Work Culture

And Now For Something Completely Different

If you’re one of my 1441 twitter followers or an avid reader of trade publications from the Asia-Pacific region, you may have noticed I started a new job last week. After two-plus years as CTO for Networking at VMware, I’ve now taken on the role of CTO for APJ (Asia, Pacific and Japan). My new job is analogous to those of Joe Baguley (CTO for EMEA) and Chris Wolf (until recently, CTO for the Americas): technologically broad, across the whole VMware portfolio, and field-focused. The chance to move into a broader role is something I’m very excited about: much as I love networking, and have built my career in that field over 28 years, there is so much more to technology than networking and I’ve always been a technologist at heart. And with networking being the biggest growth opportunity for VMware right now, and increasingly central to much of what we do, it seems reasonable to think I can leverage my networking background in this broader role.

The fact that I’m moving into the field — or what some engineers would dismissively refer to as “sales” — will come as a surprise to many people who know me well. But one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about my time at VMware and the preceding stint at Nicira is how much the delivery of a transformational product into the marketplace depends on paying attention to the complete life-cycle. Everything from product management through R&D to marketing, sales, support and education has to be thought about carefully, or you’re not going to change the market. Martin Casado, co-founder of Nicira and my mentor, demonstrated that over the years we worked together. Nominally he was Nicira’s CTO, but he had his fingers on the pulse of everything that the company was doing. And when he took over as General Manager of NSBU at VMware, he demonstrated incredible passion for everything that we had to do to make NSX successful, not just the technological challenges.

20170309_175644 Enjoying the Palo Alto campus prior to my move

The challenges that we have faced in bringing NSX to market are emblematic of the broader challenges faced by VMware. We are making a transition from a single product company to a technology portfolio company, and we are doing that at a time when the IT industry is undergoing enormous change. For example, the rise of public clouds as an alternative to traditional infrastructure presents both great opportunities and challenges for our customers. They can move more quickly but their world is getting more complex and heterogeneous. VMware is very well positioned to help our customers manage this complex technology landscape, leveraging technologies such as our cross-cloud services. However, to help our customers succeed we need to engage with them at a strategic level and early in their planning cycles. We need to understand their high-level business goals, not just the narrow technical needs that might be filled by one or other product. As CTO for APJ, I intend to lead the charge to have those strategic discussions with our customers. I also welcome the opportunity to communicate the leading role that VMware can play in the IT industry by addressing our customers’ strategic priorities such as public cloud adoption and security.

Leveraging the team

There is only one of me and APJ is a big region, so a central part of my role is to leverage our technical field to cover the region. We have amazing engineers in the APJ field working in pre-sales, support, and professional services; my aim is to help them develop the expertise and business-level view that will enable them to engage with our customers at the appropriate strategic levels.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this move has great personal significance for me. I left Australia after earning my Bachelor of Engineering degree 30-plus years ago, pursued a Ph.D. in the U.K., and ended up spending more than half my life (so far) building my technical career in the U.S. I’ve often wondered if I could find a satisfying career opportunity back in Australia, and this new role, which I will take on from a base in Australia, promises to be a truly exciting challenge. I also love the idea of trying to be an inspiration to the engineers and technologists who will be part of my extended team in APJ. I’ll be traveling extensively through the region that extends from India to New Zealand to China, and I look forward to this new set of engagements with our customers and partners, and with the VMware team.