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Q&A with Gad Elkin, VP UK and Ireland, F5 Networks

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

1.            What were you doing before you joined F5 Networks and how did you first get involved in the industry?

I benefited from growing up in Israel and the UK as both countries have historically invested heavily in information technology to gain a competitive edge.

My first break was in 1999, when I joined a systems integrator as part of a youth development scheme. I learned about the fundamentals of IT implementation and cybersecurity, but also the importance of building an effective team and developing a deep technical understanding of an organisation’s underlying IT requirements.

After five years I switched to a start-up to lead its pre-sales team and specialise in the emerging field of app security. This paved the way to join F5 Networks in 2005. I was initially hired to establish and manage our Israeli business from scratch. I then went on to create a security sales business unit for F5 in EMEA. Prior to my current role as VP for UKI, I was the EMEA VP for Partner Sales in EMEA. In total, I’ve held five different roles at F5, experiencing many different parts of the business.

2.            Looking back on your career so far, is there anything you might have done differently?

I would have liked to remain in an overtly technical role a little longer. My background has always given me an edge when it comes to the sales aspect of my job, and I am keen to maintain my knowledge wherever and whenever I can. Continuous education is key. The world of application services evolves quickly, so it can be a challenge to keep up with the nuances if you don’t make the time for it.

3.            What are the biggest changes you have seen in the data/comms industry?

Most companies around the world are undergoing some form of digital transformation, including automating manual activities to drive operational improvements. They are also looking to expand their digital presence to reach new customers or enable new experiences.

The rapid transition to the cloud continues to be a major focus for vendors, channel partners and our customers. Customer freedom to easily consume services, to deploy across multiple environments, and to do so in an automated way, are keys to this move.

Importantly for F5, we are also seeing that applications and their related services are starting to gain recognition as the primary driver for differentiation and value creation.

4.            Can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on?

In recent years, the number of applications has exploded, and they have become the most valued asset for modern businesses. Nevertheless, there is a gap among individual companies in their ability to develop, deploy, operate and govern their application portfolios.

The interesting thing about the transforming enterprise is that they have a complicated mix of both classic and the web scale technology. This is where most of our customers sit— in the “messy middle.”

As a result, we’re designing our products and solutions to address this specific scenario. This is what the F5 value proposition is all about, and the underlying principle behind our acquisition of NGINX. We offer solutions for companies to take their apps from code to customer, faster, safer, and at scale. We call these solutions multi-cloud application services: packaged tools for application builders that facilitate development, deployment, operations, and security and governance in a multi-cloud world.

5.            What is the main motivation in the work that you do?

I am motivated by the people I work with and making sure the right culture is in place. This means encouraging a diversity of talent, backgrounds and opinions. The future is a fluid, rapid and collaborative model of engagement and strategy.

The other key motivation is our customers. We obsess over customer needs. It is all about staying curious and ahead of the curve, whether it is mapping out the road ahead or consulting on the entire lifecycle of an F5 solution deployment. Every day, we partner with our customers to deeply analyse and understand their requirements. While we are proud of our past achievements, there is always something we can improve.

6.            Which major issues do you see dominating the data/comms industry in 2020?

There is never a dull moment. While the move to the cloud will continue unabated, DevOps methodologies will clearly play a much more influential role. Customers now expect features to be implemented fast enough to meet their business demands, without generating bugs with every update. Fundamentally, DevOps is a practice that eliminates sources of waste from the application delivery pipeline. It drives efficiency by optimising processes, removing silos, using automation tools, standardising platforms and establishing a strong culture of collaboration.

However, before DevOps can make a real impact, businesses need to get their automation processes right. Automation is already used regularly in everything we do. It is also required in all three phases of implementing a DevOps culture: automating the existing environment, cloud migration, and cloud native services. Our NGINX acquisition has transformed our ability to operate in this space. F5’s world-class application security and rich application services portfolio powerfully complements NGINX’s leading software application delivery and API management solutions, as well as its DevOps community credibility and huge open source user base.

7.            What are your company’s aims for the next 12 months?

Over the next year, we aim to offer our customers more freedom. Whether it is on a software, hardware, or subscription basis, we strive to make our services flexible to suit changing needs.

We’re building out a complete portfolio of flexible, best-of-breed offerings across the code-to-customer pathway that’s platform-agnostic, consistent, and partner ecosystem friendly. We heard from our customers that they want the flexibility to adopt the best data path elements for their applications, and so F5 and NGINX are committed to enabling an open ecosystem.

We want you to be able to get code to your customers at the speed your business requires, and to scale that to thousands of apps each year – all while maintaining complete visibility and manageability each step of the way.

8.            If you could possess one super-human power, what would it be and why?

I love travelling, so teleporting seems like it would be the perfect superpower for me as it will get me to where I need to be quickly and efficiently.

9.            What are your hobbies/interests outside work?

Running is a great way to clear your mind. I don’t get as much running time as I would like, but I aim for 15-20 miles a week. I also like to balance this with some of my other passions, including Champions League winners Liverpool FC and travelling. But above all, my biggest passion is my family.

10.          Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?

Two of my favourite holiday destinations are Thailand and Costa Rica. The former has never-ending views, beaches and sun, whereas the latter is a magic mixture of wildlife, volcanoes and adventure. I’m obviously biased, but I also recommend Israel, which is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.