Life is not just about accumulating stuff that life gives to you. It’s also a lot about giving back. For me personally that is both monetarily and also with one’s time. So with that in mind, I try to give back in multiple ways. One of them is within the company. I believe it’s my job to provide a safe and enjoyable work environment for the people who work for me. I love holding sessions, maybe technical sessions, or even entrepreneurial sessions, to talk to our people here about how to build great technology or how to think about doing companies. Last year we were able to all go to Hawaii as a company, so we try to provide both career development but also fun.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mohit Aron, CEO of Cohesity
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in India. At the time I was growing up it was a bit of a socialist culture, most people used to work for the government, and so did my father. I grew up with the aspiration of becoming a top government official. You are impressionable when you are young, so when I saw a lot of the smart kids were getting engineering, science, and medicine degrees, I thought maybe that’s a better route so I chose to pursue engineering.
Eventually, I saw a bunch of the smart kids going for higher studies to the US, so that seemed like a good idea. I chose to apply for and do a PhD from Rice University, here in the US. I started having some independent thoughts at that point and didn’t always follow others, so I decided to come to the business world to really learn the ropes of bringing what I learned to the world. I joined my first company, Zambeel — which got hit by the Internet bust, but I learned a lot from the experience.
From there onwards I moved to join Google which was a startup at the time. I learned a bunch of things there, how to do software engineering, how to work in teams, how to build great systems, etc. When I joined I was the 600th employee and when I left five years later, there were more than 30,000 people. After Google, I joined another startup that was in the data warehousing space where I got the confidence to run big teams and then went on to start my first company, Nutanix — which as of this interview is a public company, worth more than five billion dollars. Huge buzz at Nutanix, we made a difference in the world, pioneering the concept of hyperconvergence and bringing it to the world.
After being the co-founder at Nutanix, I started my current company, Cohesity, which is also bringing the concepts of hyperconvergence to the data center, just to a different part of the data center, which we refer to as secondary storage. Secondary storage is the so called “boring part” of the data center ‑‑ backups, analytics, test and dev, file shares, archival, and so on and so forth.
That’s my story. I remember the time when I came to the US. I barely carried a thousand dollars in my pocket. From there to where I’ve come today, sometimes it’s very satisfying, but I know there’s a lot more to do in the future.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
The funny story that I want to tell you, starts at the time when I was graduating with my PhD. I interviewed at NetApp, Network Appliance. One of the people who spoke to me was their founder. He was talking to me about the merits of fetching the data across the network — what people used to do with Network Appliance. He was telling me how it makes way more sense than fetching the data locally from a local desk. Keep in mind he is an important guy and I’m just a poor grad student, so I don’t have any legs to debate with him; but something about that argument didn’t sit well with me, like it wasn’t quite right.
That conversation took place in 2000. Fast‑forward a few years to 2009 and I had co-Founded Nutanix, which challenged that very concept. Hyperconvergence is all about not going across the network to fetch your data, instead trying to fetch it, as much as possible, locally. Now the industry as a whole is moving towards hyperconvergence, including NetApp. So, I want to thank the founder of NetApp for inspiring these thoughts in me and making both Nutanix and Cohesity possible!
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Cohesity stand out? In my mind, lots of things. First and foremost, it’s our employees, our people. This is family away from family. I love working with these people and I come here very excited to spend time with them! That’s why it stands out for me, but for the world it’s the coolness of stuff that we are doing which makes us stand out.
I like to compare what we are doing to a smartphone. Before the smartphone we all used to carry a phone, a music player, a pager, a camera, a flashlight, a GPS device, and so on and so forth. The smartphone came and it consolidated all of that on one platform, made it all very simple. Now I can carry it in my pocket. I don’t have to carry tens of different devices.
We are doing the same thing to the data center. Before us in the field of secondary storage our customers had to buy so many different silos from different vendors, manage them all using different UIs. Through our technology they’re able to buy something very simple and consolidate all those workflows on one platform. We have this phrase, hyperconverged secondary storage, to refer to that phenomenon.
This consolidation is what makes us stand out and we are very flattered to see the widespread adoption of hyperconvergence out there. There are companies, vendors, that are kind of our competitors that have taken that exact phrase. If you go to their websites, you’ll see hyperconverged secondary storage being used by them.
Clearly, we’ve influenced the world in a certain way. We are here to redefine the enterprise data center. That’s what is so special about our company.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I would say there are a lot of people that have helped me get to where I am, but I’m going to attribute this particular one to my parents. Both my father and mother contributed a lot, but I’m going to talk in this session about my father, who is no longer with us. He passed away last year.
He had a tough childhood. Always, no matter how many times he fell, he would get up and run again. He had cancer, but the funny thing is that he would actually go to his chemo treatments all dressed up. If I was that sick I would go in my pajamas, but he would be all suited and dressed up to go to the hospital and then come out of the hospital and drive to one of his social clubs to play cards or whatever was on the docket for that day.
Throughout his life he was a fighter, always used to teach me never to take defeat, never to stay down. That’s the thing that you need if you are starting a company, because I can tell you success is never linear. Success is not just a combination of small successes.
Eventual success is always a combination of lots and lots of failures and successes interweaved with each other. On each failure if you get discouraged and stay down, we will never come to that ultimate success that I believe we are all destined for. That’s what I took away from my father.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Life is not just about accumulating stuff that life gives to you. It’s also a lot about giving back. For me personally that is both monetarily and also with one’s time. So with that in mind, I try to give back in multiple ways.
One of them is within the company. I believe it’s my job to provide a safe and enjoyable work environment for the people who work for me. I love holding sessions, maybe technical sessions, or even entrepreneurial sessions, to talk to our people here about how to build great technology or how to think about doing companies. Last year we were able to all go to Hawaii as a company, so we try to provide both career development but also fun.
Number two is people who come to me for advice externally. I love talking to them about whether they are thinking correctly about how to do a company or not and help them to evaluate their ideas. I’m also involved in the engineering advisory board for my alma mater, Rice University, where I’m helping them with some entrepreneurship. Helping faculty and students push out their ideas in the real world.
Lastly myself and our company Cohesity, are also into charitable donations. Very recently we gave a charitable donation to this foundation, Work2Future which is here in San Jose and they help people get employment and give career guidance to people.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Doing a company gives you a lot of learnings. I’m hard pressed to pick only five things that I learned, but let me try.
I wish I knew these things before I started the company. Anyone listening to this, watching this, they should definitely learn from these things.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Absolutely, there are multiple such people. There are multiple people in the US that I’d love to have breakfast with, but the one name that comes to my mind is Elon Musk. Why? Most of us entrepreneurs are either deep or we are broad.
By deep I mean you start a company in a certain area. We can really go dig deep in that area, or we can help other people start companies. VCs kind of do that, they are kind of broad. He is unique. He actually does both. He is starting multiple companies.
He has a company building electric cars. He has a company sending rockets to space. He has something going on speeding up travel, hyperloops and what not and something else digging tunnels in the ground. There’s a lot of breadth there.
At the same time, there’s also depth because I’ve heard that he also goes deep into each one of his companies. I’d love to learn from him how he manages to balance both of those. That’s why I would take his name.
Yitzi:This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com