Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Simon Aspinall, Virtustream

We ask industry leading C-suite professionals for their expert career advice...

Simon Aspinall 

  Company: Virtustream

  Job Title: President Service Provider Business

  Location: Switzerland


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
That’s really tough to decide, I’ve had so much good advice over the years! A couple come to mind. Some of the best was to find a business that you believe in and enjoy, then to work in a role that you’re good at, but always aim to become the best. Time and time again I find that the most successful people love what they do, are passionate about it and that, ultimately, determination overcomes any obstacle. That also reminds me that business is really all about people – if you surround yourself with great people you’ll succeed, and if you treat people with honesty and integrity they will always want to do business with you. Of course, that said, it never trumps the fact that cash flow never lies!

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
The worst business advice I received was invariably ‘you won’t be able to do that’. It has been proven wrong so many times! You listen to the reasons why – then work out how to beat them.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
The advice above is a good starting point. In addition Tech’s an interesting sector – it has incredibly smart people working in it – engineers/programmers/designers/etc. In fact a lot of tech companies have so many technology skills that they often lack good commercial/sales/business skills. By all means develop a sector/skill that’s valuable – but make sure you understand how a business is running – how does it differentiate itself, how does it make money, how will it continue to make money. If you can directly improve that, the business will thrive and you will thrive. So pick carefully whom you work for and what the business is.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
A c-level role is difficult to do well. You’ll need lots of relevant experience and skills – whether in sales/marketing/technology/finance etc. Take some time to learn the area that you’re best in, work in a couple of different businesses and gain the real-life experience that you can apply to the tough decisions that have to get taken at c-level. You’ll often gain more experience (and opportunities) working in smaller companies where the roles are broader. Large company experience is useful but can tend to be more internally focused and more political. Finally try and always work for someone you respect and can learn from.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
I’ve been fortunate to help a few people along the way, but most of the time it’s really just been helping people to achieve their own potential. Surprisingly some of the best memories have been of really tough advice – often telling people where they weren’t being successful, what they didn’t want to hear and what they needed to improve (or change). Some of the best stories have been those turnaround stories – people have come back years later and thanked me for helping them through a difficult period and their (much greater) success later.


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