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Deep Dive: Charbel Khneisser, Regional Director – Technical Sales, META at Riverbed

Deep Dive: Charbel Khneisser, Regional Director – Technical Sales, META at Riverbed

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In this edition of our Deep Dive series, Charbel Khneisser, Regional Director – Technical Sales, META at Riverbed talks about starting out in the industry, his style of management philosophy and the current hot talking point within the data centre space.

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

Speaking specifically about data centre projects, I am especially proud of the role I played in launching the public key infrastructure for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the government’s National Centre for Digital Certification (NCDC) program. This was back in 2008 and I was the lead solution architect for the project, tasked with designing and implementing the NCDC data centre that ultimately enabled encrypted transactions and communications between Saudi ministries and citizens. This presented great learning opportunities and the satisfaction of delivering a solution that directly contributed to the Kingdom’s Digital Transformation strategy.

Charbel Khneisser, Regional Director – Technical Sales, META at Riverbed

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

In my youth and even today, I had a passion for astrophysics. So, my earliest career ambitions related to this field. However, I also grew up at a point when the power of personal computing was becoming abundantly evident. The computing courses that I took in school made me realise my love for IT and consequently shifted my interests towards computing. The introduction of mobile phones coinciding with this phase catalysed my passion and cemented my decision to pursue a career in technology.

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

I subscribe to the philosophy that being a manager is a status that is conferred on you, but being a leader is a title that must be earned. To achieve the latter, you need to inspire your team and one way to do this is to lead by example. I always strive to actively participate with my team through critical activities – whether in supporting them or directing them to the point where they feel confident and capable.

At the same time, I believe in smart trust rather than blind trust. This means staying connected with my team for regular updates, without crossing the line into micromanagement. An especially effective way to do this is to focus primarily on outcomes. By empowering your team to take decisions regarding how they will achieve the end objective, you enable them to be creative and take the route that permits them to play to their strengths. It is important of course to set timelines when adopting this approach and here too, I let my team propose deadlines which they can then be held accountable to. This allows realistic expectations to be set, which the team members are then themselves more motivated to meet.

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

We’re seeing virtualisation in data centres extend beyond just servers and storage as applications and data centre networks now become increasingly software defined. Being able to effectively automate data centre activities such as scaling and provisioning is an important aspect of this evolution toward Software-Defined Data centres (SDDCs).

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

I rigourously follow my physical fitness routine on a daily basis. To ensure I’m able to do this, I have dedicated a fixed hour every morning – after waking up my kids and getting them ready for the day and before I get to work – to swim. This helps me start my day fresh and motivated.

In the evenings, I make sure I have a predetermined ‘hard stop’ to my workday and after shutting down at this time, I follow up with another session of physical activity. This can be anything from weightlifting to boxing and serves as my outlet for the stresses of the day.

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

As previously highlighted, organisations today are implementing software defined data centres to have a better hybrid environment that positions them to effectively utilise the cloud. As software-defined data centres extend into the cloud, the virtualisation of the WAN becomes an imperative. A software-defined WAN digitalises all the connectivity paths and enhances automation and orchestration, making the entire hybrid infrastructure act as a single centralised data centre.

Of course, anything that is Software-Defined has the potential to cause challenges with visibility and control. To be able to head down this route, organisations must make sure they understand their existing environment. This involves taking a baseline of the current infrastructure behaviour and application performance within it. If they fail to do so and proceed with Software-Defined, they will have nothing to compare against and also lack the visibility needed to pinpoint issues when they arise. Similarly, without the right controls in place, they will not be able to address issues that arise.

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

Leaders are ultimately measured by the success of their teams and the transition to remote working has made it more important than ever to keep each and every member of your team motivated.

Key to this is understanding that each individual is unique and would therefore require a personalised management approach. And in the Middle East, teams typically comprise of professionals from a diverse range of cultures. Rather than seeing this as a challenge though, I believe it offers an incredible opportunity to adapt my own skills and approaches and thereby grow as both an individual and a leader.

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

Due to the pandemic, we have had to shift the majority of our customer engagements to virtual platforms. In a region where business is highly relationship oriented, this presented a unique set of challenges. Trust and reliability are more important than ever as customers are under pressure to accelerate their Digital Transformation strategies without any setbacks. The way we have done this has been to always under commit and over deliver so our customers are always confident that we will exceed success baselines.

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