C-suite career advice: Damian Jaume, Dynabook Europe GmbH – IDG Connect

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Name: Damian Jaume
Company: Dynabook Europe GmbH
Job Title: President
Location: Europe
Damian Jaume recently celebrated his 20th anniversary at Dynabook, formerly Toshiba PC Company. He joined Toshiba as a Global Account Sales Manager in 2001, and since then has held various roles across the company from planning for retail and commercial business lines to operating financial planning and pricing management. He became President of Toshiba’s EMEA PC business back in 2014 and has overseen the transition to Dynabook since 2018.
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? It’s normal to not always feel completely comfortable in everything you do; it certainly doesn’t mean you cannot do your job. Employees can feel inadequate when they find it difficult to complete a task that is within their job remit, but the truth is, it’s a constant learning curve for everyone. Even those in C-suite positions are faced with challenges they don’t immediately know the answer to.
The key here is to push yourself when faced with these situations – being agile and proactive will deliver solutions. Challenging yourself on a constant basis is not only important for your own growth but can have a significant impact on overall business efficiency.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? “You will never get anywhere in life by being nice.” I disagree. It’s true when people say strong leaders need to make difficult decisions, but they must also build a collaborative environment where people are encouraged and feel safe to challenge team members. Fostering a culture of fear and intimidation won’t move your business forward, especially when not all the best ideas always come from the top.
At Dynabook, there is always room for fun in the workplace. Employees need it to destress, and a clear head helps to generate the best ideas. The importance of mental health is finally gaining the momentum it deserves, and in response to this, it is your duty as a leader to build a positive work environment for your employees.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? The most important choice you will make when beginning a career in tech is that of the company you decide to start at. Some advice I would give is to select a growing brand where the opportunities are available to learn and evolve because of a high growth trajectory. 
At Dynabook, we believe that each employee should step outside of their core competency and have a chance to grow in their career. We don’t pigeonhole people into one role; instead, we encourage them to carve out a skill set that makes them invaluable. No single employee brings the same to the table. Taking such an approach will set you on a strong footing in your career, as essentially being invaluable is what makes you employable in the first place. At Dynabook, this allows for a dynamic workforce that matches our wider culture and business, but also keeps employee interest high. The more engaged our employees are in their own career, the better we are at doing what we do.
Did you always want to work in IT/tech? Surprisingly not, I initially wanted a career in music. At one point I was even in the biggest band in Taiwan! But I was also drawn to a career in IT procurement, and once I started, I soon discovered that I loved working in tech.
What was your first job in IT/tech? My first role in the industry was as an IT journalist. I set up my own company to write and publish technical manuals for a wide range of technology products. Then my first role in a company was Head of Quality and Service for a PC Monitor company.
What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That you don’t need to be a people person – working in tech isn’t just staring at a computer screen all day. Our business relies on connection: between our customers, channel partners, and internal employees. We rely on our staff to sell not only our products but the brand as well. People are at the heart of who we are and if you can’t engage customers, partners, or clients your career is likely to plateau very quickly.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? All people stepping into c-level positions want to grow and drive financial success. I’m no different – it’s essential to succeed in any leadership position. Yet, what I have found is when you focus on how you can make a significant cultural impact, you foster employees who are proud to work for your company and are passionate about what they do. To be promoted to a c-level suite position, it’s a given you are good at the technical side of your role, however, normally the leadership aspect is where individuals fall short. Use the team that is behind you, just because you are c-level it doesn’t mean you are on your own. 
What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? My main ambition throughout my career has been to succeed at whatever I decided to turn my hand to next. A certain job title was never the end goal where if I didn’t get there, I’d be a failure. Having said this, reaching the leading position in EMEA at Dynabook, shows I have achieved what I set out to do at the most senior level.
Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? As the head of a growing business in a highly competitive market, the pressure can be constant. But I strongly believe in the importance of a work life balance, not just for myself, but for the well-being of my wider team as well. That’s why I always try and lead by example.
What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I have been part of Dynabook’s journey for over 20 years. For some it may seem dull and repetitive to remain at a single company, but I disagree, and I wouldn’t change any of it. To find a business where you not only believe in the work you are doing but agree whole heartedly with its values and love its people is very rare – I have been lucky in that respect, which is probably why I have stayed with the same company for the majority of my career. No two years have been the same since I started my career, particularly when Dynabook separated form Toshiba Corporation and I was in a position to grow Dynabook as a brand in its own right. The path my career has taken has allowed me to grasp a true understanding of Dynabook’s business operations from the bottom up, and the experience gained is hugely influential in how I currently lead the business every day in my role as President of Dynabook Europe.
Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I would always recommend a computer science degree over a coding bootcamp because it creates a more rounded and adaptable skill set, allowing individuals to pursue a varied career path. For me, education is not just about knowledge in one specific area but instead learning how to apply what you know in real life situations. But of course, if your passion in life is to write code then go for the bootcamp!
How important are specific certifications? Certifications are important to get your foot in the door, particularly when some companies won’t see candidates that don’t have certain qualifications. However, once you have cleared the hurdle of recruitment, they are not enough by themselves to deliver success, you then must apply all you know to the working environment.
What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? One, passion for the brand and a cultural fit. Two, a commitment to innovation and fresh thinking. Three, unrelenting dedication and belief in our tech and mission.
What would put you off a candidate? The cultural fit for us is invaluable, we have made a big effort to carve the Dynabook brand and define what it means. If candidates have an eagerness to learn and grow you can teach them that, what you can’t change is how a candidate fits into your company culture. Candidates can try to pretend because they want a particular job, but this is just harmful to them in the long run – you spend 40 hours of your week working so it must fit perfectly.
What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Most candidates I’ve interviewed have had great technical skills and abilities, yet they’ve not done the research into the company or the role in question. It is not effective to take a scattergun approach to job interviews, it must be somewhere you really want to work.
Be authentic and do your preparation. The interview is all about finding out whether you would fit in well with the company and the role, so relax! Rejection can be difficult, but sometimes, it can be for the best. I believe you always end up at the company you were meant to be working for.
Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Both are important, you need to understand the technical side of your role, but you need the business skills to get clients excited about what you are doing.
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