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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

Here’s How to Ace a Tech Interview, According to a CIO (He’s Hiring!)

Saumil Shah, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Guidepoint.
Saumil Shah, Chief Information Officer at Guidepoint.
| Courtesy of Saumil Shah

Growing up, Saumil Shah was naturally curious about science and technology—and his parents encouraged him with toys like a Meccano building set. This sparked his passion for creation and innovation, which became a common theme in his professional life.

Throughout his career, Shah has been involved in developing technology and systems that have directly impacted people’s lives—starting with his work on a circuit for telephones as an electrical engineer at Bell Laboratories. Shah went on to work as a software engineer at IBM and later became a tech director at Dow Jones, where his contributions remain a cornerstone of the company’s newswire operations. Today, Shah is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Guidepoint, where he’s growing the global technology team and working on new projects involving AI.

“I’ve been driven by a relentless pursuit of technological advancement and a commitment to making a meaningful impact,” he says. “Each experience has reinforced my passion for pushing the boundaries of what is possible through technology.”

Here, Shah talks about why he jumped at the chance to join Guidepoint, how taking calculated risks has helped him make it to the C suite, and what he looks for in tech candidates. (He’s hiring!)

What attracted you to work at Guidepoint?

I was drawn to Guidepoint's unique business model because it combines the power of technology with the expertise of industry professionals. Additionally, the prospect of being involved in a high-growth organization allowed me to envision exciting possibilities for personal and professional development.

The culture at Guidepoint also resonated with me. The company fosters an environment of collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The lack of excessive bureaucracy was also a significant draw. Guidepoint’s streamlined decision-making processes allows for agile and efficient execution, so we can respond quickly to market demands and deliver solutions that meet client needs.

What truly convinced me that Guidepoint would be a good fit was its commitment to building a world-class engineering and technology team. The opportunity to create a team from scratch with full support and endorsement of the CEO aligned with my own aspirations of leading and developing exceptional teams.

What are you responsible for as the CIO?

As the CIO, my responsibilities encompass the management of technology-related functions, including engineering, quality assurance, product development, DevOps, database management, business intelligence, infrastructure, security, tech support, and IT operations. I lead the technology strategy and planning, oversee teams, implement efficient processes, recruit skilled talent, drive innovation and adoption, ensure information security, and manage stakeholder relationships.

What are some unique challenges to your job?

Some of the challenges I face involve streamlining workflows, acquiring and retaining top-notch professionals, and making informed decisions about technology investments and adoption. Balancing innovation and risk management is another crucial aspect of my job, as I aim to ensure that technological advancements align with business objectives while maintaining robust security measures.

What are your short- and long-term goals for the global technology team?

One of my short-term goals is to expand and diversify the team by recruiting highly skilled engineers in the U.S. and India. Additionally, we’re focused on modernizing applications, enhancing scalability and security, and improving DevOps practices and infrastructure.

Looking ahead to the long-term goals, we have a plan to integrate AI technologies to drive innovation, improve decision-making processes, and enhance the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our technology solutions.

What makes Guidepoint an exciting place to work, especially in product and engineering?

Guidepoint offers an exciting and stimulating environment for those working in product and engineering. You have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies and the ability to make a meaningful impact. Plus, the company has a collaborative and supportive culture, growth opportunities, and strong leadership.

What do you look for in tech candidates? What’s something they can do to set themselves apart during the interview process?

When evaluating tech candidates, I look for individuals who take initiative, showcase strong problem-solving abilities, possess a solid technical foundation, communicate clearly, work well within a team, exhibit leadership qualities, and approach their work with enthusiasm.

To set themselves apart during interviews, candidates can showcase their practical experience through their portfolio of projects, share success stories that highlight their problem-solving abilities and adaptability, ask thoughtful questions about the company and its technology, and display strong interpersonal skills such as active listening and empathy. By emphasizing these qualities and exhibiting a genuine passion for technology, candidates can demonstrate their potential to contribute effectively to our tech team.

What are some of your favorite employee perks at Guidepoint, and why?

My favorite employee perks are the ones that foster a vibrant and inclusive work environment, including at Guidepoint is the combination of in-office celebrations, summer hours, Friday happy hours, and the ability to work remotely. These perks have positively impacted my life and career by providing flexibility and a better work-life balance while also promoting team bonding and social interaction.

What have been the keys to your success while working your way up to the C suite?

Taking initiative and calculated risks has played a significant role in my career growth. I actively seek opportunities for innovation and improvement, from implementing repeatable processes to integrating state-of-the-art technology, which has allowed me to make a tangible difference.

I have also developed a strong business perspective and an understanding of the industry and market dynamics. By aligning technology strategies with company goals, I have been able to address business challenges and give the organization a competitive edge.

Another crucial component in reaching the C suite is building strong relationships with other stakeholders at the company, including executives and team members, to foster collaboration and support.

What advice do you have for those pursuing a career in tech?

My advice for those pursuing a career in tech is to cultivate a mindset of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Stay curious about emerging technologies, industry trends, and evolving best practices. Continuously seek opportunities to learn and expand your skill set to stay relevant in a rapidly changing tech landscape.

Additionally, it’s crucial to develop a deeper understanding of the business context in which technology operates. By grasping the broader business objectives and challenges, you can align your technical expertise with strategic goals to make a more significant impact and deliver value to the organization.

Finally, embrace an entrepreneurial spirit. Actively look for ways to innovate, identify problems to solve, and propose creative solutions. Take ownership of your work and be proactive in driving positive change. This will help you differentiate yourself and succeed throughout your tech career.

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

Currently, I’m immersing myself in books on spirituality—particularly Jainism and Buddhism—and personal growth, while also incorporating meditation, mindfulness, and yoga into my daily routine. 

For entertainment, I enjoy sci-fi series like The Mandalorian and nature documentaries on Discovery Channel and National Geographic, which allow me to escape and connect with the beauty of the natural world. These pursuits provide me with a balanced and fulfilling experience that nurtures my mind, body, and soul.