CompanyCategory2 min read

Meet VMware’s New Chief Operating Officer, Mike Hayes

You’ve been at VMware for almost two years as the Chief Digital Transformation Officer and are now Chief Operating Officer. What does this mean for you and your team? 

We are still the same team – laser-focused on improving the experiences of our customers, partners, and colleagues. What this change really represents for our team is how critically important Operations is in driving VMware’s growth and success.

One of the many great things about VMware is our ability to evolve. As we shift our business model to as-a-service, a company’s operations become increasingly visible to our customers. At the same time their expectations about the ease of business have skyrocketed. They want flexibility, speed and agility, and Operations is how you deliver that. Put simply, the back-office has become the front-office. Almost overnight, Operations became a strategic, customer-facing, and revenue driving function.

It’s interesting to think of the “back-office becoming the front-office.” What’s something else you wish more people knew about Operations?

Operations is so much more than a cost-centre. You hear a lot about “Product-Led Growth” out there in the industry — the idea that products can be so good that they sell themselves. While that’s important, it only takes you so far. Our customers are complex and solving some of the hardest problems in the world. They need the best products and services, and an experience that only comes with elite Operations.

In other words, “Operations-Led Growth” is a real thing, and not enough people think about it this way. As competition heightens, the companies that think like this will rise to the top. It is a huge source of customer value – not an afterthought or merely an efficiency play.

You have a different background than many leaders we meet in tech: from Navy SEAL Commander to Director at the National Security Council for Presidents Bush and Obama, to hedge fund COO, to strategic operations leader at a global technology services company. How does this influence the way you lead at VMware?

Great question. My first reaction is that I don’t think of this company — or the world — as divided into leaders and followers. Everyone at VMware is a leader. We’re all leaders and followers — and the key is to know when to be which. That one insight has informed everything I’ve done over my career.

Another observation that’s important to keep in mind is that top organisations are all doing essentially the same thing: solving really hard problems in unpredictable environments. So, what do you do? You build a world-class team and teach them how to think, not what to think, so that they’re ready to pivot.

It’s no longer enough to have a great strategy and plan at the top and simply rely on others to execute. You need the operational rigour to make fast decisions – across silos – so you can adapt when things inevitably change.  

Thank you! Before we let you go, how about a get-to-know-you-speed-round?

Favourite movie?

Star Wars.

New skill you’d like to learn?

360 shuvit on the wakeboard (look it up!).

Favourite family tradition?

Saying grace before dinner to appreciate what we have, and ask for others to be provided for as we have.

Bucket-list travel destination?

To visit a peaceful Afghanistan and Iraq.

Favourite thing about your spouse?

Incredible sense of humour – often deservedly at my expense.