C-suite career advice: Geeman Yip, BitTitan

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? "Keep up with the technology and market and never stop learning. Tech is changing so quickly and people’s needs and expectations…”

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BitTitan

Name: Geeman Yip

Company: BitTitan

Job Title: Founder & CEO

Location: Bellevue, Washington

Geeman Yip is the founder and CEO of BitTitan, a SaaS-based cloud enablement provider based in Bellevue, Washington. Geeman founded BitTitan from his garage in 2007 and bootstrapped the business with no initial outside capital for its first eight years in operation. Today, BitTitan is a global IT SaaS organisation with offices in Seattle and Singapore, providing migrations and IT automation services to customers in 188 countries throughout the world. In 2009, Yip created MigrationWiz to help IT service providers and businesses assess, deploy, and manage technology solutions in a rapidly changing cloud environment. Since its founding, BitTitan MigrationWiz has moved over 22 million users to the cloud for 45,000 customers and supports leading cloud ecosystems including Microsoft, Google and Dropbox.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Be passionate about technology. Understand how it works and how to use it. Technology is rapidly changing and knowing the fundamentals, in addition to the practical nature of it, allows you to solve more problems and innovate new use cases. People often only see technology in terms of what it does and is today, but very few people understand what it could be used for in the future. If you can imagine future uses of technology, you will be well-positioned for a career in tech.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst advice I have ever received was, if I didn’t know how to do something, to “hire someone who knows how to do it.” The problem with that is you don’t really know who to hire if you have no understanding of what it is that they do. There is a large possibility you will hire someone who may not do what you need, resulting in loss of money and time spent. Prior to hiring someone, understand the problem you are trying to solve. Try to understand how others have solved it and try to address some aspects of the problem on your own. This will give you the experience you need not only to understand the problem, but also the solution. Then, when hiring someone, you will have better qualifying questions to ask. Also, use the interview process to better understand what you have not thought about. Your initial investigation will only provide you with surface-level knowledge. Someone coming in should know those basics right out of the gate, but also be able to teach you something that demonstrates deeper knowledge based on their career history and experiences.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Keep up with the technology and market and never stop learning. Tech is changing so quickly and people’s needs and expectations are also changing very quickly. Just like technology becoming irrelevant, your skills and knowledge can also be made irrelevant if you are not keeping up. From the time that I’ve started my career till now, I find myself learning more and more because of how quickly everything changes.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Yes. I’ve always been fascinated with computers. I remember programming on an Apple IIC in primary school, then getting my first IBM PCII, which lead me to building my first 286, 386 then 486 computers. The more I learned about what these technologies were, the more I was obsessed with the possibilities of what they could do.

What was your first job in IT/tech? My first job was being Novell Network Administrator for my high school. From there, I went on and became an IT administrator for an architectural firm in my junior year of high school/secondary school.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? A common misconception about people working in tech is that every “techie” knows anything and everything about all technology. For example, someone who knows how to program may not necessarily know how to repair your computer or recover lost data.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a C-level position? People are a huge part of your success. Those people will either help you become successful or become problems for you. First, learn how to lead a team of people who are not your direct reports. This is a sure test of someone’s ability to inspire and take charge in a way that is natural and effective. If you can do this, managing people will be natural because of the leadership abilities that you already possess.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? My career ambition is to positively impact the greatest amount of people possible in my lifetime. This is what I consider a timeless goal which I will continuously strive to reach but never fully achieve.

Do you have a good work-life balance in your current role? Absolutely not. I am not one who likes to give anything less than 100% for the things I do. This has also been one of the primary reasons for the growth of my business. It’s a double-edged sword, in that working so hard can detract from other things that I enjoy in life.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I don’t believe I would change anything in my past due to impacts of the butterfly effect. I am proud of what I have accomplished and if I changed any one thing, who I am would fundamentally be different.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Coding bootcamp. I believe in practical and applied experience over all things.

How important are specific certifications? I don’t think certifications are important per se, but rather the knowledge required to get the certification. In certain roles, certifications can give you a leg up for positions such as an PMP, MCSE, etc. So they have their place in finding talent for an IT workforce.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I look for the ability to solve problems, a strong work ethic and ability to learn new things.

What would put you off a candidate? If someone that doesn’t operate/work by the same values, that’s a deal-breaker for me.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? One common mistake a job candidate can make is failing to read the room and gauge how the interview is going. If the interviewer is asking the same question, or variation of the same question over again, it means you’re not answering the question. If they are not leaning forward or excited when you speak, you’re not breaking through to them.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I believe you need a combination of both. Technology skills are useless if they don’t address any real-world problems. But if I had to choose one, I would pick technical skills. I believe acquiring business skills after training on technical proficiencies is much easier than having a business degree and then trying to acquire technical skills.