We caught up with Extreme Networks’ SVP EMEA, John Morrison, to find out what makes him tick…
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Everything that happened at Extreme over the last four years. I was given the opportunity to reinvigorate a team that had been through three acquisitions at that point and was struggling to grow and find its identity. The way this team has come together over time to learn from each other and closely cooperate with each other has completely transformed the organisation. This gives me a huge sense of pride in my team and makes me very excited about the future of our company.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I have always been interested in technology and the increasing role it plays in our daily lives. From the first computers and the proliferation of the Internet, to the explosion of connected devices and the vast physical and virtual networks that power smart buildings, organisations and cities. Working in an industry that plays such an active role in shaping the future of people’s lives is incredibly exciting.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
My style of management is all about coaching people and helping them along their professional journey. More than anything, I want to build a talented team and focus on creating the right environment for them to succeed in. To me, you can only achieve this if the people you manage see you as a partner, rather than just as their manager.
What do you think will emerge as the technology trend of 2020 and why?
Every second, there are roughly 127 new devices that are connected to the Internet according to PYMNTS’ monthly Intelligence of Things Tracker report. These devices, especially in an enterprise, healthcare, educational or retail setting, have the potential to fundamentally change how organisations operate. But in order to get the most out of the plethora of IoT devices in use these days, organisations need to deploy a robust, resilient and reliable network. As the devices we are using in all aspects of our lives are becoming smarter, so are the networks that power them. The network of the future is self-driving, self-healing and self-learning – and network automation plays a huge part in making that future a reality. It is no surprise then that network automation driven by AI is a huge trend that has started to take off in 2019 and will continue to be relevant well into 2020.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Organisations are starting to realise that putting the right infrastructure in place is the first step in making their Digital Transformation projects a success. With that in mind, many businesses are increasingly investing in both physical and virtual networking solutions that help them lay the foundations to change their operations and processes in the future. Security, AI and cloud-based solutions are in particularly high demand at the moment, as well as any other flexible solutions that can scale alongside a business. With most organisations being in the process of undergoing some form of Digital Transformation project, I believe advanced network infrastructure and solutions will continue to be a major area of investment for most organisations in the near future.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
I love watching sports of any kind, particularly when either my kids or my favourite football team, Liverpool FC, are involved. This isn’t necessarily always the most relaxing way to unwind but it is definitely exciting and helps me take my mind off things.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
I would have gotten into data networking earlier. I started my career in FMCG and moved into voice later on, but the networking industry is still the most exciting I’ve seen to date – and I wish I had made the switch earlier!
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
Generally, I feel that the differences between European markets and regions such as North America tend to be overstated. Both are characterised by forward-thinking businesses looking to integrate new solutions that will drive value for their organisations. Within EMEA, we do have different drivers that create fantastic diversity. I would describe Western Europe as an innovation-driven economy. With less natural resources and mature markets, this region needs to innovate against other low-cost economies driving a huge focus on Digital transformation. When you look at some of the other markets like Russia, Turkey and the Middle East, you can see pockets of innovation where they are applying the very latest technology to completely greenfield sites like Smart Cities. This range makes it one of the most vibrant markets to work in.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
One of the reasons it is so exciting to work for a forward-thinking company like Extreme is that we as an organisation are constantly innovating in order to support our customers in the best way possible. A great example of this is our recent acquisition of Aerohive. Bringing in new cloud capabilities as well as new talent has really expanded what we can offer to our customers. It’s been rewarding to see Extreme’s offering mature with the development of cloud, security and eSports-specific solutions in the last year and I am incredibly excited about what lies ahead of Extreme in the months and years to come.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
Fundamentally, the networking sector and, more broadly, the IT industry aren’t too different from most other industries. To progress within an organisation and obtain a C-level position, many years of hard work, a deep understanding of current and future customer needs, as well as extensive knowledge about the trends defining our industry today, are required. A willingness to learn and the ability to creatively overcome challenges are also hugely beneficial. Finally, a positive, curious and open mindset are essential for anyone that aspires to become a senior leader within their organisation.