C-suite career advice: Joe Sander, Radiant Logic

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? “Receiving a degree is massively important... To achieve a computer science degree early on in life requires a large amount of discipline and this discipline will be required in every job that individual has for the rest of their career.”

Radiant Logic

Name: Joe Sander

Company: Radiant Logic

Job Title: CEO

Location: California

Joe Sander is a four-time CEO with operational experience in creating organic growth, profit, and successful exits for investor-packed and growth-focused SaaS companies. He is passionate about business strategy, profitability, and data-driven approaches and has concentrated his expertise in leading businesses across aspects of the business ecosystem.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received was very early on in my career from my supervisor, who told me that what I make out of my career will be a direct correlation of what I put into it. While it may seem obvious, what they meant was that my career was not going to build itself, and will only happen through hard work, dedication, passion, drive and a willingness to learn. By doing this and working hard and working smartly, I was always ready for the new opportunities that came my way.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst piece of advice I received was again, early in my career when I was told that I was dreaming too big. At the time, I was working in sales and I had the ambition to become a VP of a Fortune 500 company. I managed to achieve this in my early thirties, so I evolved my ambitions to then become a CEO of a company which I have now achieved four times in four separate companies. The only way to achieve your ambitions and your goals is by dreaming big, so don’t listen to those who tell you otherwise.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? There are two pieces of advice I would give to someone starting their career in IT/tech. I remember a guest speaker at my university presenting a theory on the types of people that make up the human population, which they showed through an image of a pyramid. They explained that each level of this pyramid represented a different percentage of how much work people put into society, with the lower levels working to put in less, and the top levels working to put in the most. From then on, I wanted to make sure I was part of the percentage at the top of the pyramid. My advice is to always aim to be at the top of that pyramid. Work hard, dream big, and be ambitious.  

Secondly, in the tech business it is very easy to focus on only understanding what the technology you work with actually does. However, it is just as important to understand the business value and the impact your technology has on a business. Those who have had the most success in the IT and tech industry recognise that there is a balance between understanding what the tech does and what the value the tech brings to a business.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Initially I did not know that I was going to end up in the technology industry. However, I always knew that I wanted to work in sales and ultimately make a good living. At the time I graduated, the two industries that would allow me to achieve this was either working in the pharmaceutical industry or the technology industry, and I chose tech. I have now been working in the tech industry for over 40 years. 

What was your first job in IT/tech? I was recruited straight out of collage by a mainframe company that at the time, was called Sperry Univac. I was put through an intensive yearlong internship program where at the end, I became the youngest Major Account Executive in the company’s history. I was put on a very important customer account where I saw immediate success, and I grew my career from there.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? It is certainly not a glamourous career! There are some common misconceptions that it is an easy career to have because there are so many people who work within the industry. However, it is forever changing so it is actually incredibly challenging to stay relevant and make sure your technology is something the current market needs. This is an industry that is constantly evolving and the people within it need to be ready for that continuous evolution. Some companies fail for this very reason because they’ve found that their tech is suddenly obsolete and they are now on the outside looking in, rather than being the leaders that they once were.  

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Again, a tip to someone aiming for a c-level position is to not be afraid to dream big. If I could go back in time, I would change my ambition of being a VP of a Fortune 500 company, to being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I have been fortunate enough to have had an incredibly fulfilling career. Being a CEO at multiple companies has meant that I have been able to constantly learn and expand my knowledge of not just the business, but different technologies as well. So, I can confidently say, yes I have reached my career ambitions!

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I do have a much better work life balance than when I started my career because I think, as a society, we are more conscious of the importance of having this balance. In my spare time, for example, I collect wine, I scuba dive, and I also like to bake (and watch The Great British Bake Off). Baking is not only creative, but it is also scientific, and unlike the business world where I have to wait years to find out the success of my product, baking provides me with more immediate pass/fail results.

The value of a work life balance is something we try to instil within Radiant Logic as well. If we see an employee working massively long, extra hours, we know that their balance is off, so we offer coaching and support to try get that back on track.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I know I am incredibly fortunate when I say that I really love what I do, but if I had to change the route my career path has taken, I would dream bigger and be recognised as a caption of industry of a much larger company. However, I truly enjoy running midsize companies because every single individual working within that company has a direct impact on the business. I don’t think you get that in larger companies. 

I also find the Identity Management technology we work with at Radiant Logic incredibly refreshing because we can see the direct return on investment this technology has on a business. We’re radically simplifying identity and helping businesses to adapt quickly and securely to change, while making identity into an enabler. This is incredibly relevant, particularly at the moment when we have seen an increase in identity attacks on businesses.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Receiving a degree is massively important because there is a level of accomplishment that is not matched by many other things. To achieve a computer science degree early on in life requires a large amount of discipline and this discipline will be required in every job that individual has for the rest of their career.

How important are specific certifications? Certifications are also important because it shows a dedication to specialise in a particular topic and become the subject matter expert. Certifications provide a level of training that takes you beyond a college program.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I look for people who are bright, have a high level of confidence and are ambitious and passionate about their career goals and plans. These attributes make a truly valuable employee.

What would put you off a candidate? I do not like egotistical candidates who brag about their attributes and their achievements. I want to hear about accomplishments and skills from people who are genuine and have a sense of pride, but who also recognise there is room to learn and expand their knowledge. I am put off by those who lie or misrepresent themselves in their resumé- it is always easy to pick up because often, they will forget what they’ve lied about.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? It is much better to tell the truth and be entirely yourself than to say something that you think the interviewer wants to hear. To avoid these mistakes, candidates for Radiant Logic partake in a panel which is made up of their colleagues or peers and they will be asked to perform a task relating to the job role they are applying for. This is a really easy way to find out what they are like as an employee, person and a colleague.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? It’s better to have a good mix of both. If you are too technical without understanding the business, you will struggle in your career and you won’t be respected. By having both, you’ll show a wider range of skills, knowledge and ability that will make your job and success rate much easier.