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From law school to tech start-ups: Francesca Gargaglia, COO/CBO of Amity discusses becoming a successful entrepreneur

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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Successful entrepreneurship does not happen overnight – it is a journey. Entrepreneurship is early mornings and late nights, and it is blood, sweat, and tears. It is taking risks, navigating, and overcoming obstacles, and an endless amount of arduous work. But in the end, seeing the results achieved over the years building a company is incredibly rewarding.

From an early age, I had a natural entrepreneurial instinct within me. My dream was to join a start-up or to start my own business. This ambition and entrepreneurial spirit were the driving force that kick-started my career. My father was a big advocate and support system of mine. He inspired me to embrace my entrepreneurial side and gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received that still rings true to this very day: join a large company to grasp the qualities of a successful business before I fulfil my entrepreneurial ambitions. He said I would gain an arsenal of experience, skills and knowledge that would help me in the future. It was also my background in law that helped me along my journey of success in running a fast-growing tech company.

Joining the technology sector wasn’t what I envisaged for my future, but after some time in business roles across some of the world’s biggest names, like PwC, I began getting a little tired of the monotony. The fast-paced nature of the tech space was enticing enough to convince me to make the move into the industry. Given that my background is in law, it was a daunting move. However, I realised that entering a sector that you have little to no experience in represents another key characteristic of an entrepreneur: dynamism.

More times than I can count over the years, I was told it was an unbelievably bad choice to go to law school as it was so formal and country-specific, and not the right choice if I wanted to build an international career in a fast-changing industry. I have changed these opinions over time, but when I joined Amity, I realised how valuable my legal training was to help the company go in the right direction to sustain international operations.

After law school, I started out at PwC, and I still utilise many lessons I learned from my time at such a large organisation, in my role today. The skills and qualities I gained would have taken a long time to learn by myself. I’d also urge any entrepreneur or aspiring business leader to ensure they spend some time learning at a large organisation to vary their experience.

On the contrary, one of the worst pieces of advice that I ever received was to make rational choices and follow a safer path when it comes to career choices. I ignored this and made a bold choice when I moved from PwC to a technology company that had less than 30 employees and no website. I followed my gut, and I was passionate about the product and excited about the opportunity to work with international people that had a big dream. This turned out to be the best choice of my career. I would advise people to take the same risks. Taking a safe path doesn’t always mean it is the most rewarding choice.

I have a few additional, crucial pieces of advice for others that want to enter the world of disruptive tech or have an entrepreneurial spirit. One essential is that entrepreneurs must stay passionate and excited about their work. Additionally, when you get to a c-level role, like Chief Operating and Chief Business Officer, it is less about technical ability and more about people management and business abilities.

And honestly, the best piece of advice I could give is to surround yourself with smart people who think differently from you and have different mindsets. It is this diversity of thoughts and mindsets that really makes a team incredible. I know many leaders who are afraid of working with a team of people who may be smarter than them, as they are worried about being outshone. This is the worst thing that you can do when you are a leader. The key is ensuring that you aren’t dispensable, that is what makes a c-level effective- and making sure your team can work in an efficient way that does not require constant input from you. It means you built a team that is exceptional and a team that can run by itself. This is how I run my teams and it is a proven method for success.

We are also in a transformative time not just in tech but in many industries across the globe. Therefore, it’s important to stay adaptable especially for those that work in a fast-changing company, or industry. People need to be able to adapt and evolve themselves to continue to be the best person to grow and take the company to the next level and reach its goals and objectives. I would say to any future businesspeople, aspiring founders of the next great start-ups, future CEOs of companies, and anyone that wants to find success in whatever role they are in to always be curious, never stop learning, and finally, surround yourself with people who inspire you.

About Author:

Francesca Gargalia is the Chief Business Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Amity, the social company on a mission to make social experiences more accessible than ever.