Play The Right Notes To Win In Business
After studying the violin at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Hungarian-born Tamas Cser decided to pick up his life and move to the U.S. While not initially drawn to working with computers, Cser found himself immersed in U.S. culture—just as the internet was beginning to take off—and began a side-hustle of computer programming.
After graduating college, Tamas had developed a knack for building websites, and soon founded his own consulting company where he began encountering issues with ensuring quality and reliability in software development. He responded to those issues by launching Functionize, the first autonomous cloud-based software testing platform. Tamas is the CEO and Founder.
I had the opportunity to interview Tamas recently. Here are some highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and the significance of music in your life.
Tamas Cser: I grew up in beautiful Budapest Hungary and was blessed with amazing parents and a close family. My childhood was very happy and I was given the freedom to explore my own interests without overt structure or pressure. Early on I showed musical talent, and my father was a first violinist in the Budapest Festival Orchestra music which was always an integral part of our lives.
Despite my affinity for music early on I was kind of a late bloomer in my pursuit of the art. By my early teen years, however, I was getting serious about Violin and traveling to Vienna Academy for lessons as well as the Bartok Conservatory in Budapest.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Cser: I was always very entrepreneurially minded. Competing in music and trying to earn a living as a traveling solo player is very much like a startup business; the product though is yourself. I always had a great interest in computers and technology so when I decided to step away from music I knew immediately that I would be building businesses for the rest of my life.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Cser: In music, the greatest influence on me was the great American Violinist Camilla Wicks. She opened a new world to me on pursuing perfection and ways to think about problem-solving that was transformational. Perfecting a masterpiece is much like perfecting a product. The process never ends and obsessing over the small details combined with big-picture view and vision produces incredible results if you are willing to put the work in.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Cser: I have been lucky in my life with great mentors. In fact, Functionize would not be possible without our mentors and investors who have guided and supported us/me from early stages. My wife is giving me great advice daily and pushing me to be the best version of myself.
As a technical founder I think it’s easy to forget sometimes how much you know innately about your product and vision for the future. One of my mentors, David Lane, was hugely impactful in helping me understand how critical it is to be able to describe your business and vision concisely and precisely; especially as you look to recruit top talent and top investors. This has been transformational in my journey with Functionize.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
Growth – Shoot for the stars
Growth is something that I view as a key way to derive meaning in life. I am primarily focused on personal, professional learnings and growth. Every day we should try to challenge ourselves to get better in some way even if just a little bit. Compounding incremental small change has incredible results and is also how great companies are built.
People and teams are critical. There are very few great things that can be accomplished alone. People are the building blocks of families, businesses and probably the most important factor for a company.
Integrity and respect form the basis of trust and highly productive teams. Without this, it is very difficult and certainly not fun to go to battle every day with your team. This also permeates to your partners and customers which is critical for early-stage businesses trying to establish a foothold in the market.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you.
Cser: Early in my consulting life, I built a product for fun that was very innovative and deserved to be taken to market. I was a tech geek and despite my best efforts, I was not able to take it to market for various reasons. Along the way, I received mixed feedback from many people who I showed the technology to. This left me feeling like I must have been missing something because I thought it was a game-changing idea.
I sat by and watched multiple large companies build around the same concept years later. The critical lesson I learned was to believe in yourself and see ideas through to the end, even if the path is not clear at all. It also taught me to seek the right advice and focus on execution.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious people who want to rise?
Cser: Take chances and pursue your ideas. If you decide to attempt to build a market-leading business, it is every bit as hard as it seems, so be sure you are willing to make the trade-offs that come with this life choice. Lastly, some things look impossible and you will face challenges that seem impossible to overcome. Thus, do not forget Disney’s quote: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”