C-suite career advice: Adrien Gendre, Vade Secure
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C-suite career advice: Adrien Gendre, Vade Secure

Name: Adrien Gendre

Company: Vade Secure

Job Title: Chief Solution Architect, CEO of Vade Secure North America

Location: San Francisco, US

As Vade Secure's Chief Solution Architect and CEO of Vade Secure North America, Adrien Gendre owns all aspects of the business that directly impact customer experience. His responsibilities include formulating the company's product strategy and roadmap, overseeing integration with security vendors, and managing the global Solutions Architect, Training, Documentation, and Customer Support Teams.


 

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? I wouldn't call it advice, but rather a saying that inspired me: Some people are passionate about their job and do it well; others are passionate about the company and by putting the company first, excel at their jobs in unimaginable ways. I personally heard it after a major event at Vade Secure that definitively changed my career, and I realised it was actually a consequence of the behaviour described above. When I asked the person why I was involved in that major and incredible event, his reply was, "Some are passionate about their job; you are passionate about the company."

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? That a manager can be a good manager in any field. In other words, that you don't need technical skills or subject matter expertise to be a good manager. I believe it is wrong, since to be a good manager, you also need to be a do-er. This is the key to being a manager by leading, not a manager by title. It is key to build credibility and earn the trust of the people you manage.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? Developing an expertise in a specific IT field is crucial. In IT, it can be anything such as Security, Programming, Compliancy, Machine Learning, etc. Nobody can be expert in everything, so focusing on at least one specific field is key to earning recognition, growing within in the organisation, demonstrating leadership through your behavior, not just your title.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I have always liked computers, from a very early age. When I was in middle school, I started discovering programming languages and playing with them and doing some simple development. Then I selected courses that are close to IT, such as electronics, telecommunications and networks; even my summer jobs were spent in the IT department of a company. I didn't know what precisely in IT I wanted to do, but I knew it would definitely by something related to computers and IT technology.

What was your first job in IT? My first job was working as a Visual Basic developer. I was tasked with improving the proprietary production software of a clay extraction plant.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? There is a big cliché that IT is exclusively geeks. And right away, people think of the physical stereotype of a ‘geek'. This is clearly a misconception of who is part of IT. There are real ‘geeks' who could also be called ‘technical experts'. Passion for specific technical topics gives all IT members a small geek side. But for IT to run properly, there are many more and different profiles. I see mostly professionals who deal with contracts, project management, compliancy, or high business-focused or user-focused projects.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? In order to have a successful career, the title should be the consequence, not the target. An individual's passion and energy makes it possible to realise even the most challenging projects, putting them in a much better position to become a C-Level executive. Achieving those projects requires a higher level of thinking to see and understand how business works, the surrounding of a computer and how strategies can support it. The best way to achieve a C-Level position is to achieve deeply all projects in order to make the company need you at this C-Level position more than you strategising for it.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My ambitions are not really correlated to a title or a specific company. They are more about realising an idea and having it take off and become known and recognised around the world. So my current ambition is definitely making Vade Secure a global leader by helping the company to develop the best technology and designing unique products and positioning. The product needs to have the best features—features that solve fundamental user needs and business problems—and I work hard to understand the market context so we can deliver on that promise, and make the market passionate about our products. So, my job is not finished yet. Vade has a long way to go and many ideas on paper that are on their way to making it into the real world.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Yes definitely. In contrast to what some might think, it does not come from a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. It comes from just being in the moment you are, not necessarily the place you are. Good work life balance comes when you can clearly and fully engage in what you are doing, wherever it is, and whether it's for personal or professional purposes. If you are on a date with your wife, be fully into it; you will recharge your batteries and be read for bigger challenges. If you are at home and inspiration strikes for a new idea at work, take two hours in your garden, in peace, and focus on it until you are satisfied. You will then be more relaxed to enjoy another personal moment.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? Something I underestimated is the need for training on specific topics related to compliancy. Being more of a self-made man, I always learned things by myself by practicing. However, compliancy topics can't be experienced by yourself; you need to develop a deep understanding of the rules that have to be put in place. So, if I had to change something to be more effective in my job, I would get the basis of the topics by myself and additional training to develop knowledge in compliancy topics.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? A Computer Science Degree for sure. A coding bootcamp will complement another degree you have by teaching you a specific language, or the art of writing code. A Computer Science Degree will bring a higher view of the IT world, the understanding of an environment, the needs of users, the need of customers (whether internal or external), the principles of designing good systems and so on. While Bootcamps address specific use cases and specific needs, a Computer Science Degree develops the mind to adapt to, and solve, any number of IT challenges.

How important are specific certifications? Compliance certifications are key for a career. It's important to have some certification or at least real training on these topics to grow in the business. It is clearly an important piece of the ecosystem that needs to be understood.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? To start, the candidate needs to be an expert in their field. They need to show passion in what he/she is doing. With passion, we become experts.

I also look for someone with a good fit with the company culture, someone that I want to spend time with personally and professionally. We always claim that we don't take ourselves seriously while actually being very serious about what we are doing. It is a mix of modesty, expertise and ambition.

A person that is self-made and has proven their ability to overcome important challenges and that doesn't accept the status-quo. It is a way to bring unique ideas into the company.

What would put you off a candidate? Arrogance and "bragging" about achievements, which shows that the person is fed more by external inputs than by their passion for the topic. I am personally always looking for passionate people, because passion is critical to motivation. It is the fuel of success.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? There is a fine line which should not be crossed. The line is the opinion of the recruiter thinking the candidate is very good, highly skilled and needed for the company. The candidate needs to be as close as possible to that line without crossing it. To be close to that line the candidate will sell himself and his achievements. And it is exactly there, by doing too much that he can cross the line and reach a level of arrogance side is a deal breaker in the hiring process.

To avoid crossing the line but being as close as possible to it, my recommendation would just be to speak with passion. By speaking with passion, you will convey your achievements, but also the reasons why, the benefits and any challenges or failures you had to overcome.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? I would recommend a strong technical background that is then complemented with business skills. It is required to have a high view of the business context, challenges and solutions.

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