Think about your career. Looking back, have there been periods along the way where you misspent time, concentrated on the wrong things, or behaved in ways you regret? Wouldn't it be great if someone had advised you--and you would have listened--to not make these mistakes in the first place? Here's advice from a half dozen successful executives regarding what they wish they would have known when first starting out in business.
1. Skip the MBA.
"I wish I had known how easily business school can distract you from your passions, and that you can't learn high tech B2B from a textbook anyway. Business school teaches you everything you need to know about pricing, position, segmentation, etc., however these cookie cutter lessons can be counterproductive. Even worse, they can sway you to follow the pack into whatever field is hot at the moment. In my case, it took me 10 years in finance to wake up and head out west to start a career in technology. If I could do it all over again, I would have gone straight from undergrad to Silicon Valley."
--Kon Leong, founder and CEO of ZL Technologies, a developer of unstructured data archiving software
2. Understand the value of relationships.
"I wish I would have made networking a higher priority at the beginning of my career. As a working parent juggling multiple schedules, I often find myself deprioritizing networking activities. However, when I spend time networking I always wish I made more time for it. I find it rewarding both personally and professionally to gain new perspectives and develop new relationships as mentor and mentee."
--Lori Mitchell Keller, global general manager of SAP Consumer Industries
3. Identify and execute the small steps that will eventually help you realize the big vision.
"Thinking big is an essential quality for an entrepreneur. However, over the years, I have realized that it is equally important to identify and execute the small steps that will eventually help you realize the big vision. Big dreams need a meticulous execution plan and, it's the small details that separate success from failure. Thinking big and breaking down that thinking into smaller chunks, are both equally important, and often, one needs to combine both simultaneously to achieve goals."
--Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO at global mobile advertising and discovery platform InMobi
4. Know that people are the key to any business success.
"I started out thinking that business strategy is most important to get right, but came to realize people are a more important factor for success. You can have a fabulous strategy, but without the right people and right motivation the company will fail. That starts with having the right employees and understanding their motivations (and everyone aligned). It extends beyond that though, to your customers, and not having too much of an inside-out viewpoint. Remember to consider your business value from the customers' perspective to really get your strategy right. In the end, people, both internally and externally, are the key to any business' success."
--Actian, a hybrid data management, integration and analytics companyRohit De Souza, president and CEO of
5. Figure out what you want to be.
"At the beginning of my career, I wish I had known more about the 'Be, Do, Have' principle. I think that most people in the early stages of their career think of that principle in reverse: 'Have, Do, Be.' In other words, they set a goal of having a certain title or having a certain level of wealth and then go about doing whatever it takes to accomplish that goal, and as a result, they end up being a certain type of person, which may or may not be the type of person that they actually want to 'be.' So, my advice for people starting off their careers is to think of that principle in the order of 'Be, Do, Have.' Decide what you want to be, which will help you be more disciplined in what you do, and as a result you are more likely to end up having what you want."
--Jim Offerdahl, CFO of Bazaarvoice, which connects brands, retailers and consumers in a shopper network, delivering ROI through reviews, analytics and targeted media
6. Stop interrupting.
"One of the biggest learnings from the beginning of my career is that good listening is an art and a necessary skill! I was an interrupter in the early days because I wanted to prove I was the smartest person in the room. This meant I missed opportunities to learn from other people who also had very valuable, intelligent things to say. The funny thing is, while I have benefited along the way from professional training opportunities, those urges haven't gone away. But now I have the tools and wisdom to stop myself from interrupting a colleague simply to get my point across first. And now as a manager, my real focus is on letting my team shine rather than needing to prove myself in every meeting or project."
--Joanna O'Connell, CMO of MediaMath, which provides technology and services that enable marketers to reach audiences