Ex-Yahoo Cloud VP Preeti Somal Joins HashiCorp

Preeti Somal has joined HashiCorp as VP of Engineering where she has been tasked with leading the team as the company enjoys strong growth.

Preeti Somal, HashiCorp VP of Engineering

Preeti Somal, HashiCorp VP of Engineering

Somal joins HashiCorp from Yahoo where she led the R&D team on the internal private cloud as VP of Cloud Services for four years. Prior to Yahoo, Somal spent five years at VMware as Vice President of R&D.

HashiCorp has been growing steadily and recently closed a $40 million Series C round in October 2017 bringing total funding to $74 million. HashiCorp’s products are a mainstay of open source software development, with Terraform and Vagrant close to household names amongst cloud-native developers.

“Open source is the software that underpins the building and running of clouds,” says Somal. She cites her experience at Yahoo as preparing her well for moving from being a customer of cloud software to being a vendor. “Walking in the shoes of the customer really gave me a first-hand insight into the challenges that customers face as they look at running a cloud and adopting cloud.”

“Even though Yahoo was really large, we were moving at a really fast pace,” she said. “That pace is something I thoroughly enjoyed.” It’s a pace she says she is looking forward to maintaining now that she’s working at a startup.

Part of what enabled Somal’s team to move so quickly was its use of open source software. “When we built the private cloud at Yahoo we were heavy users of open source technologies,” she said.

“GitHub has fundamentally changed how we build software,” said HashiCorp CEO Dave McJannet says. “Everything’s visible. People can look inside and see how well built these products are.”

Open source software was once much maligned in the enterprise, but now it seems you can hardly move without bumping into some sort of open source system, or a commercialized version of one. Somal sees this as the big opportunity for her new team at HashiCorp.

“The company’s products really are strategic,” she says. “We know it’s going to be a multi-cloud world. We know that enterprises cannot afford to rewrite all their applications in a short period of time.” Instead, Somal sees enterprises adopting cloud techniques from an operational point of view as well as gradually rewriting their applications, and she wants HashiCorp’s products to be a key technology to help them do that.

Hiring Somal indicates the company is aiming squarely at the enterprise market where there are plenty of customers with the problems HashiCorp is trying to solve, as well as the budgets to help pay for solving them. She has the cloud experience required from her time at Yahoo, but also the enterprise scope and scale from Yahoo, VMware, and Oracle before that.

The focus of what HashiCorp is building is clearly shifting from simply useful tools that many people use (the company claims there have been 22 million downloads of its open-source products) to tools that enterprises are willing to part with real money for. We can expect to see more investment in security and multi-tenancy features, as well as greater ability to work in heterogeneous environments, both within organizations, and between them in multi-cloud architectures.

I asked Somal if there was anything she had done that she would never do again. “Building a house,” she said. She also had some useful advice for those not contemplating home construction.

“The mistake I would go out of my way to avoid is catching people off-guard,” she said. “Sometimes, when you’re moving really fast, you make decisions and you may not communicate with everybody involved, and that’s something that has caused unnecessary friction in the past.”

“It’s really about empowering the people in your team,” she says. “The management skillset here is setting expectations, providing the guardrails and then getting out of the way.”

“Once people get to that point of having a sense of ownership, magic happens,” she said.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one watching to see what kinds of magic Somal is able to conjure in her new role.

This article first appeared in Forbes.com here.

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