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Engineering & Product

Young Ly, CEO at Serato

Busy playing Street Fighter and reading Wolverine comics, Young Ly, CEO at Serato never really thought too hard about his career when he was younger. Instead, Young followed his natural interest in playing computer games to studying computer science at university, which eventually led him to starting a gaming company.

We caught up with Young to learn more about his career journey into becoming CEO at Serato, an amazing New Zealand music software business that is used by the likes of FatBoy Slim, Erykay Badu, DJ Jazzy Jeff and many more. Young shares some insight into what the day-in-the-life of a CEO looks like, why he loves leading the team at Serato and who they are looking to attract. Thanks for sharing your story, Young.

Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what it is you do?

I make music software.

“Ultimately, I’m responsible for everything. But, no-one can do everything...”

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

Ultimately, I’m responsible for everything.

But, no-one can do everything, so my job mostly consists of:

  • Finding people that you can trust to do things
  • Dealing with things that are especially problematic
  • Setting goals and company strategy
  • Refining our culture

What are some of the common misconceptions about working as a CEO.

I think the title CEO stands out and makes the role larger than life. I’m just a dude, who plays a role in a company, just as you play a role in your company.

I often don’t feel that different from when I was a graduate. The role and responsibilities are different, but, it’s still a role.

Sometimes, I’m in a meeting and someone says something like “That requires CEO approval” and I think “oh, that’s me”.

“To be honest, I never really thought about my career when I was younger. I was too busy reading Wolverine comics...”

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

To be honest, I never really thought about my career when I was younger. I was too busy reading Wolverine comics and playing Street Fighter.  When combined with a great work ethic, I think it was an advantage to enter the workforce without the burden of expectation. No-one really understands what a job is like until you try it. 

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Serato? 

I chose computer science at university because I enjoyed playing computer games. It was just luck that I chose such an in-demand career path.

Out of uni, I started a small games company with some friends. The company got far, but ultimately, it didn’t end up being profitable. But the experience that I gained from running a company gave me what I needed to excel at subsequent positions.

My next big step was at Air New Zealand. The internet was emerging as an important channel for the airline and no-one had any experience so they gave 25-year-old-me a go with some massive projects.

The ride was great, I lead the airlines online and interactive development teams for a total of 8 years. We did a hell of a lot of stuff that I’m still proud of and I grew a lot as a leader.

New Zealand’s a small place. I was referred to Serato when they needed a development head.

“If you prove your abilities then opportunities can find you in the technology industry.”

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received? 

I’ve never thought about my career that much. It was a simple case of focusing on your current job and doing your best. If you prove your abilities then opportunities can find you in the technology industry. I suspect this advice only works in industries with a talent shortage.

Thinking back at my career, I suspect that two other characteristics that helped me a lot are that I’m naturally adaptable and risk-friendly. These are mindsets that you can decide to take on.

What do you love about working at Serato?

I make products that I’m proud of, work with people that I genuinely like, and I represent New Zealand globally.  Then, ever so often, I see an A-list celebrity using or promoting Serato. Still blows my mind. Honestly, I love it here.

Lastly, Serato continues to grow and evolve. What kind of candidates do you think Serato is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character? 

The world keeps changing, at a faster and faster rate. So you need to be an adaptable problem solver.

We’re also a wide group of amazing people. Computer scientists, DJs, producers, organisers, musicians, artists, misfits and outliers.  So you’ll also need to be good at collaborating with radically different people.

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