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5 rules for navigating your career

PPD's David Simmons (photo via

PPD’s David Simmons (photo via

David Simmons, chairman and CEO of PPD, shares his five rules for navigating your career.

Think about your career as a 30-year journey.
Do not wake up 20 years from now and look back on a set of random career choices. Every decision you make needs to build towards your end goal.

Look to acquire a broad set of experiences.
Allow yourself enough time to squeeze the most out of a position, but don’t get stuck in the same role for too long. I have spent my career working in five countries for four companies across three industries. My longest tenure in an assignment was four-and-a-half years – not so long. And it still took me 25 years to gain the skills and experiences needed to tackle the CEO role at PPD.

Strive to work for great people who will help you learn and grow rather than world-famous companies.
Don’t be too enamored by the glitzy name of a company. You’ll be better off joining a great leader in a small company than a bad leader in a blue chip company. I would never take a job if I were not completely sold on the leader I was reporting to.

Develop your personal risk profile and make sure your aspirations and decision framework are in line with it.
My risk profile has always been high, although I have never made a move without my wife being 100 percent on board with the decision.

Stand out.
Being clever and having great rhetorical abilities will only get one so far. In the end, we must deliver significant value for our enterprises.


Adapted from the commencement address by David Simmons, chairman and CEO of PPD. View the video here.