C-suite career advice: Daniele Servadei, Sellix

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? “Don’t rush into things... There’s no point in trying to develop a product and adding thousands of features to it immediately and without a clear purpose.”

Headshot of Daniele Servadei, CEO at Sellix

Name: Daniele Servadei

Company: Sellix

Job Title: CEO

Location: Italy

Daniele Servadei is an inspiring 19-year-old who has done things differently. He started writing code at the age of 13 in his bedroom. Servadei launched his own global company at the age of 18, and a year later, he and his company survived the so-called crypto winter. He is now about to start university to study computer science.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Don’t rush into things. It’s so pointless. There’s no point in trying to develop a product and adding thousands of features to it immediately and without a clear purpose ––every action should be taken as a small step, rather, and every new feature should be released only when it’s fully ready so that it can best reach its potential.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I’d say I’ve never actually received “the worst” business advice, but I’ve heard some questionable advice… mostly along the lines of “do not rely on others,” which is really the opposite of the way I do things. The best work I’ve seen is the one I’ve done in a team, in a collaborative space. Relying on others is important as it can teach you a lot!

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Specialise in something and be the best at it. Nowadays, IT/tech is such a vast space in terms of vocations and opportunities that you really need to focus on one area you like and you’re good at, and master it.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Yes, it’s always been my passion! I started studying C++, then Python, then PHP, which I’ll admit is a pretty weird way of doing things. Then, I moved into NodeJS, TypeScript, and finally, I stopped focusing on strictly code and instead moved into architecture design for applications, which I really enjoy, too.

What was your first job in IT/tech? When I was 16, I worked as a backend developer for the Italian company SoluzioniFutura, working with NodeJS. It taught me everything I know, and was so crucial to my development and where I am today, so I’m very grateful for that experience.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? People just picture coders working away at code all day, and that’s not the whole truth. You need to work on the architecture of your application, code logic, databases’ structure, as well as organise with designers and other members of your team. I also don’t like the common myth along the lines of “it’s not for everyone,” because I really think everything is within reach if you have the right people in your corner, and the right people mentoring you.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? C-level positions are nothing like day to day jobs. You need people skills rather than coding skills, and you definitely need to be organised. I still code, even as CEO of Sellix, just because I have such a passion for it. Also, I’d say: forget hierarchies, and stop feeling as if you’re more important than anyone else in the room. Every team member is as important as the next, and companies would fare a lot better if people understood that.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I’d love to develop Sellix further and see where I can take it. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far and can see even bigger accomplishments in the future. It’s really exciting. Perhaps I’ll even set up new companies in the future. We’ll see. I’m enjoying being at the helm of one.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I’m really dedicated to my work and company, of course, but I like to think I do!

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Well I'm young, so I don’t really have that long of a career path behind me. I really like how it all happened, I have to be honest: from student, to casual programmer, to working as a solution architect for a company here in Italy and then starting my own project. I wouldn’t really change anything.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Here in Italy, where I’m based, CS degrees are not well structured nor worth very much, so I’d say a coding bootcamp. Internationally, however, I think a CS degree will prepare you better and is a good investment if you’re serious about the type of career you want. It also depends on costs, and whether it’s a university or an individual who hosts it. There are many variables that make it hard to have a clear right or wrong distinction between the two.

How important are specific certifications? It really depends on the certification - LinkedIn ones, or similar? Utterly useless, I’m sorry to say. AWS, CISCO, GCP, Azure, IBM? Very, very good, of course. There’s a real difference, and it shows.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? We want developers who are able to work around problems and figure out the best solution, who work well in a team and obviously have some previous experience. They need to have coding knowledge and know the programming languages we’re using. Certifications can be useful, but they’re not the most important part and not the first factor we consider. Age is a useless comparison point, I really believe that, and I think more people should embrace that.

What would put you off a candidate? When working remotely, most of the time you hire people, set a trial period –which of course, is paid and effectively counts as real work– give them the chance to prove themselves, and then decide if they will be with you after that. One thing that we’ve seen throughout the years, and not really appreciated, is candidates who do not have an eye for details or don’t meet deadlines… coding is all about details, and well, deadlines are everything in business.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I think it’s easy to think you should know everything, but that’s impossible ––just be honest about it. There’s no need to beat around the bush and avoid questions. Just answer directly, and know that all we really care about is hearing you approach and examine an issue, talk us through how you’d solve it. You don’t need to actually solve everything straight away.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? A mix of both is needed for C-level positions. You can’t have just one or the other.