C-suite career advice: Dave Grow, Lucid

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? “That tech companies are only cut out for highly technical candidates. The reality is that the vast majority of tech companies need great people in marketing, sales, operations and other roles…”

Headshot of Dave Grow, CEO at Lucid

Name: Dave Grow

Company: Lucid

Job Title: CEO

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Since joining Lucid in 2010, Dave Grow has held a variety of roles and has been responsible for expanding the product and business development teams, including product management, marketing, sales, customer support, and operations. Grow assumed his current role of CEO in 2022 after serving as President and COO at the company, where he oversaw go-to-market functions and internal operations. Prior to Lucid, Grow worked as a management consultant at Bain & Company after founding his own web-based platform. He also previously served on the board of directors for Bitly and CloudPlus. He graduated summa cum laude from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in finance.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Before my first full-time job, someone told me that your reputation is often largely formed in your first 90 days of a new job. Whether that’s entirely fair or not, I’ve found it to be true in practice through my own experience and watching others. Those early days in a new role are a critical time to dive in, form relationships and demonstrate ownership.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? When I left a prestigious global consulting firm to join a small startup in a basement, a number of people scratched their heads and questioned why I would possibly leave my position for an early-stage company that was barely getting off the ground. That said, I saw the vision of what Lucid could become – which has played out over the last decade as we’ve grown to be a global company with 1,000+ employees and millions of users – and I was excited to be a part of building something special. I’m grateful I didn’t listen to the naysayers and was willing to take that risk.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Show curiosity within your role but also about other parts of the business. I’ve found the most impactful employees to be those who become experts in their own field but also then understand the other roles around them. This often comes simply from developing relationships and having informal discussions with colleagues in other departments and roles. The additional understanding – even initially at a basic level – of marketing, sales, operations and other functions will open opportunities. Importantly, it also enables a different level of empathy for your colleagues across the company.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? When I was at university, I felt a deep pull to tech entrepreneurship and actually started my own business, raised capital and launched a software platform. While it was an incredible learning experience, I also recognised that I wasn’t equipped yet with all the skills I needed to build and run a successful business. As a result, I actually chose to go into consulting where I had the opportunity to work with companies across a wide variety of industries – aerospace and defence, retail, airlines, non-profits – to solve a lot of different types of business problems. That variety not only solidified my interest in getting back to tech– it also helped me have a much more diverse perspective when I did.

What was your first job in IT/tech? My first job in tech was launching my own business, a software platform, while at university.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? One of the most common misconceptions I see is that tech companies are only cut out for highly technical candidates. The reality is that the vast majority of tech companies need great people in marketing, sales, operations and other roles to help run and grow the company successfully. So, regardless of your background or deep technical aptitude, a role in tech may actually be the right fit.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? It’s essential to develop deep business understanding and meaningful relationships. Being an executive is about more than just being an expert in your own area, or even being a great manager. It’s about helping align with the rest of the executive team to develop and execute on the strategy for the entire company. That can only effectively be done through a deep understanding of the business and relationships of trust. In addition, the relationships we invest in today will often be the ones that open the doors for that next great opportunity — and that is only more true at a senior level.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My career ambitions have mostly been focused on solving interesting problems with exceptional people. It’s been so rewarding to see the outcomes of building Lucid over the last ten years from the basement to the global company it is today. At Lucid, I continue to strive to build something long-lasting by improving the way that millions of people work through visual collaboration.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Building a company can certainly be a busy endeavor! Over the years, however, I’ve been very deliberate about determining and preserving my “non-negotiables.” Regardless of how busy things may be, there are commitments that I won’t ever compromise, like being on the sideline for all of my son’s soccer games. I find when I can hold true to those non-negotiables, life feels balanced.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I prefer to live my life with no regrets and never second-guessing what could or should have been. That said, I certainly have wondered whether pursuing a more technical degree at university could have augmented my skill set and path. While of course I see how that would be relevant in my role today, more notably it’s because I think that knowledge and skill set enables a different level of freedom in bringing ideas to reality.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I think both can be great paths depending on the type of role and work that the individual is interested in. For example, there may be certain roles within software engineering that require building blocks and understanding that may better be developed over the course of a longer study with a computer science degree. That said, the quality of the top coding bootcamps continue to increase and can open the door for many compelling roles. In either case, I would recommend finding a company where strong mentorship will be part of the individual’s ongoing success.

How important are specific certifications? Certifications can certainly be important, and they often show a unique commitment to a specific area of study. But frankly, many certifications just aren’t valuable. Instead, I’ve found that softer skills like work ethic, curiosity and passion are what help people stand out most.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Ownership. Does this person have a demonstrated track record of success? And from my perspective, that’s not limited to their career. Particularly for those earlier in their career, I’m often interested to see other examples in their life where they’ve demonstrated that passion and excellence.

Values alignment. Will this person live our core values? Our culture at Lucid is part of our special sauce, and we want people who will not only bring great skills, but also be fully aligned to the way we work together and generally do business.

Curiosity. Does the person ask insightful questions when given the opportunity? In a high-growth company, we are constantly solving new problems and innovating on how things are done, and we want to hire people who are naturally excited about those types of opportunities.

What would put you off a candidate? First and foremost, a misalignment with our core values. For example, we talk a lot at Lucid about “teamwork over ego.” If a candidate clearly thinks too much of themselves, is unlikely to play well with others, is not open to other perspectives and so on, they clearly won’t be the right fit for anyone. Second, if they aren’t excited about our mission at Lucid of helping teams see and build the future with visual collaboration. We want all of our employees to be marching in the same direction and inspired by what we are building together.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? One of the most common mistakes I see is not asking questions. Asking questions helps ensure that the role and company are the right fit for you, just as hopefully you are for the role and company. Also, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your preparation as well as show your curiosity. I still interview a lot of candidates in my role today as CEO, and I’m disappointed that candidates sometimes struggle to identify questions to ask me when given the chance!

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? A mix of both technical and business skills can really help someone stand out and grow within an industry.