C-suite career advice: Dan Adika, WalkMe – IDG Connect

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Name: Dan Adika
Company: WalkMe
Job Title: CEO and Co-Founder
Location: Tel Aviv and San Francisco
Dan Adika co-founded WalkMe in 2011 with the vision of simplifying digital user experiences to make them effortless and efficient. Inspired by his mother’s experience struggling to navigate digital interfaces, he pioneered the world’s first Digital Adoption Platform, and has expanded it to thousands of enterprises globally. Prior to WalkMe, Adika was a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard and completed a 6-year tenure in the Israeli Army’s Elite Computing Unit with Honors. More recently, Adika was named one of the Top 100 Customer Success Strategists in Tech for his unique customer-centric approach to business growth.
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? “Always do your best.” It’s so simple, but I’ve thought of this advice in tough times over the years, and it forced me to truly assess if we as a company are doing our absolute best. It’s very hard to be critical about this, but if we are not doing our best, then we need to make a change. And if we are truly doing our best, it tends to work out, but the key is that honest self-assessment.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? The worst advice I have ever received was to hire someone with the “right” resume. In the early days of WalkMe, before we had set hiring and vetting processes, hiring someone who had experience at big corporations sounded very attractive, but if it’s not the right fit, having that individual join an early startup can be very destructive. There are so many other factors that go into a hiring decision, I wouldn’t rank a “perfect” resume too high on that list.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? Tech broke so many norms of the corporate world. What it did was build a true meritocracy. I think the best advice I can give is to know that you need to deliver results to the company and be a team player. If you can do that, you can get very high up in an organisation very fast. But you have to get out of your comfort zone and be bold to get there. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you are in an environment that really appreciates results.
Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No, I didn’t. I used to think I would become a lawyer or have my own business. I honestly thought I’d go all in on a falafel chain. I actually do have a falafel joint in San Francisco.
What was your first job in IT/tech? I was a software engineer at HP.
What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? The biggest misconception I think is that working in tech is just “fun, fun, fun.” Working in the tech industry is very demanding, especially for engineers. Yes, the salaries are good, but only the best of the best get selected. The truly fierce competition sometimes comes with fun benefits, but it also comes with a lot of hard work. There is very little room for mediocrity.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? You need to truly own your domain. You need to have concrete wins under your belt before going for your first c-level position. And you’ll most likely have to switch companies to get your first c-level role (unless you are an entrepreneur). With the exceptions of high level VPs, it’s rare to see someone rise through the ranks from an entry level position to a c-suite position at the same company. This is because companies want to hire c-suite executives who are “seasoned” with diverse work experience and a proven track record of accomplishments –so go out and accomplish those goals and be ready to showcase them to get your foot in the door of your first c-suite role. Good luck – I’m rooting for you!
What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? My career ambitions have changed many times over the years. I want to build a really big successful company out of Israel, which is something that we don’t see a lot. I want to make a positive impact on people’s lives. I wanted to be a CEO so that my ideas and actions could have the biggest impact. This impact can take many different shapes. We invented a new technology that allows people to use software and applications more easily and effectively – that positively impacts the way people do their jobs and interact digitally. I’m most proud of the amount of jobs we’ve created. I’m not only referring to the many incredible WalkMe employees, but also to the many digital adoption professionals whose entire careers are based around a concept and a market category that we invented, and the unique skills necessary to ensure successful digital adoption and transformation success using our products. For me, it’s more about the pursuit of happiness rather than the pursuit of a great career. Having a positive impact and creating meaningful careers makes me happy.
Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? Right now, I honestly don’t have the best work-life balance. It comes in waves. Right now, WalkMe is a newly minted public company, so we are operating on another level, and my personal balancing act resembles that of 7 or 8 years ago. Around 3 years ago, I had a great work-life balance. So as someone who has lived through all different levels of work-life balance, the best advice I can give is to find good leaders to whom you can delegate a lot, and you’ll sleep well at night.
What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I truly believe that I took the shortest possible path to become a CEO. I worked as a software engineer for one year and then co-founded my own company. So no, I don’t think I’d change anything. When I was 25 at HP, I was at a huge company kick off event, and by chance I bumped into the highest-ranking executive at the event in the bathroom. I flat out asked him, “How do you get to the top?” and he said, “You have two choices: you either accomplish a lot and switch companies, or go off and build something on your own.” So I walked out of that bathroom and created WalkMe.
Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I would recommend a coding bootcamp one million times over again.
How important are specific certifications? I don’t have a formal degree, so degrees have zero importance to me. But certifications in specialty fields and technology can help candidates stand out in those particular areas of focus.
What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I look for someone who is an autodidact, a problem solver, and is competitive.
What would put you off a candidate? Dishonesty. I can sense dishonesty very quickly and it’s the worst quality in a candidate. I used to ask candidates to tell me something that they’re good at. Then I’d ask a follow up question. If you can’t have a conversation about something that you’re good at, chances are you’re not very good at it.
What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Don’t try to impress too much. Be yourself. At the end of the day, that’s the best way to see if you are a good fit for any role.
 Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I believe that having a mix of both technical and business skills gives you a tremendous advantage in pretty much every role in tech.
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