Diane Greene, VMware’s CEO, gave a fireside chat at TiE Silicon Valley tonight. It was outstanding. I had never heard her speak before. I was encouraged by two folks who knew her and she did not disappoint. She was the founding CEO of VMware, which was acquired by EMC in January 2004, and still runs it as a wholly owned subsidiary.
I got a real sense of her as a genuinely caring leader (what Jim Collins would call a “Level 5 Leader” ). She cited at various points in her talk, or in response to questions, several key lessons learned from the last few years at the helm of VMware:
- Users evangelize users, at several key points in its history, VMware has seen it’s growth hit a new take-off point because its users cared enough to make it happen. 6,000 users have signed up for VMworld.
- Open communication keeps everyone on the same page (and moving forward): every Wednesday the company would buy lunch and have an open communication forum to cover recent events, plans, and allow employees to air concerns and issues.
- If your technology isn’t evolving fast enough, give it away. In particular when you are in a deathmatch market with Microsoft, neutralize one of their common tactics of giving away technology by giving away your products that are not moving fast enough.
- Continually invest in high quality IT infrastructure: it’s the basis for communication, coordination, and collaboration in any high technology firm.
- Server Virtualization (consolidating many applications onto one server by leveraging virtualization technology) is more about cutting power consumption and saving floor space than saving hardware cost. Power has become the single largest component of the total cost of ownership of hardware.
Asked a question about “what was your blackest day, and how did your prevail” she answered that there had been two: when Microsoft acquired Connectix, many in the company assumed that they were approaching their Netscape Moment and would soon transition from high growth promising startup to roadkill (she never believed that this would happen); when VMware was acquired by EMC (she convinced EMC management that they would make them more money as an independent subsidiary).
Oddly Netscape Moment can refer to either the IPO (a good thing) or Microsoft launching IE for free. Diane’s meaning was more at “This is their Netscape Moment, when it becomes clear they are not really in the vanguard for the next wave.”
Tue-Oct-27 update: this VMTM link works http://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2006/11/diane_greens_fi.html