C-suite career advice: Zlatko Vucetic, FocusVision
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C-suite career advice: Zlatko Vucetic, FocusVision

Name: Zlatko Vucetic

Company: FocusVision

Job Title: CEO

Location: New York, US

Zlatko Vucetic is CEO of FocusVision, a leading research technology software company. Experienced in digital and growth strategies for both startups and enterprise across financial markets to healthcare, he was listed as a "top 40 below 40" talent within financial technology in Europe, by the Financial Times (UK).


 

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Encourage feedback and always assume positive intent. One habit I have come to stick to over the years is always assuming the intent behind feedback is positive. It's all too easy for ego to get in the way of being a great manager, partner, or colleague, so--regardless of who I am receiving direct feedback from--I try to remain open to the sentiment and detail. If you can overcome the human urge to be defensive and respond without understanding, feedback can make a significant difference in your daily personal and business performance.

I think my upbringing in Denmark has taught me that a job is a job and every job out there is equally worth it. It's always very important that you do your job well regardless of what kind of job that is.

I'm extremely honest and direct. And I think it's very, very important that people are especially in business. I truly believe that if you're not really honest with yourself in terms of what you need to do better and how you can improve, then you're never going to reach the final goal that you set up front.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? "You need to work long hours in order to make it." First of all, I do work long hours and have been doing so for the last decade. Everybody does. That said, I aim to go home every day around 6 pm in order to have dinner with my family. I usually work after dinner, but I believe in prioritising other elements in life and encourage all my employees to do so.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? Learn the basics and then think about how to improve the business even if nobody is asking you for your opinion.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not at all - I had a dream of working in management consulting and finance.

What was your first job in IT? In a way, I've always been involved with information technology in one way or another.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? A common misconception is that IT gets very monotonous quickly, which is kind of absurd since technologies and solutions change every day.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Say yes to risky projects that most people will say no to. There will be times that you fail, but a single win will advance your career sky-high.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I always wanted to run a tech company of 400 employees and I have achieved that. I have never set goals for myself but I have followed opportunities. I would like to ring the Nasdaq bell one day with a tech company (that is more of a symbolic goal).

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Yes, I do my best to strike a healthy work/life balance. Between being a CEO, a husband and a father to two daughters, I don't have a lot of free time. That said, I make time to train for marathons, keep up with basketball and focus on charity work. I've always been heavily involved in raising money for cancer research, as I've known too many people who have lost their lives to the horrible disease. I also support Women in Research to ensure that I do my part to close the gender gap in business.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? The only thing I'd change is less business travel since I did spend a lot of days travelling the globe in the last 10+ years.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Coding bootcamp - if you are not coding today, you should start to learn how to code immediately. I tell this to my 8-year-old daughter as well.

How important are specific certifications? Technical certifications and education are important to provide a baseline knowledge of your industry of focus. It's also a good way to showcase specialty areas and keep abreast of new technologies and approaches. That said, it's easy for certifications to become outdated, given the landscape of technology is constantly evolving.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? People that look for opportunities to evolve and to develop a skill set they don't have are ideal. I've been saying to each one of my employees since day one that I don't expect them to be here forever. I actually want them to have great careers with us, but I also want them to be proactive in developing their skills to prepare them for what's up ahead.

It's important for candidates to be curious and want to put in the time to truly understand the nitty-gritty details. Having a thorough understanding of a company's goals and capabilities will empower employees to make an impact on the bottom line (i.e. identify relevant business problems and solutions).

Candidates must be passionate about what they do. Having passion that fuels initiative can result in the improvement of business problems or the creation of something truly disruptive. Moreover, leadership that lacks passion can leak into company culture and negatively impact employee engagement.

What would put you off about a candidate? When it comes to candidates, anyone that's too afraid to take risks is off putting. It's important to me that candidates feel confident and comfortable enough to take notes and contribute constructive feedback to help themselves and the organisation improve.

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? A common mistake candidates make in interviews is only highlighting work experience that is listed in the job advertisement, rather than showcasing what they can uniquely bring to the role which will give the company an edge.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both? More business people are becoming technical today so it is not one or the other. It's not uncommon for CEO's today to have dual mentors - I have one that has been CEO of large companies and another that is a 25-year-old individual that can explain everything that is happening within blockchain, robotics, and virtual reality.

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