Sylvain Cazard, Vice Président EMEA Software Defined Data Center, Networking and Security at VMware.
2 weeks ago, I celebrated my ten year anniversary at VMware. I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my personal journey at the company and why I believe that VMware is still far and away one of the best place in the industry to work.
It’s never too late to join a company with a lasting value proposition
I remember when I joined ten years ago as employee number 6,000, people were debating whether it was already too late to join VMware. Virtualization was starting to be mainstream, the stock price was strong, but the growth opportunity wasn’t so clear at that time.
Today, VMware has nearly 30,000 employees. Virtualization is now the foundational cornerstone of the cloud and has paved the way towards the concept of “Software defined” for the entire modern datacenter. But despite the fact that today, the concept has extended to the whole infrastructure stack, there is still so much to do.
It’s my view that it’s never too late to join any great company that has a consistent and unique value proposition, and that certainly applies to VMware.
True corporate culture, not just marketing posture
Company culture is important. Every company needs to have consistent guiding principles. These have a profound influence on why employees decide to join a company and hopefully, stay. However, I have always regarded company cultures with a healthy degree of caution, especially in IT, where behind the façade of a ‘nice’ company culture and apparently ethical values, sometimes the real culture can be based purely on dollars.
At VMware, I have to say that in my experience, there is a genuinely inclusive and professional corporate culture, and a clear set of principles, implemented at every level of the organization. These are fundamental to everything that we do – we label the culture at VMware as ‘EPIC2’ (Execution, Passion, Integrity, Customer and Community).
In customer-facing roles, you tend to see all kinds of corporate and sales cultures in IT companies, ranging from lazy at one end of the scale, through to brutal at the other. In VMware, I always tell job candidates I meet that we have a healthy mix of high expectations, business ambition, a high daily pace, strong intelligence and transparency throughout the sales process, whilst at the same time, giving a high level of trust, employee autonomy and above all, respect. At Vmware culture is not just a face, it has depth.
No disconnect between brand image and internal company culture
Having hired hundreds of people over the last ten years, I am always asked by candidates why VMware is so special and such a good place to work. Of course, there are the obvious things – high levels of innovation and growth, and relevance of the solution portfolio – but these are not enough on their own for VMware to be called a truly great company. What is it that makes VMware ‘great’?
It’s consistency that best describes my ten years at VMware. What do I mean by this?
VMware’s strategy has been absolutely consistent for the last six years – we provide the tools and software infrastructure to run any app, on any cloud, accessed through any device. Our customers tell us that this is VMware’s main differentiator versus our competition: we are laser-focused on delivering and adding capabilities reinforcing this value proposition, whilst so many companies are seen to be mainly executing fashionable or opportunistic M&A activity.
Consistency of strategy is very important to our customers, but consistency within the entire organization and brand is also critical. I won’t name names, but I see so many companies in IT (including some of the very biggest brands) displaying a huge disconnect between the market-facing brand image, typically projected by the CEO, and the reality shown in the field. The classic case is a widely marketed public “force for good” corporate culture promoted by modern social media organizations, yet the salesforces of these businesses are still working within the context of an old-fashioned, toxic sales culture. I’m continually amazed to see so many of these companies still operating like this. VMware’s brand image is absolutely consistent with its internal company culture. The values of innovation, positive leadership and respect are present throughout the business.
A 25K employees startup
The usual debate heard in IT companies is, “Do I prefer to work in a big established company or in a booming startup?”
I would say that VMware offers the best of both worlds. In ten years, VMware has transformed. Focus has extended to network and security, many acquisitions have been completed, VMware became a cloud leader and now employs than 25,000 people. Yet, our vision and values remain the same. Obviously we are no longer a start-up but we have kept the spirit. What exactly does a “start-up spirit” entail?
The way I like to answer this is to ask myself the following question: “In my role, if I do more, do I get more?” The answer at VMware is a resounding “Yes”, regardless of function. Working hard is very much part of the VMware DNA, but so is producing great results.
An absolute imperative for me as a leader is to keep close to the people on the ground, irrespective of what leadership role I happen to have. Good relationships based on mutual respect drive much more value than an authoritarian, distant culture, and this is clearly demonstrated so far at VMware.
So here we are – ten years later, from employee number 6,000 to close to 25K staff, in my fourth role at VMware, including a study break of three months at Stanford. It has been a wonderful journey so far, continuously learning and building friendships. Sure – it can be tough at times, but looking forward, I could not be more excited about the next ten-years!