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Deep Dive: James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage

Deep Dive: James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage

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Pure Storage is an IT pioneer that delivers Storage-as-a-Service in a multi-cloud world. James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage talks about his most memorable achievement in the data centre industry and what he believes are the industry’s major areas of investment.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?

I have been blessed to have had several achievements over the course of my 20+ years in the industry. But without a shadow of the doubt, the one I am most proud of is building a world-class organisation at Pure Storage.

When I joined Pure Storage about six years ago, as Head of EMEA, it was still a very small organisation; we were a few dozen people across Europe. My job description included everything from being a leader and a motivator to a friend and counsellor. Over the course of the last six years, we have expanded at an accelerated pace, and today have hundreds of Puritans looking out for our customers in dozens of countries.

What first made you think of a career in technology/data centres?

I have long held the belief that technology is what makes the world work – it can’t be commoditised and just about every business has to be underpinned by robust technology in order to succeed; something that is self-evident now. So, after an eight-year stint in the military, where I did everything from teach artic warfare to recruit soldiers, I decided to enter the private sector. Since my background was business, I took a telecommunications course and soon after, got my first industry role with Telstra. The rest, as they say, is history.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I have a mantra from my days in military service: ‘Serve to lead.’ The premise is simple – you should never expect someone to do something you yourself would not do. Be clear about what you stand for and deliver on it. I also don’t believe in being a micro-manager. Good leaders will highlight expectations but ensure that they leave it open to others as to how these goals are achieved.

In the context of achieving those goals, and maintaining competitive levels of productivity, I believe – and this is something that is arguably more important now than ever before – that leaders should not be afraid to show their own humanity. Strife is more easily faced and overcome by a team that understands that everyone is concerned, everyone knows what is at stake and everyone is there for each other.

What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?

I think that something we are going to see a lot of in 2021 is a reassessment of IT infrastructure spend. For those businesses that hadn’t already embarked on a Digital Transformation journey, the pandemic forced them to overhaul their IT and at speed. But in the process, many companies over rotated in their technology choices, opting for infrastructure beyond their needs and choosing expensive solutions with vast capacity.

In the long term, these choices may prove unsustainable, so the focus now is on rebalancing and opting for the best tuned technology that will cater to the needs of the business but at the same time, allow organisations to remain agile and scale up or down, as dictated by business needs or macro-economic conditions.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

I have always been extremely active, something that was only reinforced during my time in the military. Whether it is going on a 5K run or a 50K bike ride, I find that the exercise really helps me just disconnect from work and clear my head. So, I try and make it a point to work out at least 3-4 times a week.

Family is also extremely important to me – my wife and I are the proud parents to three girls, that all play field hockey at very high levels, so following their journeys is a source of tremendous joy and helps put life in perspective.

Finally, during lockdown, we decided to renovate our home. It has truly been a labour of love and I thoroughly enjoy seeing the transformation.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

Not to state the obvious, but cloud is definitely going to be an area where we will see organisations continue to make major investments. With so much uncertainty still upon us, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the majority of organisations relaxing their purse strings anytime soon. Opting for flexible consumption models for their IT infrastructure, will give organisations the ability to avoid large and risky CAPEX investments and manage costs over time, without a long-term contract.

The second investment area is analytics. In today’s digital-first era, seamless, personalised customer experiences make the difference between a lost and a loyal customer. To do this, organisations need to digest, analyse and correlate the troves of information available at their disposal, in order to truly understand their customers’ buying journeys and habits, their preferences, etc. Analytics is the key to unlocking this customer insight.

What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?

Managing an international team, something that I am always cognisant of, is the extent to which background and culture shape discussions and approaches, both internally and with customers.

Whether it is the language that you deliver your content in or the way you interact with your employees and customers, having a localised approach is as critical to building high-functioning, motivated and happy teams as it is to executing a successful go-to-market strategy.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the coming months?

I have gone from spending about 80-85% of my time on the road, meeting with regional teams, customers and partners, to now sitting at my laptop for about 10-12 hours a day. As a consequence, the role has gotten a lot more operational – whether it is interviewing and making hiring decisions, discussing regional strategy or having high-level discussions with customers, I now have to manage everything virtually.

As vaccines roll-out and travel restrictions are lifted, I do believe that my travel will increase to where I will likely spend about 40% of the time on the road and 60% of my time in the office. The ‘road-warrior’ days of sales executives are well and truly behind us.

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