Sanjay Poonen is the Chief Operating Officer at VMware, a global leader in cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology. They are the 5th largest software company and they currently have around 26,000 employees in offices around the world.
Sanjay has been with VMware since 2013, prior to that he was President & Corporate Officer — Platform, Applications & Industries at SAP. He started his career as a software engineer at Microsoft followed by Apple.
Technology today is advancing more rapidly than ever before, and it’s hard to tell what the world will look like 10–15 years from now. But Sanjay says some things will never change and as we progress we still need to make sure that we are training our children the fundamental principles of science, technology, engineering, math, logic, physics, etc…He also believes storytelling is an important skill for the future.
He says, “I think it’s super important that we emphasize storytelling to our kids. And I hope that dinner table conversations are not obsessed by keeping the TV on and the device on. We try to keep a no device policy for a period of time in the evenings in our home. It’s super important we go back to that basic principle of what people did around the dinner table, which is telling stories.
And I hope that the classroom setting is the same time too. One of the dangers of this obsession with devices is that we move away from whatever friendship or family constructs that got people telling stories. I find often today, people are so obsessed with their devices, they’re not as good at carrying on a conversation, they’re looking down.”
Technology can be used for great things and it can be used to make our lives easier. But we also have to be careful because it can also be used in dangerous ways as well. Sanjay explains that just as fire can be used for good (keeping us warm, cooking food, giving light) and bad (arson) technology can be used either way as well.
For example, AI can be used to help doctors take more efficient, legible prescriptions via speech recognition technology rather than writing them out by hand. And it can be used in vehicles to help people park better or to drive more safely in heavy traffic.
But it can also be used in selfish or even evil ways. With facial recognition, there is a possibility that someone could be wrongfully identified and end up in trouble. Companies can sell data they have gathered from customers without permission. Because of these issues, Sanjay believes it is critical for technologists, leaders, and governments to constantly have conversations and debates in order to make technology a force for good.
As a leader, how does Sanjay attract and retain the best talent? He says it starts with practicing servant leadership.