If you look up ‘Open Networking’ on the Internet, you’re bombarded with a variety of answers. With a focus on Software Defined Networks, open networking is defining how you build and manage computing systems. There are many companies out there who deal with open networking. But the leader here is Pluribus Networks. And leading this revolutionary company is Kumar Srikantan, the President and CEO of Pluribus Networks.
Mr. Kumar Srikantan is ranked as one of the best CEOs; here are the excerpts of an interview with him.
Tell us about Pluribus Networks.
Pluribus Networks is a leader in open networking and next-gen software defined networking (SDN). We enable managed service providers, cloud service providers, telcos, and enterprises to increase agility. We help in simplifying increasingly complex network operations as workloads move to public and private cloud infrastructure and become more distributed, moving data processing closerto users and things.
What were the hurdles you faced initially as a CEO?
When I joined, there was a founder-culture and it was important to embrace this, but also recognize that we would need to shift to a growth and execution culture. It’s a transition all growth companies go through, but how and when you bridge this chasm is important.
For me personally, joining from Cisco, I also had to adjust my own mindset of how work is done and the expectations of the CEO role. I’m a proponent of agile thinking. Being hands-on, but also recognizing that I have a finite amount of time. All our stakeholders look to me to set the pace and be accountable. Embracing that responsibility, making decisions, and driving the business forward is what I’m focused on.
What do you think is more important to your organization—Vision, Mission or Core Values?
Ultimately, vision, mission, and core values are all important and dovetail together. In our early days, establishing a vision and mission was very critical. Today, we have crystallized our vision and mission and executing on our core values is most important. What matters now is staying disciplined and believing in what we’ve put in place.
How do you motivate creative thinking within the organization?
In an emerging, high-growth industry like ours, we encourage employees to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. When everything is new and exploratory, the linear path you previously followed is no longer useful. If you reject the idea of “this is how we do things” and instead ask people to find a new way forward, they rise to the challenge. Agile thinking is valuable here, and I believe looking for ways to do more with less inspires creativity.
Let’s talk more about leadership. What according to you are traits that every leader should possess?
Having the right mindset and a firm resolve. The leader sets the pace for how the organization functions and whether or not people believe in the mission. You also need to demonstrate resolve. In a disruptive market, the stakes are higher. You have more to win if things go right, and more to lose if things go wrong. Leaders need to bring consistency in approach, as well as temperament, to help manage through these waves. In trying times and volatile markets, employees are looking for a steady hand.
What other CEOs inspire you?
I draw inspiration from CEOs in our industry who faced hurdles such as John Chambers, former Chairman and CEO of Cisco, and Jayshree Ullal, CEO, Arista Networks. There is much to learn from their successes, but most specifically how they overcame adversity. They made hard choices and always had the best interest of the company on their mind.
Where do you see the company expanding or focusing its efforts in the coming years?
The emergence of 5G and next-gen applications are going to transform network infrastructure, triggering a movement from a very centralized datacenter infrastructure to more distributed sites closer to people and things. This is being driven by new, low-latency applications such as VR, industrial IoT, and video analytics that need compute and storage closer to the network’s edge. This market is set to explode in the next few years, and Pluribus is well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s an exciting time, and we look forward to making a huge impact.
As the President and CEO, Kumar Srikantan has a sense of accomplishment for the work done early-on to synthesize the technology innovation the founders developed. “This foundation has set us up for the success we’re having today,” he says. He’s immensely proud of his team and its ability to deliver. The reward for this hard work was awarded in 2018 when Pluribus Networks was named the 58th fastest growing company in North America by Deloitte. “More than the number though, it’s the type of quality and highly-skilled people we’ve been fortunate to add that has made all the difference,” he opines.
Meet the Magnate
Kumar Srikantan, President & CEO
Kumar was VP/GM of HW Engineering for the Enterprise Networking Business at Cisco where he was responsible for the HW engineering execution of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking portfolio. Kumar brings 25 years of diverse leadership and operational experience in the technology industry that spans development, marketing, and engineering across computing, silicon, and communications industries.
“The CEO job is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be highs and lows, and you’re accountable for all outcomes.”
“Pluribus is delivering a very compelling open networking solution for a broad array of businesses. The opportunity is huge, but there are many challenges we need to navigate.”