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John McAdam, President and CEO of F5 Networks, was featured in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on February 7th. F5 is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, an application delivery provider whose products most of us use but don't realize!
McAdam has served as President and CEO of F5 Networks since 2000. He took the company through the turbulent post-dot-com era, positioning it to grow from annual revenue of $108 million to more than $1.3 billion today. He has overseen numerous successful acquisitions, guiding F5 into new markets that enhance the company's Application Delivery Networking solution offerings. Under his leadership, F5 was added to the S&P 500, and Fortune Magazine named F5 to its 2011 and 2012 lists of 100 Fastest Growing Companies worldwide.
When McAdam took over F5, their main offering was around load balancing and most of their customers were dot-com companies. Starting in 2004, they were able to offer traffic management systems and successfully target Fortune 500 firms. Making that bet was one that worked for F5! Through the years they have been able to expand their services to other areas such as data security. The rise of mobile data and the movement to the cloud have expanded their market considerably.
In discussing the success of F5, McAdam emphasized the importance of culture, noting that employees need to be respected and respectful of one another. Other aspects of the F5 culture include innovation, integrity, metric-driven, and global mindset.
Regarding the latter, most of F5's business is outside the US, and customers are requiring the same product. There is little difference in what they sell across markets, but the size of transactions is much bigger in North America.
When it comes to his leadership style, McAdam said the most important thing is that people trust you. People at F5 clearly trust McAdam, and his humble persona definitely helps with that. Also critical, he said, is to surround yourself with good people - exactly what you would expect a leader with humility to say!
McAdam had other important insights to share with the audience. One was that he is a great believer in paranoia when it comes to business - "only the paranoid survive," he said! It's clear that he will never let F5 get complacent.
He also noted that a successful CEO must have a supportive board of directors. If he had not had that at F5, particularly when he first arrived, he would no doubt have left long ago.
Technology is changing our lives and our society in ways we don't yet fully understand. With the rise of mobile devices and the cloud, F5 is right in the middle of many of these changes. McAdam noted there are significant growth opportunities for F5, and growth is necessary for F5 to remain an independent company. His visit to campus was an excellent opportunity to hear about some of the key trends in the tech industry, but also about successful leadership in a rapidly changing environment.
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