Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Phillip Merrick, SparkPost

Phillip Merrick

 Company: SparkPost

 Job Title: CEO

 Location: Washington DC/Baltimore Region, US


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
The most valuable career or business advice I’ve ever received was not verbalized to me, it was modeled for me.  Several important managers and mentors showed me the importance of treating people the way you want to be treated yourself. It applies to how you deal with everyone, whether they are a customer, a supplier, a colleague or a member of your team.  Many people know this as “The Golden Rule”, and it’s amazingly effective.  The best part is it doesn’t require a ton of thought or analysis to decide how to behave in a given business situation.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
I could give plenty of specific examples – I’ve made many dumb decisions based on bad advice. In almost all cases I either ignored the recommendation of my team, or my own gut instinct saying “this doesn’t feel right”.  And when the two of these were in conflict, I should have gone with what the team said!

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
Firstly, do extensive research on the potential employers you are thinking about applying to. Not only will this help you in the interview process but it will help ensure you join a company with a mission you can believe in.  Once you’ve started, continue in that vein and learn as much as you can about the company’s business and customers, and how you can make a contribution to the company’s success.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
In the technology industry it’s hard to be a successful leader without having developed a strong understanding of each part of the business, across engineering, support, sales and marketing. I would encourage anyone aspiring to be a CXO to go outside their comfort zone and get direct exposure to the functional areas beyond their current expertise.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
I am extremely proud of the career growth of members of my management teams.  At webMethods, a company I co-founded and then ran for almost 10 years, more than 20 people have gone on to be founders and/or CEO of their own companies.


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