Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Roger Philby, The Chemistry Group

Roger Philby

  Company: The Chemistry Group

  Job Title: Founder & CEO

  Location: London, UK

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?

My mentor, Ed Percival, used to always ask me ‘what would you do if you had no fear?’ While not exactly advice, it’s a great tactic because it makes you question every action you’re taking, and encourages you to value every decision you make. It has a sobering effect and enables you to ask yourself if you’re taking the easy way out. This has been an invaluable question that I have asked myself throughout my career.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?

I’d say what’s worse than poor advice is the advice people don’t give. One of the biggest mistakes I see is the omission of really crucial information. When I was starting out in my career, facing problems that no one warned me about really got me.

For example, when I started my business I didn’t put in a finance and reporting infrastructure, and I paid for that three years down the line. People around me began saying ‘I had that problem as well’, so I was frustrated that they hadn’t passed on their knowledge.

The other thing I wish someone had told me is to not take on anything and everything when you first start out. You may be desperate for revenue, but you will simply end up picking up work you shouldn’t be doing. If it feels like you shouldn’t take it, then don’t - you will regret it later...

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?

One thing I would say is be curious. The people who really fly and stand out in an organisation are the ones who are really diligent about learning and always want more information. Take the time to study your industry, your market, and your job, and read like you’ve never read before. In tech, you can be behind the times in just three months, so it is vital that you are always consuming information and learning.

It’s also important to make sure you are doing something you love. Find the thing that you love doing as early as possible and go and do it before you have any real obligations that could root you in a job or an industry.

Another thing I have noticed is that the best people in any company watch what great people do, and then copy it. That’s a good principle to have.

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

Don’t. If that’s all that you’re working towards, you won’t get it. Great leaders and great managers are people who create great leaders and great managers. Helping other people get to the top will help you get to the top. If your motivation is selfish then you won’t succeed.

Elevating others is important and can be done easily through a strong network. People can become quite introspective once they’re in a job but it’s important to always be looking around you. When you meet interesting people, write their name down and call them every three months for the rest of your life. I’m earning most of my income from a network that I have been building since my twenties. But the important thing about having a network is that you have to give a lot of yourself without expecting anything in return. Once again, don’t be selfish and you will find yourself rising more steadily than someone who is always trying to cash in.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?

Again, I wouldn’t say I’m proud of any advice I’ve given as that’s far too arrogant! I am, however, proud of the fact that I’ve been in a position where I can give opportunities to people who deserve them and I am fortunate that more than one person has, in turn, given me an opportunity over the years. It feels great to give fantastic people huge opportunities that they might not get elsewhere.


« BT links Brazil's remote users to lottery and money via satellite


Typical 24: Peter Groucutt, Databarracks »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?