Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Chris Cook, Delphix

Chris Cook

 Company: Delphix

 Job Title: President and CEO

 Location: Menlo Park, California


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
Love your Mondays!  This is so simple, yet powerful.  Too many people love their Fridays because they work at a job they don’t like and can’t wait for the two-day respite called “the weekend”. When you wake up on Monday and can’t wait to get to work, you are more likely to love what you do and with whom you do that work.  Also, there is a personal accountability for the environment in which you work.  Are you making it a place where you and the people around you love their Mondays?  If you don’t love your Mondays, change it, and if you can’t change it, change roles or companies.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
Bad breath is better than no breath at all.  In other words, if you have the wrong person in a specific role, don’t move them out until you have a replacement.  There is always more collateral damage when you have the wrong person in a key role and leave them there.  More damage is done every day until you make the change, and the new person has a bigger mess to clean up.  You are better to move that person out as quickly as possible, even if you have to do that job yourself until a replacement is found.  Some of my best lessons came from these situations, and in doing the job on an interim basis, I learned much more about the team and the role, allowing me to confidently find and hire the right person for the job. 

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
You are entering the most phenomenal industry in the history of the world.  New inventions and extensions of existing boundaries happen every day.  The biggest limitation in this industry is human will, so find a childlike belief that anything is possible.   Dream big, and stay paranoid.  You may have the best idea today, but may be replaced by someone else’s idea tomorrow.  Today’s disruptors are tomorrow’s disrupted.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
If you are a c-level executive, you should have a seat at the proverbial table.  When you have that seat, you are a company executive first and a functional executive second.  Broad knowledge, understanding and empathy of all the key functions of the business allow you to look at each situation holistically.  This drives better collaboration, and stronger, more complete solutions for the business.  You also become a stronger partner for your peers and they are more likely to engage with you.  Get out of your functional area (Sales, Engineering, Finance, etc.) and spend time with your peers in other parts of the business to understand their world, how they operate, and what’s important to them.  Also learn their challenges.  This may feel like a time luxury that most people don’t have, but it is essential to being a great c-level executive.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
Make a connection with the key people around you.  This may feel silly or soft, but it is really just a deeper level of caring for your key team members that is palpable to them.  Make sure the journey is clear and that the team is committed to enjoying the journey.  Connected leaders have much more success managing through the ups and downs that all businesses face, because their team has a deeper level of commitment to the team and to you.  I’ve lead by example here and had many people from my team use this to build large, successful and enduring organizations. 


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