C-suite career advice: Mehdi Daoudi, Catchpoint

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? “Learn data science. Learn algorithms. Learn how to use IT and data science to answer business questions as soon as possible. You’ll definitely go places.”

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Catchpoint

Name: Mehdi Daoudi

Company: Catchpoint

Job Title: CEO and Co-founder

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Mehdi Daoudi’s experience in IT leadership inspired him to build the digital experience platform he envisioned as a user. He spent more than ten years at Google and DoubleClick, where he was responsible for the quality of services, buying, building, deploying, and using internal and external monitoring solutions to keep an eye on the DART infrastructure which delivers billions of transactions a day. Daoudi holds a BS in international trade, marketing, and business from Institut Supérieur de Gestion (France).

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Early in my career, I learned never to say “No” to a customer. That word can’t exist in a relationship with a customer. There is a way of saying “No” without saying the actual word. That is the most valuable piece of career advice I’ve received.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I’ve had a few people tell me their business is similar to mine and I should follow their lead. Get feedback, but don’t trust blindly and apply it. Stress test the advice. Don’t hire friends of friends. Don’t mix personal and business relationships.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Learn data science. Learn algorithms. Learn how to use IT and data science to answer business questions as soon as possible. You’ll definitely go places.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Yes. I was in Morocco, and at 7 years old, I was telling friends and family that I was going to move to NYC and be surrounded by big monitors. They would just laugh at me. Later, my parents visited me in NYC and I took them to see where I worked at a NOC (Network Operations Center) and they said, “Your dream came true.”

What was your first job in IT/tech? I was the Webmaster of Reuters.com in 1997. I was working on a risk management SW, Kondor, and I prototyped a faster version – a SaaS version. No one believed in that vision and I quit.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That we do IT for the sake of IT. We need to remember that we do this for something else – for a purpose, for business, for humans, impacting people’s livelihoods – not just bits and bytes. We tend to forget this sometimes.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Fail, fail a lot, but make sure you learn something from every failure. Surround yourself with people better than you that will pull you up.

Get an MBA if you can. Gives you an incredible network that will help you. It is game-changing.

I would join organisations and clubs that help you learn – CTO clubs, for example. Join applicable associations and surround yourself with people of the caliber you want to reach.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? The most people I’ve ever managed was 20, and now I’m lucky to have 300 working with me. I never dreamed that I would be surrounded by such great people and I’m so grateful. I saw a friend take his company public and I thought that would be cool a dream to take a company public.

Do you have a good work-life balance in your current role? No, it is on purpose. I have a lot of people dependent on me at the company.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I had the opportunity to get an MBA and I couldn’t and it is a big regret.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Computer science degree. There are fundamentals you can only learn in that program.

How important are specific certifications? That depends. Some of the best engineers are people that don’t have certifications. A certification can give you the right to climb and demand to keep moving in your career, but I personally don’t pay attention to certifications.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?  Problem solving, humility and teamwork.

What would put you off a candidate? Lack of humility, no teamwork and no problem-solving. Someone that doesn’t care for others

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Try not to be too nervous! Relax and take a deep breath. Be yourself. Be prepared, show interest. Get smart about the company you are interviewing with.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Both are very important. You must be well-rounded. You’ll need to understand budgets and all the important business skills. If you are an engineer, take public speaking. If you can master both the business and technical skills, that makes you a deadly asset and opens more doors.