C-suite career advice: Tushar Kothari, Attivo Networks
Name: Tushar Kothari
Company: Attivo Networks, Inc.
Job Title: Chief Executive Officer
Location: Fremont, California
Tushar Kothari is a technology executive with over 25 years of experience including general management; revenue growth and retention; go-to-market strategy; product development; business operations; and strategy. Kothari brings a proven track record in creating new markets, rapidly scaling product sales, and developing partner eco-systems that drive revenue growth. He possesses a wealth of strategic experience and operational capabilities with an emphasis on sales and business development across security and networking.
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
The most valuable piece of career advice that I received is to always talk to people who know more than you and work for a boss that knows how to be successful. A manager once told me that if your boss does not know how to be successful and he’s driving a beat-up car, your results will match that.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many talented individuals from who I’ve learned a lot. I can’t say that I’ve come across any bad business advice that I can recall. If I did, I discovered it early on in my career.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech?
It’s important that you take the time to do your research. When starting in the field, choose the area in IT that you want to build your career in. Position yourself in the right stadium and make sure that the specific specialty you choose has growth potential.
Did you always want to work in IT/tech?
I’ve always had an affinity for technology. Growing up as an engineer and geek, I was naturally attracted to the field. My journey to cybersecurity started as an interest that developed into a passion over time.
What was your first job in IT/tech?
I served at an artificial intelligence company for 4 years writing software as a product manager. My first tech job taught me a lot about how to design and define products. Not only did it teach me about what I was developing, but how it could be applied to business.
What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech?
A common misconception is that the business part of technology is not important. Business models and technology standards are constantly evolving. Technology needs to create a big impact on business operations, or it will go nowhere in the market. If you are solving the correct business problem, your solution will be a success.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Take on more responsibilities and don’t be afraid to step up to a challenge, even if you are starting as an engineer. When you are responsible for a project, always look at the bigger picture. Keeping these in mind will prepare you for a C-level position.
What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet?
My ambitions are driven by the desire to create a successful and thriving company. It’s always exciting because there is so much opportunity for us to do more incredible work.
Do you have a good work-life balance in your current role?
My job is very happily blended in with everything I do. Even with modern devices and connectivity, it doesn’t seem to bother me. My work is a passion, and I don’t let it overwhelm or bog me down. When I have time in the afternoon, I go to the gym or swim laps in the pool. Exercise is a big key to feeling balanced.
What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken?
Many things I’ve learned were taught while on the job, and some lessons were learned after a mistake was made. If my less experienced self knew what I do now, I would have applied that knowledge and made more rapid progress in my career.
Which would you recommend: A coding boot camp or a computer science degree?
I would recommend a Computer Science degree if you wanted a C-level position. Programming and coding jobs still provide you with a financially successful career, but if you want to look at the bigger picture, Computer Sciences is a better route to take.
How important are specific certifications?
There are a lot of certifications that are important in today’s world. It’s good to achieve certifications in the field that you chose to excel in, particularly in the early stages of your career. Once you’ve chosen your field, build a foundation and work hard to be the best in what you do.
What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates?
The skills or abilities that I look for in prospective candidates are a creative thought process, passion, and an indication that hard work was put in to learn his or her craft.
What would put you off a candidate?
If they’ve jumped around, talk big without substance, or throw buzzwords and people’s names around. I was once put off by a candidate who spoke about Bill Gates as if he had worked with him directly.
What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided?
Show up to your interview prepared and always remember that honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know the answer and attempt to bluff, you will lose your credibility.
Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both?
It’s important to acquire both technical and business skills. Successful technology can only be developed if we are solving the correct business problems.
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