Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Mark van der Linden, Dropbox

Mark van der Linden

 Company: Dropbox

 Job Title: UK and Ireland Country Manager

 Location: London, UK


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
“Always remember what you wanted to be when you grow up.” My first boss told me that, once you have a goal in mind for your career, you need to view each new role as a step towards that final goal. Moving upwards doesn’t always mean moving closer so it’s important to think about what the right move is for your development, and why that move makes sense. Stay true to your goals, stay true to your principles and you won’t go too far wrong. 

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
At various times early on in my career, I was working with people who requested favours or special treatment when we were trying to agree on a deal. That’s never a good idea. Transparency and integrity are far more important than any single deal, and in the long run people will value a trust-worthy business partner more than any number of favours.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
Discover your passion, move around, try new things and be uncomfortable! We live in the age of disruption and success is increasingly based upon our ability to change and adapt. I founded a business years ago advising large companies on this strange new phenomenon that they didn’t quite understand – the internet. It’s funny to think of that now, but rapid change unsettles companies, and the pace of change has only continued to increase in recent years. The more adaptable you are, the better equipped you are to ride these waves of disruption, instead of being bowled over by them.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
To my mind, being a C-level executive is an enabling role, it’s about giving other people the tools to excel on their terms. Leadership is about getting the best out of each employee for the good of the business. There’s no point in having a team of ‘mini-me’s’ or ‘yes men’. Every team needs a range of competing outlooks and skillsets, that’s where creativity is born. If you can get the best people together, working towards a commonly understood goal, then you’re doing your job as a C-level employee.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
When I founded my company, we took on an intern. It was fantastic for the business having someone with so much enthusiasm and he is now a very successful VP in his own right. I love seeing people develop in their careers. It’s hugely rewarding personally, but it also takes lots of input and experience. I have a lot of grey hairs and it’s for good reason; experience is king.

I worked previously for a large enterprise and after a time I was moved to a department that had a few challenges. We started a traineeship programme to bring some new blood into the business, and we managed to find all of these exceptional candidates who hadn’t been tapped into before. I recently attended a reunion event with a lot of these people and so many of those trainees are now leaders building amazing careers. It really underlined for me what leadership and management are all about; providing people with the tools they need to excel.


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