Career advice from tech legends on how to succeed

By ben abbott

Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Tim Berners-Lee. They are the technology innovators who have shaped the way we live, but even they had lessons to learn. Here’s the advice they think is essential to becoming a success in this fast-paced, unpredictable and entrepreneurial age.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Berners-Lee weren’t always known around the world as the pioneering creators of Apple, Facebook and the World Wide Web. Their work has changed our world, but even they have benefited from hindsight. So what career advice would they give to the next generation of tech leaders?

Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Dont lose faith.

Steve Jobs, co-founder, Apple

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address is full of inspiring advice, including his parting wish for graduates to “stay hungry, stay foolish”.

However, it was his very public failure when he was sacked from Apple at the age of 30 that led to his greatest success. The tech genius said it was a setback that led him to recommit to the work he loved. He started a company named NeXT, another named Pixar (the world’s first computer-animated film studio) and, as they say in the classics, the rest is history.


“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I had not been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it,” Jobs assured the students.

Professionals today need to embrace failure as a step towards success. With industries, businesses, and jobs being overhauled through technology and globalization, professionals need resilience in abundance, so they can try, fail, and try again.

For example, recent research supported by AXA showed that 85 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 around the world believe that job markets will change due to climate change. Worryingly, almost half of the 6000 respondents polled – or 46 percent – felt that their education had not sufficiently prepared them for these coming changes.

While staying hungry and foolish will make professional life an adventure, professionals also need to be ready to bounce back when events that are beyond their control inevitably happen. 

“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.”

 Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO, Facebook

For those looking to build a reputation in their chosen field, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s advice for securing your dream job is a good starting point.

The question is, would Mark Zuckerberg work for you?

Though the idea might be intimidating, Zuckerberg’s point is that today’s professionals need to bring personality and, most importantly, passion to the table as well as technical skill. While an impeccable CV can ensure you get a foot in the door, it’s often less tangible qualities that will both impress business leaders and lead to long-term success.

One thing Zuckerberg demands is passion. In fact, he has said he hires ‘people who are passionate about something’, even suggesting that it doesn’t matter exactly what. That’s because rapid market change creates a need for leaders, not followers. Whether it’s a transformational multinational company like AXA or a successful, lean startup, organizations need change-makers with vision, who can articulate, inspire, adapt and connect.

And that might just get Zuckerberg to like you on Facebook – and give you a job.

Innovation is serendipity, so you dont know what people will make.

 Tim Berners-Lee, inventor, the World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee could have been talking to himself back in 1989 before he created the internet. By calling innovation serendipity, he reveals a core truth for tomorrow’s creators.

When he proposed the creation of a World Wide Web while contracting at CERN, it was a project born out of frustration and circumstance. Though it would later change the world, the idea then sat in an inbox for 18 months, labeled ‘vague, but exciting’. Berners-Lee knows the future is unmapped, and that innovation is unpredictable and organic. It requires a unique situation or problem, skill and expertise, a creative response that goes above and beyond the status quo, hard work and luck along the way.

There are no rules for innovation success. In many cases, innovation breaks the rules.

For example, AXA’s Group Human Capital Social Data Report 2014 revealed how the group has embraced ‘test and learn’ experimentation through Silicon Valley startup Knack, using the app’s gaming technology and cutting-edge behavioral science to create a custom predictive model for hiring customer service talent. 

Tomorrow’s professionals will need to be as ready to meet problems with unexpected approaches and new ideas. With passion, resilience and an enthusiasm for change and innovation, the next generation of tech leaders will flourish and thrive.