Trend Micro’s new managing director, Sanjay Mehta, is fresh off the plane from the US, eagerly starting his new life in Sydney and already sharing his uniquely ‘personal’ leadership style with his local team.
With barely any time to settle into his new neighbourhood of Pymble with his wife and three kids – with his office still in transition mode (a room he affectionately calls a “quilt of thoughts”) – Mehta is already leading the ship by running a series of sales and business directional meetings.
In his first Australian media interview, Mehta said, “I arrived all of 15 days ago from a life in the US. I spent the vast majority of my childhood all the way up until my Masters in Colorado. I started my career at HP. After about a year at HP I fell into security by dumb luck. A lot of people like to say everything in their life has been very scripted, but I actually think hard work, luck and timing do play a role.”
And hard work has led Mehta to his current executive role in Australia. Prior to packing his bags for Sydney, Mehta worked in San Diego as Trend Micro’s vice-president of emerging markets.
And he’s no stranger to a variety of management tech roles. “I’ve been in roles ranging from chief executive officer, head of marketing, head of product management, head of sales – probably most aspects of leadership other than engineering and finance,” he said.
“I have done customer support along the way in companies that were quite large, several hundreds of millions getting acquired into billion dollar organisations, much like Trend is today (over a billion dollars), to small companies that were start-ups, some of which succeeded and built brands for themselves and some of which we sold out before we actually did anything publicly. Some were in hardware, some in software and some in services – so I’ve seen the security business from a ton of different angles.”
Prior to Trend Micro, Mehta worked at a company called Breach Security. “I started as vice-president of sales with two guys on my team and five years later I ended up as the CEO.”
Already, life in Australia - the people in particular - has impressed him.
“Aussies are a pretty friendly bunch. It was pretty amazing how much folks offered up their help. Vanessa, who works in sales, lives in the area and not only did she recommend some schools, but turned me onto a babysitter and pointed out a soccer club to get my kids in.”
He admitted his move Down Under – which he said “feels different, but not foreign” - is like starting over. “You really are starting life from scratch so for the last few weeks, in between trying to keep the kids calm and move into a house, I have been trying to get settled and start a new role.”
In getting settled in his new role, Mehta said the company’s journey towards the cloud – and educating partners about the benefits of virtualisation and cloud security – is high on his list of priorities. “We are on our own journey, which is a pretty massive transition from the business that everybody knew as anti-malware whether at the gateway, desktop or server,” he said, recognising the enormous market opportunities associated with Cloud security.
“The vast majority of businesses we speak to are doing something around cloud and that might be a business talking about building a private cloud or leveraging a public Cloud like Amazon, doing some sort of hybrid, or it might be talking to a partner like a Datacom or a Data#3 who are looking at ‘how do I morph my business and become a cloud provider for my customers,” he said.
“Cloud still has a bunch of different meanings. You can talk about Cloud infrastructure, Cloud applications or about Cloud data. We see plenty of interest in our virtualisation security products - typically talked about in enterprise is quite successful in the medium business segment that starts at 100 endpoints.”
Cloud and virtualisation
The challenge, he said, is skilling up partners around Cloud and virtualisation.
“This is a challenge and the opportunity. There aren’t a lot of partners with the skills so for those that want to make the investment the opportunity is great,” he said.
“We are now addressing a new area of the market and we are addressing it with new people and new partners and we shouldn’t assume that the same old recipes are going to work,” he said.
Indeed, cloud adoption is changing the way companies do business – and Mehta said Trend Micro is in a prime position to capitalise on the trend.
“It’s a pretty big transformation technologically in terms of infrastructure change and in terms of how you address the market. And that’s one of the things that brought me to Trend. It has got the nuances of a start-up but it’s got the brand, the people, the capital, the global presence, and the channels that a start-up dreams of.”
And now that he’s well and truly wearing the Aussie MD hat, he said his management style might surprise some people as he doesn’t openly obsess about the bottom line.
“It’s very easy to look at anybody in an MD role and say, ‘How big is your business going to get?’
Obviously we need business growth, but I’m not the type of guy to just put a number up there and say it’s a number. It’s how you’re going to get there. We need, and are seeing, growth in large business and the enterprise and government at a disproportional rate to other segments.”
Another hot area of focus for Mehta will be in working closely with channel partners and helping them morph into trusted advisors and experts to their customers.
“We’re going to spend more time looking at the channel more individually, more uniquely, and understanding who that partner is today and what they’re trying to become,” he said.
“If I go back to my days in the US, one of the things I did was meet with partners and we hand-picked the small number that really wanted to make the investment in a datacentre practice because a lot of those folks didn’t have a datacentre practice – they were essentially network security VARS. And we helped them design what that practice could be.”
Asked his leadership style, he said it’s personable in a professional business sense.
“I really try to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. The ‘what’ is a number: I achieve 12 per cent growth; I hit this revenue milestone; I cut expenses. But I like to understand the ‘why:’ it is typically related to the people in the business and what they’re working on.
"You can either build an organisation and then try to slide people into the roles or you can find great people within your organisation and build the ‘org’ and the focus around them. I’m more of the latter. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two weeks sitting down with our leadership team trying to understand who they are, what they’re passionate about, how they got there and where they are trying to go, and where they think we can get with our prospects with our channels.”
New kid on the block
Admittedly, being the new kid on the block - and the one standing at the top of the food chain - isn’t easy.
“When you come into an organisation, one that has been growing and has been successful for a while – one that has a real heartbeat and pulse to it - and you come into that as the new guy, from a foreign land, it is a bit daunting.
"People say, ‘What the hell do you know about Australia?’ which is a fair question. I know a lot about business, I know a lot about this market, I know a lot about this company and I can transition and help here, but I will be looking to this team for their local market expertise.”