Kash Shaikh: Taking Charge to Enhance Technology (and Lives) in the New Normal



Kash Shaikh is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Virtana. He joined the company in 2020 to launch their next generation SaaS unified observability platform and prepare the go-to-market team to help customers along their journey to the cloud. Beyond the day-to-day, a large part of his role is to ‘make the complex simple’ for Virtana’s customers, partners, and employees. It is Kash’s job to ensure that every person has what they need to succeed, and to lead them with a servant mindset. He is guiding Virtana as the leading cloud optimization platform for digital transformation with the mission to improve the quality of life for everyday people along the way.

Virtana’s vision is to provide a simple software platform that leverages high-definition precision data insights to manage, monitor, and secure any workload on any cloud for hybrid IT customers. The company’s purpose is to simplify enterprise cloud complexity and accelerate digital transformation to drive human progress. They are accomplishing this mission by providing enterprises a unified observability platform for migrating, optimizing, and managing application workloads across public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments. The platform enables a ‘know before you go’ approach by providing intelligent observability into which workloads to migrate. It also ensures that unexpected costs and performance degradation are avoided once workloads are operating in the cloud. With the Virtana Platform, enterprises can confidently speed cloud adoption and reduce cloud operating costs by simplifying the management of their IT environments.


Living the ‘American Dream’ 

Kash came to the US as an immigrant 20+ years ago to earn a master’s degree at Wichita State University, followed by an MBA from Boise State University.He then moved to Silicon Valley, the land of opportunities, to build his career in roles at Nortel, Cisco, HP, leading to an executive role at Dell. Time and hard work have allowed Kash to take on multiple leadership roles. In those roles, he learned a few things about servant leadership and emotional intelligence.

Kash admires the amazing successes of so many talented people in the technology and business world. However, the greatest professional and personal reward that he enjoys is investing in the growth of talented professionals and creating an environment where he can see them thrive, innovate, and inspire others to make a difference and change the world to be a better place.

Kash’s parents sacrificed greatly to provide him with a stellar education that gave him a real shot at living the ‘American Dream.’ It instilled a strong work ethic in him that he balances with carefully calculated risks to grow as a business and technology leader. Kash’s approach inspires his teams to think ‘big picture’ and helps them manage risks prudently. Kash says, “The tech industry is a crowded, competitive space — we all need to inspire and trust each other to deliver the products that enterprises really need, to unlock the benefits of the digital age.”


Learning Life Lessons from Personal Challenges

Kash recalls one of the mistakes he made early on was hiring people just like him.  He realized that the best people added to an organization do start with a commonality, not of background but of their ‘why’- their sense of purpose. He feels that while shared values, goals, and background are good, if people have similar backgrounds without a common purpose, things will likely not work out. Conversely, people with different backgrounds and a common purpose can have excellent discussions about how to reach the same goals.

When Kash first joined Virtana, he took on a ‘listening and learning’ tour, to understand what was working (and not working) within the company. This, along with leading from a servant mindset,is one of many reasons Kash is considered an inspirational leader in 2021.


A Vital CEO is a Servant Leader

Kash says he 100% believes that leaders exist to serve their people and that an effective leader is a guide and mentor to encourage team members to reach their potential. Those served should ideally become freer, wiser, more autonomous, and more capable of becoming servant leaders themselves or reaching what they aspire to do and arrive wherever they want to go. He adds that as a servant leader, he believes in dedicating significant time in coaching his team members to develop and grow. He takes great joy in helping them improve into bigger and better roles.

Kash feels that servant leaders start with a core attribute – being a listener.  The CEO who listens with empathy and asks probing and caring questions can have a meaningful impact. They ask team members ‘How are you feeling?’ and ‘What can I do to help?’ This kind of care and compassion opens the door to understand and observe if someone is feeling overwhelmed. They use this awareness to encourage people to take a break, deprioritize some aspects of projects or delegate to other team members.

“People are going through a lot, so we all need to be kind and help others.”


Emotional Intelligence: A Must-Have Leadership Trait in 2021

Kash opines that leaders’ ability to make sound decisions under today’s trying circumstances requires emotional intelligence. To lead effectively in 2021, they must be self-aware and recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions to positively influence the emotions of others. He adds that with so much separation that looks like it is going to continue throughout this year, it’s essential for leaders to keep up communications, and positively influence others, so everyone feels inspired and connected.


New Normal Trends as the Catalyst of Innovation

Kash warns that IT leaders are under tremendous pressure to adapt to a new normal in the post-COVID-19 world with many employees fully remote or in a hybrid office or home environment. This has accelerated numerous migrations to the cloud. Virtana’s survey of the Global 2000 also shows a lift and shift approach to cloud migration resulted in 67% experiencing unexpected cost and performance issues. Therefore, he adds that the best approach to a successful digital transformation involving cloud migration is to ‘know before you go.’ Kash states that IT professionals need full insight and visibility into their IT infrastructure and a full understanding of where workloads and applications will work best before any decisions or moves are made.‘Cloud’ Is the Future


Kash (and Virtana) know that the cloud is big business. In a survey the company conducted, out of 350 IT decision-makers in the US and UK, almost 95% of enterprises said they have moved some applications to the cloud. He adds that for many of these enterprises, cloud automation tools would have played a key role in the migration of their applications. Kash discloses that when it comes to automation, one key term that organizations need to understand and embrace is AIOps. AIOps combines big data analytics and machine learning to automate many elements of IT operations processes, including event correlation, anomaly detection, and causality determination. The importance of AIOps is directly correlated to the complexity, growth, and volume of telemetry data across private, multi-cloud, and hybrid cloud estates.


Driving into the Future with Multi-Cloud 

Kash envisions that with advanced cloud adoption, the need for greater skills for cloud and AI technologies will accelerate and create skill gaps that need to be closed in 2022 and beyond. He adds that Channel partners will become more important as enterprises want more guidance to know what to do before they execute a public cloud strategy. Kash states that the business problems are more complex, and the cloud offering is more varied. Therefore, multi-cloud management will only be more complex in the future.


Guidance for Business Leaders

Kash’s advice for emerging business leaders is to “listen first.  There is a reason we were given two ears and one mouth.”

He also advises leaders to find a mentor who inspires them, not only in one’s current job but a guide who can act as an advisor throughout their career.For example, he has a mentor who has inspired him and has also guided him over the last decade to build diverse high-performance teams, and act as a servant leader by investing time in the growth of talented people while keeping the company’s best interests in mind.

Kash says he believes that significant time in the trenches in key business functional leadership along with a good deal of time with customers is required to be a successful leader. This requires excellent listening skills and trust-building with internal teams and external customers and partners. Kash concludes by saying that he observes, listens, learns, and discusses before he makes decisions because nobody knows everything, and he learns something new every day.


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