true success.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? For someone aiming to reach a C-level position, I would say you need to think bold and have a dream.

I speak to many people who want to be successful, but don’t have a specific dream in mind, or one that they can articulate clearly. I think it’s the destination that is just as important as the journey. Knowing where you want to go and what you want to achieve helps to elevate yourself and keeps you focused. It also gives you a challenge and something to strive toward.

I think someone aiming for C-level position must also be willing to be humble and always in learning mode. You may be an expert in your field and ready to lead, but people around you will always have different perspectives, and it is important to stay open to them.

I think having an abundance mindset is also key for anyone looking to take on a leadership role. I take a tough, disciplined approach to leadership, but I am always mindful to be fair and think about what I can give back in return for what I ask of my teams.

Finally, think about how to build a workforce and team around you that will support you in reaching the goals you want the business to achieve. The talent you surround yourself with is crucial to success, and the teams you build should reflect the company’s core values and culture. While your own work and leadership skills are important to reach a C-level position, never forget that the people around you will play a huge role in the overall success of any project.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? I don’t look at things in terms of career ambitions as such. Rather, I am more focused on reaching that overall dream that I have envisioned.   

I’ve always been driven by the journey to growth for the companies I’ve worked for, and I have been able to do that throughout my career. For example, in a previous role as president of EMEA south, ME and Africa at SAP, I doubled business in the region. 

The next part of my dream has been in joining Sitecore as CEO. I’m now focused on building on its growth and market expansion and continuing to grow as a leader. I want Sitecore to continue to have the most innovative content-to-commerce offering for our customers and be the one-stop-shop for digital experience.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Yes, I do, and I think it should be part of every job requirement to have a good work/life balance. You can’t produce consistent, long-term results if you don’t have this in place. Whether spending quiet time alone reflecting, practicing your favourite hobby, or with friends and loved ones, it’s important to have time to reset and relax outside of work.

For me, that means spending time playing with my children. In its own way, that can be challenging and stimulating, as you need to be 100% present and engaged – it’s demanding, but it’s also refreshing and relaxing. Outside of family time, I also find swimming and running great ways to destress away from work.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I wouldn’t necessarily change my career path. I’m glad it has led me to this point and I’m excited to have started a new chapter at Sitecore.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Both have their place depending on individual career paths.

How important are specific certifications? For certain technical roles, specific certifications may be important, but as already mentioned it depends on a person’s career path and job experience too.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?  The main thing I look for in a prospective candidate is if I think they can take over from me. By that, I mean that I always look at whether people could do the next job after the one we are hiring them for, and how they can progress to the next step in their career. So, if I’m hiring someone to report to me, I think about if they could grow to be a CEO one day.

I also look for the right principles and values that align with the company, how lateral their thinking is, and if they have gravitas.

What would put you off a candidate? Candidates who come unprepared and who may seem inconsistent tend to immediately put me off, since the foundation for success – preparation – is not in place.

There is one trait I try to dig and find in each candidate I interview, and it is that of the meticulous preparer. Whilst there may be many hard workers out there, those who religiously prepare for every possible outcome tend to be rare, and those who are able to think on their feet and outside the box, when an unforeseen outcome appears, are even more rare.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? The most common mistake I see is that candidates don’t ask a closing question at the end of the interview. I think it is a missed opportunity to clarify what the next step is and show you’re enthusiastic, proactive and forward thinking.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I think it does depend on the job. If you’re a CFO, then business skills will be the priority, but if you’re a CTO, then you’ll need to be more technical. Ultimately, to be a leader today, you need to have experience in both to make you well rounded – and this is also key for those in your leadership team so they can support you.