6 Colorado tech CEOs share the advice they wish they heard 20 years ago

by April Bohnert
December 21, 2017

CEO advice Colorado

No one is born an amazing leader. It takes years of trying, failing and learning life’s hard lessons to gain the perspective and patience needed to lead a team. But what if you could go back in time and tell your younger, more naive self one thing?

We asked six local tech CEOs to take a walk down memory lane and share the advice they wish they’d heard twenty years ago.

 

Angela Tucci
Chief executive officer

CEO Angela Tucci is new to the Apto team but a veteran in the tech and CRM industries. While she may have an impressive title, Angela explained that, over the years, she’s learned to look beyond status to find real fulfillment.

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

The most profound and transformative moments in my life have been defined by the quality of my relationships and experiences I've had — not the titles I've held. Human connection is fundamental but oftentimes ignored, as illustrated by the poor employee engagement scores across corporate America. I wish 20 years ago someone asked me to think more about the way I showed up every day for those in my life, personally and professionally, and encouraged me to think about how I wanted to truly change the world and impact those around me.  

 

What were you doing back then?

I was running product marketing for one of the first CRM software companies, named Clarify, based in San Jose, CA.

 

How did you learn this lesson along the way?

Chasing titles was very unfulfilling. I have found the greatest joy and fulfillment in helping those around me succeed, find purpose and in transforming organizations and helping them be wildly successful, which only comes from empowering people. When I learned that passions over ego was the most fulfilling, I finally started to lead and manage from a place of personal authenticity.

 

Brian Egan
Chief executive officer

Brian Egan is the CEO and co-founder of Evolve Vacation Rental Network. Having spent several years hopping between jobs, Egen explained how he learned the importance of carving your own path — in spite of the naysayers.

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

Never let other people define your limitations. You're capable of far more than you know, and certainly more than "they" know. It's human nature to try to fit people into well-understood roles and paradigms, but those inevitably fall short of capturing who someone truly is. Happiness lies in defining your own path.

 

What were you doing back then?

I was a 23-year old finishing my first semester of law school in Charlottesville, VA. I was just becoming intrigued by startups and the first wave of Web 1.0 companies, but I had yet to connect the dots between earning a law degree and building companies as a career. And I had been dating this amazing girl Erin for about 3 months. As it turns out, that was the most important thing that was happening at the time. We've now been married for 14 years.

 

How did you learn this lesson along the way?

The hard way. I ended up starting my career as a VC/startup attorney in the Bay Area, but I figured out that wasn't my calling. I left to join a Denver-based startup in sales, despite knowing absolutely nothing about selling. Seven years and at least seven different roles later, I left with my co-founder Adam Sherry to start Evolve as a first-time entrepreneur. At each step I was told (sometimes politely, sometimes not) that I was attempting to do something I couldn't do and that I should stay in my lane. I'm glad I didn't listen to the world at large and I encourage others not to.

 

Keri Gohman
President of the Americas

Keri Gohman is the president of the Americas for cloud-based accounting software company Xero. She discussed her years in corporate America and how she learned to stop trying so hard to fit in.

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

Be yourself. Don’t be afraid of letting your personality shine through. Don’t let the environment you’re in compromise your approach.

 

What were you doing back then?

I was still trying to decide what direction my career would take me in. I was trying new things, finding out what my passion was and learning.

 

How did you learn this lesson along the way?

I learned it the hard way by spending a lot of time trying to fit into corporate environments that didn’t really suit me. When I stopped trying to fit in and started being myself, I started having deeper connections with the people that worked for and with me, with customers and actually started having fun. I then started searching for a corporate environment that would be a beautiful fit, and I've found that at Xero.

 

Steve Morris
Chief executive officer

CEO Steve Morris has been with Denver-based digital agency NEWMEDIA since 2001. Over the years, he’s seen some major changes in his industry and learned that great work and new ideas don’t come together overnight.

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

Learn to be patient. In the technology space, things can seem to move at lightning speed from a third-party perspective. But when you’re actually in the process of developing, testing, iterating and deploying custom software it can seem to take forever to get anything accomplished. It’s maddening at times.

 

What were you doing back then?

Similar things as now, albeit for a different audience. We were a much newer company then, and the internet and our clientele were so different. This was still in the pre-dotcom boom and bust years.

 

How did you learn this lesson along the way?

The hard way. I’m impatient by nature and want everything now. But once you’ve been around the block a few hundred times, you learn that sometimes things just take as long as they take. This is even more true for high-quality, new creations. It’s a lot healthier to accept it and plan your schedule accordingly than drive yourself crazy trying to influence an outcome outside your control.

 

Elia Wallen
Chief executive officer

Elia Wallen is the CEO of corporate travel-tech company Travelers Haven. As a lifelong entrepreneur, Wallen shared how he’s learned to find balance while building a business.

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

Twenty years ago, I was 14, so you can imagine there are a lot of things I wish I knew then that I know now. However, the one piece of advice I wish I’d heard would be to make deeper friendships and spend time nurturing them. I dropped out of university my first semester and it was work from then until now.

 

What were you doing back then?

When I was 12, I started a business as a beekeeper with my buddies. I can’t remember a time from then on that I wasn’t working one way or another. I’ve always enjoyed working though. It created a type of independence for me that I liked so much.

 

How did you learn this lesson along the way?

I realized this advice as I got older. For the past decade, I’ve been focused on building my businesses — something I do not regret at all. However, I will take a step back and enjoy my time with my growing family. I’ll continue to stay in the fast lane but ensure I maintain a healthy family-work-life balance.

 

Shawn Owen
Chief Executive Officer

Shawn Owen is CEO of SALT Lending, which lets consumers take out loans secured against their blockchain assets. Owen, a serial entrepreneur who started his professional life in the restaurant business, said the biggest lesson he's learned is about the importance of investing in oneself. 

 

What's the one piece of advice you wish you'd heard 20 years ago?

Twenty years ago, I was a chef working my way up the ladder of the restaurant industry. I wish someone had advised me to invest in myself and my own interests instead of working for money.  

I learned this lesson over time by realizing that, if you have passion for something, then there is always a way to spend your time doing what you enjoy while still earning money. Start early focusing on building and investing in yourself and what you love to do.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog65 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Legal
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Sales
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Developer
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
HR
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Xero
Denver
Sales
new
Xero
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Finance
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Marketing
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Sales
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Sales
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Developer
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Marketing
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Finance
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Marketing
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
HR
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Developer
new
NEWMEDIA
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Sales
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Developer
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Developer
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Sales
new
Xero
Denver
Sales
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Marketing
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Sales
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Finance
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Finance
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Finance
new
SALT
Denver
Operations
new
Xero
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Developer
new
Apto
Denver
Marketing
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Sales
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Xero
Denver
Design + UX
new
SALT
Denver
Sales
new
Xero
Denver
Developer
new
Apto
Denver
Developer
new
NEWMEDIA
Denver
HR
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Operations
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Operations
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Operations
new
Travelers Haven
Denver
Operations
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Product
new
Xero
Denver
Developer
new
Apto
Denver
Sales
new
Evolve Vacation Rental
Denver
Project Mgmt
new
Xero
Denver
Product
new
Xero
Denver
Sales
new
Apto
Denver
Operations
new
NEWMEDIA
Denver
Operations
new
Apto
Denver
Developer
new
SALT
Denver
Developer
new
Xero
Denver

Colorado startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Denver & Boulder
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Tech Offices in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Colorado Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Denver & Boulder
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Design Jobs in Denver & Colorado Tech