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Human Resources

C-suite career advice: John McCallion, GroundScope

11-08-2015-john-mccallion-groundscope
Name: 
John McCallion

Company:  GroundScope

Job Title:  CEO

Location:  Staines upon Thames, Surrey, UK


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

Employ the best people you can afford and build strong empowered management teams who are passionate about delivering customers the best possible service experience. I learnt early on in my career that you are only as good as your team and your success in business is their success.

By being able to recognize each person’s capabilities and competencies, it allows you to harness it into the best direction for the business. Learning to motivate, reward and empower your managers will help create a supportive culture which allows them to operate effectively in this complex and challenging business world we live in. Business is about people and taking the time to provide feedback on a project well done or highlighting any success is crucial. One of the most valuable things I’ve learnt is definitely just appreciating those who work for you and saying a simple thank you can really make a difference.

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

Hearing the words “You can’t change things round here so don’t make that business recommendation because people won’t like it” was definitely a challenging concept to take on!

Driving change in business is never easy; most people don’t like change or they say they do, but only if it does not impact them. You need confidence to make a significant change to the business and implement it across the board. Challenging people’s work behaviors can be one of the toughest things to do, yet without change a business could risk becoming outdated and fall behind its competitors in the sector.

I believe passionately that one person can make a difference in a business and every aspiring executive should have the courage to recommend changes and business improvements. One piece of advice I would recommend when proposing something new to your team is make sure you’re prepared. Having the necessary evidence, facts and data as to why you want to implement a new business decision is key to helping ensure a smooth, logical process.

In today’s business environment and with technologies ever changing, we face challenges all the time. Recognising the areas of opportunity to drive forward positive change for the business could be one of the most rewarding things you do.

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

Find a company that has a strong reputation for great training and service as well as great technology. The early years of your career are critically important and you’ll need to develop a whole range of skills to take you to the next stage. This will include (but is not exclusive to!) project management, budgeting, presentation skills, report drafting and managing teams and clients.

It’s worth bearing in mind that later on in your career people will ask what it was about that company that first attracted you when starting out. By choosing the business with the better reputation for training great people, it will make you more attractive to potential future employees.

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

Try and get as much varied experience as you can in different functions including sales, finance, marketing and operations.  As well as different industries and business cultures. When I first started out in business, I trained at Marks and Spencer and PepsiCo who both had very different cultures. Following this, I then did an MBO of Great Western Trains before becoming a founding Director of Active Hotels / Booking.com and then later on started GroundScope.

Another tip I would share is that, don’t think you have to have all the skills – no one does, but good people and strategic skills will help go a long way. By being a great all-rounder at business and ensuring you have an overview of the whole business rather than just one function is one thing that I’ve found instrumental to getting to the next level.

Finally, it is worth considering further study to separate yourself from the crowd. I did an MBA in Marketing at Westminster Business School and an Executive Development Course at London Business School which I found invaluable.

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

During my time at Pepsi Co and Great Western trains, I had the privilege to mentor two managers who completed MBA’s at London Business School and then went on to have highly successful careers.

Being a mentor can be very rewarding, as it’s helping shape someone’s career and seeing them develop in their role. Recently I’ve been mentoring two Westminster University Business School MBA Marketing students, an experience which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone. I’m also delighted to be awarded the title of Business School Mentor of the Year – something which I’ll definitely look back onto fondly! 

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