Having been on Nimble Storage’s board of directors since 2009, I have had ample time to window shop, and cannot quite claim the same thrill and anxiety of new discoveries that inevitably comes along when you take on a new CEO role. What I can claim in complete honesty is that the last several weeks have been among the happiest of my professional career.
There are three things that I deeply care about when it comes to how I feel about my job. Do I feel pride when I talk to my customers? Do I feel intellectually stimulated and stretched by the team that I am working with? Am I dealing mostly with what opportunities to pursue or what problems to address? On all three dimensions, I feel remarkably fortunate – let me tell you why.
Do I feel pride when I talk to customers?
I have met with over 20 customers and over a dozen channel partners in the last month, and in every meeting I ask them to tell me what their criteria was for choosing a product at the time of purchase, and what our value proposition turned out to be after having deployed us. In their words, I have heard a mix of 4 themes that have consistently come up:
- Performance: In order to match the performance that they saw from a single Nimble array of 4 SSDs+12 SATA drives, it took as many as 30-40 SAS drives from our competitors.
- Storage efficiency: Our inline data optimization allowed them to store between 1.5 and 2.5 times the amount of data (useable storage) compared to their experience of other vendors’ solutions, for a given amount of raw storage.
- Converged backup: They were able to use our extended snapshots to replace or avoid having to upgrade their disk-based backup systems and tape libraries.
- Ease of use: The user interface absolutely met the goal of being designed for an IT generalist rather than for a storage specialist, and every customer was impressed with the remote support capability built into our product.
As someone that came from a product management background, I had always been excited about the underlying product architecture at Nimble, but I walked away from these conversations with a strong conviction that our architecture delivered a truly compelling economic value proposition.
Do I feel intellectually stimulated and stretched by the team that I am working with?
I had spent nearly a decade at NetApp, my last role having been as leader of all product management and engineering. The aspect of NetApp that I most enjoyed was caliber of the executive team and my product operations team. I have the same excitement about the team I am working with at Nimble – this is one of the most analytical, deliberate and goal-oriented teams that I have encountered. It is also a team that is maniacal about maintaining a high bar on the people that become part of Nimble – in terms of horsepower but equally importantly in terms of cultural fit.
I am very familiar with storage, and I must have asked over 50 questions on the market, product, pricing, positioning and so on in my first few weeks. 8 out of 10 times, the team had thought about the question and had carefully considered the alternatives. What’s more, this team is fastidious about documenting its hypotheses, thought process and decisions – I could literally track all the discussions that led up to the countless decisions that were made over the last 3 years!!
Within our corporate location in San Jose, the culture is very much of a “down-to-earth” culture that is non-hierarchical and cares mostly about what you have to say rather than who you are. When I traveled with the field teams, every single field team struck me as being successful in their prior roles, convinced that they can find similar or greater success at Nimble, and eager to induct other high performing former colleagues into Nimble. The one philosophy that permeates the company is that we all want to work with colleagues that we respect and can hang out with.
Am I mostly dealing with what opportunities to pursue or what problems to address?
I have weekly “deep-dive” meetings with my team on a variety of topics. A recent deep-dive meeting was on the topic of accelerating our international logistics plans since our sales teams are finding strong interest from Global “Enterprise” customers, and some of our customers are already planning roll-outs to multiple countries. My last deep-dive meeting was to align everybody on what needed to happen in the rest of the company since we had made a decision to significantly accelerate sales hiring. We have prioritized our major product development projects for next year but one of our upcoming deep-dive topics is around whether we should take on more in parallel, given that we are seeing multiple exciting opportunities to extend our product.
I love these discussions. We have our share of discussions on how to address a specific customer support situation or why hiring is slow in some function. Having said that, the overwhelming majority of our discussions are about picking the right things to focus on, of the many opportunities we have.
Maybe this is my honeymoon phase, but after my first couple of months here, I get up excited every morning and eager to get things done!!