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On this Day of the Dude, we celebrate our latest addition to the VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud family: the team at Nyansa and its leader, Abe Ankumah, former CEO and co-founder. Read on to learn more about the acquisition and today’s dude, Abe.

In February, VMware acquired Nyansa to accelerate the delivery of end-to-end monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities for LAN+WAN deployments of VMware SD-WAN, and enabling self-healing networks. The combined cloud-based solution will offer users a single platform to deliver comprehensive and actionable data on network traffic and application performance from the cloud, to branch offices, to the end user and across their wired and/or wireless devices.

“In simple terms, when networks are constructed, there are lots of transactions and transmissions that are taking place. But when things go wrong, artificial intelligence can help you figure that out proactively,” said Sanjay Uppal, SVP and GM of the VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud business unit. “That can be done in real time as opposed to figuring out the problem using human labor.”

Uppal continues, “We’re excited because what Nyansa does is on the LAN side, and that couples with what VMware SD-WAN is doing on the WAN side. Now our enterprise customers can resolve all of their networking issues using this artificial intelligence technology.”

 

The Dude

So who is Abe Ankumah? Let’s find out.

 

What are you looking forward to as Nyansa joins VMware?

The first part of it is to take this very complementary technology that we’ve developed at Nyansa, which has found traction in some of the largest enterprises in the world, and bring that to VMware—to pair it to march towards this vision of the network edge. I remember when Sanjay Uppal and I met, we started talking about the possibilities, and it gave me goosebumps. We feel very strongly that the combination of what we’ve done and what already exists in VMware will be world-class.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the leverage and promise that an organization of VMware’s size and scale can bring to bear. There are parts of it, in full transparency, that make me optimistically nervous. Over the last six years, I ran a company with around 40 people. Here we are, at a company with over 30,000 employees! I’m excited.

Photographed with Abe are his Nyansa co-founders Daniel Kan (L) and Anand Srinivas (R)

What do you have planned for your new role?

There is definitely an aspect of the role that will evolve over time. My immediate priority is our ability to rapidly integrate both from a product standpoint, and as individuals to cross-pollinate ideas and assimilate with the organization. Part of my job, in the first few months and year, is to be a facilitator of that integration. There is work on immediate opportunities that I’m excited for us to do, and it will require us to learn aspects of VMware’s product and technology that, frankly, we may have assumptions about. I’m focused on our initial charter and driving us to win together from a joint business standpoint, and driving us to thrive at scale.

What drives you?

Solving customer problems in ways that they didn’t think were possible, and in ways that make their business successful. Because if my customers are able to meet (realize!) their goals, then by extension, I’m successful.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Running a startup can put you in very unique situations. It gets competitive, and everyone is constantly reacting or responding to market demands and opportunities. It’s easy, in those moments, to take yourself too seriously or get consumed by the stress. Humor and radical candor in equal measure have worked for me, kept me grounded and shaped the way that I show up as a leader to my team. I think it has helped us build a community and a culture that values transparency. One that allows our people to be vulnerable and to learn from each other.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

To never stop learning. It’s my mantra. The world is changing, constantly. I’m a consummate student, and I find it is a useful trait. Being curious allows you to open up to people. You want to collaborate to learn from them, so that attitude brings many opportunities with it.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life?

I learned a lot from my father who passed a few years ago. I would watch how he carried himself and how he treated people with respect and dignity. My parents were entrepreneurs—they started the first travel agency in Ghana almost 50 years ago. My dad would always say “treat people the way you would expect to be treated.” If the shoe was on the other foot, how would you like people to treat you?

Abe’s parents pictured here receiving an award for ‘Best Travel Agency in Ghana’ in 1990

How do you decompress after a busy week at the office?

I cook often. I think people are surprised to learn that about me. I’ve taken cooking classes in many countries that I’ve visited. Sometimes, over the weekend, I’ll stop by the farmer’s market with my wife and kids, and we’ll have people over for an elaborate dinner I make. I enjoy that!

Abe’s young kids, Joey and Ashley, get “first dibs” on his weekend free time.