Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Nicholas Hill, Plextek Ltd

Nicholas Hill

 Company: Plextek Ltd

 Job Title: Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

 Location: Essex, UK


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
The advice I got from my father was “If the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. I’ve tried to keep that mentality throughout my career. I can only really remember being given one piece of career’s advice as such, which was that if you just get on and do a great job, and no fuss is created, people tend to not notice. In my experience, you also don’t tend to get much credit for your work either so you need to make sure that people know about your accomplishments so the good news percolates throughout the company.     

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
Most of the bad advice I have received I have discounted. What I have realised however is that a lot of people have learned their business skills by observing others and then picking it up. Instead of formal training, they are essentially learning on the job. They are, and no doubt you as well, are naturally looking out for what other people are doing successfully and also realise where other people have made mistakes with methods that don’t work at all.
I take that approach to business advice. You watch other people and see when and how they are getting it right and when and how they get it wrong and you learn from their actions and results. When it comes down to it, it will depend on how much you have learnt from observing and then figuring out for yourself what you should do.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
If you are starting your career in the technology industry as an engineer or of a similar discipline, you probably are interested in the engineering. Throughout the early stages of your career, you will almost certainly be offered different roles in different industries even if you remain with a single company.
They could be fantastic opportunities into sales, project management, people management or other corporate functions but it has to be at the right time for you. So, my advice would be that you need to satisfy yourself with what you are currently doing or what you wanted to do in the first place before following new avenues in the tech industry.  
In starting your career, I also advise that you impress the upper management. A fundamental thing that upper management appreciates is staff members that deliver on what they say they will. The most valuable member in any work environment is the person that can say what can be done and gets on with it and does it, likewise if they can’t do something.
It’s a combination of being realistic, honest and diligent in completing what it was that you set out to do. Having those people on board is the secret behind projects that go smoothly, that get delivered on time and that stay within budget. 

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a C-level position?     
To be able to operate at that level requires, in my experience at least, ticking off certain check boxes. You need to have the specific technical, commercial and market knowledge about the business that you are in. You need an intrinsic understanding of the business, how it works and how the people work. You also have to have experiences in other businesses that are as diverse as possible so you can view the company through an outside perspective. You want to be able to look at the ways in which the company is operating, how it isn’t operating, and how it is different to its competitors.
It is a careful balance of both, knowing what makes the company tick on the inside and having a window so you can view the company from the outside, understanding how the company works within the rest of the world.
I never quite understood how people used to successfully spend a lifetime within one company, working their way up from the production floor into upper management. I can imagine those examples are a rare sight because you simply wouldn’t have the breadth of knowledge you would get from a varied career.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
I found that when it comes to developing people, my perspective is that people will deliver their best, when they are able to do the work that they are passionate about. It fires them up and therefore the majority of management is just finding out what drives them and getting them into a position to do their best work. You also don’t want to make their life too difficult by limiting the constraints they are operating in or make them do something that they can do but didn’t want to do. In layman’s terms, it’s about putting the round pegs into the round holes and the square pegs into the square holes.
When you have somebody in a place where they really enjoy what they are doing and it gets them out of bed in the morning with excitement, then you have a happy and productive workforce.


« The CMO Files: Robin Selden, Avast


Typical 24: Lindsay McEwan, Tealium »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?