C-Suite Career Advice: Philipp Buschmann, AAZZUR

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? “Be kind, ask for what you want and put yourself out there.”

Headshot of Philipp Buschmann, CEO & Co-Founder at AAZZUR

Name: Philipp Buschmann

Company: AAZZUR

Job Title: CEO and Co-Founder

Location: Berlin

Philipp Buschmann is Co-Founder and CEO at AAZZUR, a one-stop-shop for smart embedded finance experience. Recognised as a rising star in the FinTech space, AAZZUR’s mission is to build profitable banking whilst at the same time empowering consumers to have access to better informed financial choices. Buschmann is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience of working in Challenger Banking, Financial Services, IT and Energy across the world.  He took one of his businesses public - Ignis Petroleum was publicly listed in the US and Germany. His interest in behavioural economics helped inspire AAZZUR’s revolutionary work on customer centricity in banking. Buschmann has spoken at major Fintech events including Money 20/20, MoneyLive, Finovate, Fintech Matters, and the Future of Retail Banking.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Two things, the first, kindness is a free superpower. It is one of the two things you can control, and it opens more doors. The second is to ask for what you want. No one is going to give you what you want without you communicating it. So be direct and open and honest, you will be surprised at how this approach will change how people respond to you.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I think the worst thing you can do is to try and fit in. You don’t want to fit in. Generally speaking, those who do what they are told and merge into the crowd are forgettable. I would tell people not to follow the crowd. This is a riskier strategy and only really works if you know yourself, but I do believe that being different and interesting will open more doors throughout your career.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Do the things no one else wants to do, it makes you immediately valuable. Fill out the spreadsheet that no one wants to do, create content, and pick up the coffees. Work hard and say yes to everything. Do this until you are invaluable and then make sure you shift to create a more senior job role, otherwise, you become everybody’s go-to person and you will miss out on a promotion. It all comes down to knowing what you are worth. In every company, there is a super nice and capable person who does everything and they often don’t get promoted. Don’t become this person and become overlooked. Work hard, know your worth, excel.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No, I wanted to work in a cool industry, like photography, but I didn’t think I was good enough. I just so happened to be able to write computer code from the young age of 12 and the job chose me. Computer people, however, did get cool for 2-3 years and I loved that time!

What was your first job in IT/tech My first job was when I was 15, Richard Unger (co-founder of AAZZUR) and I created a website for the cancer ward of the children’s hospital in Vienna. Richard and I built the website to raise awareness about the valuable work the hospital was doing and what services they offered. Even from a young age, I was always looking for the next business opportunity.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? The usual stereotypes pretty much apply but I do think this is slowly shifting. Everything we do now is connected to tech or IT and we are ultimately running the world’s infrastructure. I think for some people there is a sense of awe when they meet someone who works in IT or tech, it is such a foreign world for some.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Be kind, ask for what you want and put yourself out there. It is also important to work hard and have the drive to get where you want to get. How do you get to have drive? I believe it comes from having many international experiences and having friends that are ambitious. If you hang out with people who don’t have vision and don’t work hard, you will follow suit. Surround yourself with people who will push you further. I also think C-level is irrelevant. It is passion, value, and attitude that are important.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I will never reach my career ambitions as they are constantly evolving. I don’t want to become surplus to requirements. I want to be of use. I don’t want to retire, I don’t want to sit on the beach. If I could build anything I would build it.

Further down the line, I would be interested in working with children in an educational setting but for now, building AAZZUR and creating a good culture for those working within the company is fully taking my attention.

Do you have a good work-life balance in your current role? When you love what you do, working long hours is not so bad. Can you tell an actor not to act, can you tell an entrepreneur not to work? I work 60+ hours a week, but it doesn’t matter; I don’t look at it like that. I actually enjoy it, it’s fun! I get to travel and meet people. Driven people are interested in the world. If you want something, you have to really try to get it and the universe selects those who put in the most. That’s what makes me work harder and longer.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I would say, there are another 100 different lives I would have liked to try out, I could have been a journalist, doctor, or even a rockstar, the possibilities are endless. I love life so I would have liked to have another 99 goes, but I am happy with where my journey has taken me so far.

Which would you recommend: A coding boot camp or a computer science degree? I personally would recommend a Computer Science degree, as I believe it would be more interesting – it’s like the difference between choosing to be a plumber or understanding how water works. Don’t get me wrong, I think boot camps are great, if your ambition is to do a certain role, but if you want to really delve deep into a subject, a degree is, for me, a more interesting route.

One is not better than the other, it’s more about what you want to get out of the course.

How important are specific certifications? For me, it’s not all about certifications, I am more interested in a person’s attitude, their commitment to the role, and their experience. Someone could have the best degree or masters, from the best university but if their attitude isn’t right for the company, they will do more damage than good.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Mitdenken, a German word, means to be switched on which is for me when a candidate really thinks about the job they are performing. There is a huge difference, between those who immerse themselves in a job role and those who just support.

Inner core focus - does everything happen to this person or because of them? This is particularly relevant when mistakes are made. Some people will blame the mistake on environmental factors, others will take ownership. Owning a mistake and having this internal focus is key.

Engagement and honesty – does this person care enough to become part of the team?

What would put you off a candidate? I guess if someone tries to be overly agreeable. Imagine going on a date and they agree with everything you say, that would be the most boring thing ever. I want a difference of opinion and people who are going to challenge me. This is so important in business as we live in a diverse world, and we need new ideas and focuses to constantly keep up with the evolution of society.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? These candidates don’t tend to reach me as they have already gone through multiple interview processes.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? It really depends on what you want to do. I think people who claim to be purely business-oriented will struggle as a core skill is usually key. For those who only talk and have no background skills, I often find that nobody trusts those people. Those who have solely a business view have to be in a big company to accommodate them.