A change in leadership is an exciting phase for any organization. Here at Pepperdata, we are excited to announce that we have a new CEO at the helm: Maneesh Dhir. Our former CEO, Ash Munshi, will assume the role of Executive Chairman of the company’s board of directors, following five years of continued growth. We are thrilled to have Maneesh as our new chief executive and look forward to his extensive experience and expertise in the tech space helping us thrive in the coming months and years.
We sat down to talk with Maneesh about his background, his approach to leadership, and what he hopes to bring to Pepperdata.
Hey, Maneesh. Thanks for finding the time for a chat here. Let’s start with your background. How did you get started in the tech industry?
I’m an engineer by education and by training, and I came to the United States to do my Ph.D. in computer science at UCLA. Halfway through, I took a leave of absence to check out the industry. And long story short, I never went back! I joined Sun Microsystems, which during those days was the darling of its segment (workstation computing). I worked as a software engineer for about three to four years. I realized that the people I was dealing with, on the other side, who were mostly in marketing and product marketing, knew very little about technology. They had freshly minted business degrees, but typically had very little understanding of technology. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I can be somebody that can do that translation better.”
So I ended up going to business school and came back to the industry in a product marketing role.
Was it shortly after this time that you got elevated to an executive position?
I was asked to do due diligence for a startup that some of my business school VC friends were investing in. Long story short, they invested in the company and I joined the company as VP of product management.
A few months into my stay there, after having scoured the industry for external candidates, the CEO asked me to step into the critical and vacant VP of engineering position. That company was Kiva Software, a pioneer in application server technology.
Was it always like this? Being thrust into an important position even if you weren’t seeking it?
You’ll see a common thread in my life, that there are some people who get to where they get to by doing one thing and doing it really well. I’m a little bit of a zig and zag kind of person. I enjoy being put in new and unfamiliar environments and the learning that comes with it. And by being at the right place at the right time, or just circumstances, I have ended up doing a lot of different things.
Among your previous experiences, which one is it you’re most proud of?
Working at Apple is one example that comes to mind here. I was the Managing Director for their India business for about 6 years. There, I had a challenge: trying to sell a much aspired to, but relatively expensive phone in a third-world market, without any carrier subsidies. And how do you generate massive demand for something that for a typical buyer essentially involves trading off against another family aspiration: buying their first entry-level vehicle, for about the same amount of money? I was able to increase revenue to over a billion, a growth of about 15X, during my tenure. So that’s something I’m quite proud of.
So you’ve worked for top global brands and big tech names. We’d like to know how you came to Pepperdata?
I’ve been here six weeks. I was introduced to Pepperdata by a board member who was a colleague at Netscape. And then I met Ash, the outgoing CEO and now executive chairman. We spent a lot of time understanding each other and understanding the company.
Pepperdata has an interesting, unique journey. Over time, I saw that a lot of what makes the company tick is that it’s tightly interwoven. People are close. That closeness has stayed, despite the two years of pandemic. That sense of intimacy, that sense of shared purpose that Ash had developed—it resonated with me at some level. I would say that was a significant factor in my deciding to cast my lot with the team.
As the new CEO at Pepperdata, what philosophy do you subscribe to and intend to bring into the organization?
I tend to be very execution-focused. Although, in an environment like Pepperdata, everybody has a sense of what they need to do. It’s less about execution and more about making sure everybody knows what’s important for the year, for the quarter, for the month, and, if needed, for the week.
We’re in a very fast-changing market landscape. The rate of technology obsolescence, especially as you look at things around the cloud, means there’s always something new around the corner. So being able to stay lean and yet pivot quickly, to embrace something that makes sense for us, is one end of things.
The other end is, we have some customers that are some of the biggest, most recognized brands in the world. They rely on us to run their businesses. So how do you balance that agility and leanness with the ability to serve such a customer profile well? To me, therein lies the magic that is Pepperdata that I hope to build on and take further.
What do you think are the company’s greatest strengths?
Deep expertise in specific key technologies that are now becoming the de-facto go-to’s that companies on a path to digital transformation are relying on.
At the heart of Pepperdata, our value proposition is: Whatever you are running, be it on your premises, on a single cloud or multi cloud, or a hybrid of these options, in a world of finite resources, we can essentially improve the throughput you can get for your key workloads, and/or significantly improve the total amount of work that you can execute on your existing infrastructure. Overall, we can give you more bang for your buck.
One of the trends we’re hearing from our customers, some of whom tend to be early adopters of emerging technology, is a move to Kubernetes and often a combination of Spark and Kubernetes. Being able to offer that as part of our solution just as it quickly becomes the need of the hour—that’s exciting.
As a company, that’s what we need to be doing. We just need to be doing it faster and better than before, as that digital transformation becomes more and more mainstream across the corporate landscape. We also need to be able to grow with our customers, to evolve our product with them and with the market.
What about the people at Pepperdata? How was your integration with the team, especially now that we’re still not out of this COVID-19 crisis?
It is a unique experience as an incoming CEO in the world of COVID-19 with everybody being remote. What strikes me about the employees is that they all have a sense of what they need to do for the company to be successful. They’re all remarkably self-managed.
You want to make sure, as a leader, that folks are creating enough of a separation between work and play. We obviously have a nucleus in the Bay Area. But even within the Bay Area, that nucleus is spread within a 75-mile radius. And then we have a presence in Canada. We have a presence in Texas. And then we have employees scattered across the country. Managing in that environment is uncharted territory.
But because there’s a prevailing company culture of people being closely connected, people having been around for a while, and people being familiar with one another, they’ve been able to work remotely and not miss a beat. This company seems to have done that really well.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pepperdata. Any solutions offered by the author are environment-specific and not part of the commercial solutions or support offered by Pepperdata.