Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Scott Berg, ServiceMax from GE Digital

Name: Scott Berg

Company: ServiceMax from GE Digital

Job Title: Chief Executive Officer

Location: Pleasanton, California

A veteran of the application software industry, Scott Berg is the Chief Executive Officer of ServiceMax, an operating unit of GE Digital. Berg first joined the company as Vice President of Sales more than 8 years ago, and after numerous promotions, now has global responsibility for the field service application business, including product, sales, marketing, services and customer success. Here, he shares his advice to those just starting out, and those aiming for the top.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? The best advice I’ve received was that you will have some of your best ideas during your first 90 days in a new job or role.  This is a time when you have the freshest perspective, the energy to tackle big ideas with unburdened clarity about what seems right.  You should write those ideas down and save your notes.  You may not get to everything on that list right away, but you'll be amazed at how valuable these early observations and ideas are later in your tenure.  They will remain some of the best ideas you have to solve problems and improve your results.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst advice/experience I had was the belief that you have to learn from mistakes and your manager should let you fail in order to gain that experience.  I don't agree with this.  It is cruel and unnecessary to see an impending failure and let the individual fail in order to teach them a lesson.  A good manager will point out a risk of failure before it happens and steer you towards a better conclusion.  In my career, I have always learned more from near or partial failure rather than being allowed to fail.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry? In the pure technology industry, I think some people are so enamored with the invention and the creation of products and markets, that they fail to remember you are trying to build or operate a business.  It's unfortunate that during periods of economic exuberance, people are rewarded for simply vision without real results.  Ultimately, the tech industry has tremendous potential to change lives, create wealth, employee people and impact the way we live.  People entering this industry should know that the greatest potential impact in all these areas will come from companies that fund their own growth, make responsible use of capital and ultimately make money.  These are common principles in many other industries that could be applied more enthusiastically to technology companies.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?

My advice would be two things: 

  1. Work hard at whatever you do
  2. Be able to measure your success in every responsibility you are given

Early in my career, I worked with many people who saw promotions as something earned from timelines and tenure. I quit my first job after my college graduation when I realized the only way I would be promoted was to work and wait through specific job assignments until either enough time had passed or enough people above me moved on in their careers.  Your career is not a queue to wait in. Your career is an open contest that anyone can win at any time.  Like any contest of skill or wit, it requires that you accomplish more measurable results than others and be noticed for that success.  No matter what "level" of a position you aspire to, these basic requirements do not change.  Work hard, show measurable success and be noticed working for that success.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored? In my career in technology, I have often spoken to people that were determined to succeed at what they believed was their calling (e.g. Sales), or in a role that they believed was their only path to their career goals (e.g. I have to be a CMO before I can be a CEO).  My advice to these individuals is to do something you love to do and be wildly successful at it.  There is more than one path to any career outcome if you are happy, work hard and can prove your success.  On the flipside, don't continue to do anything that makes you unhappy or you can't be successful at because you believe you should or are required to take that particular path.


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