Our guest today is constantly on the move – when he’s not winning the hearts of our customers, he’s conquering mountain peaks. Sergey Gusakov, Country Manager of Extreme Networks Russia & CIS, talks about how to effectively manage a team of true professionals, and what’s the best spot to go skiing in Russia!
Sergey, tell us how you first became acquainted with Extreme? Weren’t you working at CROC at the time?
Yes, that was in 2010, more than 11 years ago. At the time, two of my colleagues from CROC had already began to work at Extreme – Boris Germashev, who is now responsible for a huge region of Benelux, Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia & CIS countries*, as well as Mikhail Rodionov – my colleague from the next desk.
When they paid us a visit at our CROC office, I saw the fire in their eyes. That’s when I decided I definitely needed to learn more about Extreme. One day I was invited for an interview and I got the job – I guess that’s how I really got to know the company. 🙂
Before that, I had been mainly involved with Cisco products, even had the highest possible engineering certification at the time. When I began my path as a technician at Extreme, I was a little worried that I knew the products of other manufacturers better than the actual Extreme solutions and technologies.
But everything turned out to be quite easy and simple, it took me only a few days to get a deep knowledge about the Extreme products. I think that for someone who is well versed in the modern telecommunication technologies, the transition to Extreme won’t take long.
* Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
You started your journey with Extreme as a technical expert, then worked your way up to an account manager position, and once Extreme acquired part of the Brocade business, you became the head of the Extreme office in Russia & CIS. Which of these roles has proven to be the most difficult and most interesting for you?
Of course, the one that I have right now! It’s a great responsibility because you need to properly organize the work of the whole team. At the same time it is very interesting, since new goals and objectives are appearing constantly, and this allows you to grow and develop.
You’ve been with Extreme for 11 years now. What do you like the most about your work?
First of all, I like our team responsible for the business in Russia & CIS countries, and of course the regional team led by Boris. These are my colleagues I work with on a daily basis.
The second thing I like the most is my social circle. I’m communicating with a large number of system integrators, with a wide range of our customers, and I’m just happy that Extreme gives me the opportunity to travel and meet so many different, often very interesting people.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
The successful alignment of business processes in the work of our team is what I’d consider as my main achievement. In our everyday work, almost all of the tasks are being repeated, which means they can be automated and relieved of manual control. Thus, a large amount of time is freed and can be spent on the development of our company's business. The results can be easily measured. Our turnover in Russia & CIS countries is growing year by year.
What has changed in the telecommunications market over the last 10 years?
Over the past 10 years, not only has the market changed, but so has the technology itself. Back in the day, our customers bought switches and all they cared about was the speed and the number of ports. When I first came to Extreme, I was surprised to see a switch with like, for example, 48 gigabit ports. Other manufacturers didn’t offer such equipment at the time. Today the number of ports, their speed, even their functionality, is not surprising to the customer.
The customer wants to solve his business problems and therefore needs an integrated approach. In other words, he doesn’t a switch – he needs a solution. And that’s exactly what we have! This is why our solutions, like for example Extreme Campus Fabric, where switches in a network work as a whole, are so successful.
The customer doesn’t dwell on what to configure on which port, he doesn’t reflect on security – he assumes it’s in the network by default. The customer doesn’t think about how to access this or that switch in order to configure this or that technology. The customer wants to work with the network as a whole. So I believe that the biggest change in the industry is that technology has moved from a product to a solution.
You have a vast technical knowledge that you are constantly improving, but today your responsibilities are focused on growing Extreme's business and developing relationships with the customers. Don’t you miss technical challenges?
It may surprise you, but… I don’t miss them at all! In my opinion, if you work for a tech company, you must and should know the actual technology. Every week, our systems engineers conduct a 20-30 minute tour of technologies and solutions for our account managers. Therefore I’m absolutely sure that any manager, any Extreme representative who communicates with our partners and customers, is well versed in our technology. This makes it easier and faster for us to find a common ground with our customers.
Which of the new Extreme solutions do you think have the biggest potential to grow your business in the region?
It’s all about cloud solutions, of course. It is no secret that the on-premises management systems and analytics on the customers’ side cannot provide the functionality of cloud solutions which are using Big Data and other modern technologies for analyzing events and behavior. And of course the solutions that allow us to secure and optimize our customers' networks.
You manage a team of strong personalities. How would you describe yourself as a leader? What style of leadership do you prefer? What qualities do you value the most in your colleagues?
Quite right. Our team consists of very independent and self-motivated people with different personalities and a unique approach to work. When you’re dealing with a group like that, a democratic style of leadership is the only way to go – with a consultative leader who takes opinions and accepts advice from the members of the team and listens to their viewpoints before making a decision.
So as a leader, I try to help my colleagues in their daily tasks and set an example for them. I support them by suggesting ways to solve certain problems, and then they do an excellent job solving them on their own, for which I greatly appreciate them.
Your colleagues at Extreme say that you are always on the move. Not just because you spend a lot of time on the business trips, but also because you are constantly seeking out new knowledge. So what’s been occupying you lately?
I recently graduated from the Executive MBA program, which allowed me to straighten my approach to work, to the team management and, in general, my approach to developing business at Extreme Networks. As part of my self-improvement, I read books all the time – both fiction and non-fiction or professional literature. Not just because they’re interesting; reading allows you to keep yourself in good shape and makes easier to solve everyday tasks.
What are the most beautiful places in Russia? Where would you recommend to go in the summer, and where in the winter?
It’s difficult to choose just one. Russia has a lot of unique and interesting places worth seeing. In summer, I love the north of the European part of the country – the Kola Peninsula and Lake Baikal. If we talk about winter holidays, I love skiing – I’ve probably visited all ski resorts in Russia. Come visit us, the mountains are beautiful everywhere!
What do you feel or think when you reach the mountain top?
I love mountains. It’s pure nature, this kind of snowy harshness. Of course, reaching new heights also means overcoming yourself. Skiing is about speed and excitement, it’s a fascinating thing.
If you could choose any place on Earth to live in for a year, what would be your choice?
Since I’m traveling a lot, I think it would be pretty hard for me to stay in one place for a whole year. 😉 In order for me to feel comfortable, I need to live fast. But if I had to choose, it would probably be San Francisco or Barcelona. These cities have something in common – a sense of freedom, independence, their own unique spirit.
If you were to compare Extreme to an outstanding figure in the history of Russia, who would it be?
Whoa, this one’s probably the most difficult question in the whole interview! There have been many bright and controversial figures in the history of Russia. One of them was Emperor Peter I – a researcher, engineer, pioneer, inventor and innovator. It seems to me that this is a good association with Extreme, since our company also always strives to master new technologies, new markets, new directions and, of course, rightfully takes its place among the technological leaders of the industry.
25 years young and still growing – join Sergey and the rest of the Team!
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