New F5 Networks CEO reflects on his new role

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New F5 Networks CEO reflects on his new role Locoh-Donou: “It’s my opinion that the truth about your competitiveness lies in the hands of your customers.”
By  David Ndichu Published  May 26, 2017

François Locoh-Donou, CEO, F5 Networks highlights the relentless growth of enterprise applications and the company's mission to enable those apps go faster, smarter and safer.

What excites you most about joining F5?

F5 is an incredible platform for growth. We occupy a strategic position in front of more apps than any other company, and the world is only going to have more apps, in the hands of more people, in more places. Our ability to make all these apps go faster, smarter, safer is a winning combination.

What can we expect as your first order of business at F5?

To learn. F5 has been tremendously successful building and leading the market for Application Delivery Controllers. I want to spend my first weeks really getting to the heart of what has made the company so effective; how the culture shapes our decisions; and where the product and partnership portfolio informs our long-term strategy. That respect for the past is what will help me get to grips with what's ahead and the responses we need to make for a changing market, evolving customer demands, and emerging technologies. I believe F5 can do more than just adapt to these changes; I believe the company has what it takes to lead the way, and continue to thrive.

How do you cultivate this platform for growth?

A critical factor for our success is a customer-centric culture. For tech companies, it's my opinion that the truth about your competitiveness lies in the hands of your customers. I recognise cultivating this culture can be a challenge. As companies expand, and more employees are a step removed - or sometimes further - from that direct contact with customers, the more likely you are to believe your own truth, instead of the market's. But to me, a relentless focus on the customer is the greatest defence against the biggest egos presiding over the best ideas.

How would you describe your leadership style?

The leadership attributes I rate most highly are courage and generosity. I believe courage is essential, because without it you can't have the honest and tough conversations that drive change. Generosity is just as necessary because generous leaders invest their time liberally with people to listen, guide, inspire, and motivate. I think you'll find that what the smartest and most successful teams have in common is courage and generosity in equal parts.

What inspired a career in tech?

I grew up in Togo in West Africa, and as a child, technology was a remote concept, and by that, I mean ‘not invented here.' My friends and I had access to technology, but we associated its invention entirely with the U.S. and Europe, not Africa, and certainly not with each other. So, I can't pinpoint the moment, but my fascination for how things work ultimately made me question this childhood assumption. After all, ‘why couldn't I invent?' I left Togo at the age of 15 to study engineering in France, and I have been learning about, and inspired by, technology ever since.

When you're not working and traveling, what's on your agenda?

I always want to spend as much time as I can with my family. My wife and I have three children, who are involved in tons of activities. I'm certain there are plenty of parents who will relate to the fact that I spend much of my weekend as my kids' chauffeur.

But I also love football, playing it, talking about it, watching it. I'm a big Arsenal fan, which means I just made a few friends...and a lot of enemies!

The rest of my waking hours are occupied by a social enterprise I remain involved in back in Togo, called Cajou Espoir. The company processes raw cashew nuts and exports cashew kernels in Africa, and to the U.S. and Europe. Because cashew processing is such a manual process, we are able to employ several hundred people, 80 percent of whom are women, in a rural area of Togo where few well-paid jobs are available. Agribusiness that can help drive meaningful and sustainable development in Africa has long been a passion of mine.

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