Jeor Mormont, the commander of Night’s Watch from the popular show “Game of Thrones” once said that if you want to lead one day, you must first learn how to follow. Our today’s guest certainly knows how to do both. He served in the Israeli Army, ran the country’s R&D Branch at Cerylion and eventually – founded his own company, Vinetu Technologies. Without further ado, let’s give it up for Eli Melamed!
Apart from being an expert in numerous fields such as network design, cyber security, data centers and cloud computing, you are also a skilled software engineer. You don’t see that every day in the networking industry! What drives your personal development?
I started programming on my very first computer, the classic Commodore 64. I find it fascinating to understand how the electronics actually work, being able to control the physical hardware by writing code. Today it is the most valuable tool for every IT person – scripting, automation and DevOps are all part of the day-to-day work. So yes, programming knowledge served me well over the years.
Some ten years ago I was working on a large networking project for a sports stadium which included more than 300 switches. The customer had many changes on a weekly basis and since I had to go over them manually and make sure everything was fine, I decided to write a program that would do it for me. The tool loaded the device list from a file (Name, IP etc.) and after establishing connection with each one of them, it began executing the commands and modifying the specific value, based on the device list. The program allowed me to execute changes to more than 300 switches at once, in just a matter of minutes.
From more recent history, a few years ago I did a large scale network design and implementation for a US based company that develops and manufactures Smart City solutions. While working on this project, I found myself leading the hardware and firmware team whose task was to redesign the entire electronics, including several PCB’s, with software-defined firmware to control and major any aspect of the device in the field.
As the founder, CEO and CTO of Vinetu Technologies, you play different roles in your professional life – IT manager, software development specialist, and businessman. Which one do you like the best? Which one do you feel most comfortable in? And which one seems to be the most challenging?
With all the titles attached to my name, the technical aspects of my work are my favorite. What can I say, I’m a tech geek who just loves technology! All aspects of my work are challenging, be it the business or the tech side, but I feel comfortable in both worlds. Actually, I’ve managed to learn a lot from both roles and use that experience in my work. This flexibility also helps me to better understand and communicate with my customers, whether I’m talking to engineers or management team.
Your partners, clients and colleagues regard you as a reliable problem solver and an excellent manager – a man you can simply count on. We also know that you have served in the army. Does military experience come in handy in business? What qualities of a soldier or a commanding officer prove useful when running a company and leading people?
I believe that every major experience contributes to the person you are. Serving in the Israeli Defense Forces was definitely one of them, even more so since I got drafted at an early age. When you’re in the army, your soldiers must be able to count on you to lead them, no matter what. And I stick to this rule when interacting with my employees, partners and customers. It’s also very important to lead by example. You can’t expect someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
Over the years, I have had several projects in which the scope of work didn’t align with the actual tasks. In such cases I asked my employees to pull out all the stops to deliver the best possible result as if it was the actual scope of work, even though I knew it meant less profit. For me, an unhappy customer or an unsatisfactory level of service is worse than losing money. It is a matter of losing a customer and reputation. Sometimes you just have to suck it up.
I became a Trusted Advisor for many companies around the world. You can’t achieve this without having the customer’s full trust and confidence that no matter what you will always take care of his interests.
Prior to founding Vinetu Technologies, you had worked for almost ten years at Cerylion, the developer of an ERP-class solution used by large enterprise clients for real-time reconciliation and optimization of network financial transactions. What business experiences did you decide to use when starting your own company?
Cerylion was the best learning experience anyone could ask for and I’m extremely happy that I had the chance to be part of its amazing team. I started as a System Administrator, then got promoted to IT Director. On top of that I managed the Israeli R&D Branch. During that time, I learned so much and got to experience great many technologies both in the IT world and the enterprise grade software development, while also managing employees, providers, authorities, legal aspects and many, many more. I think that this experience was essential for me to start my own company, as I’ve obtained a very valuable theoretical and practical knowledge of how it’s going to be…
What qualities do you value most in others – partners, clients, employees?
I believe that the most important one is trustworthiness. I need to know that we can trust each other, through thick and thin. Then there is professionalism. My company is focusing on premium services where the customers expect nothing less than the best. I expect the same from everyone in my team and spend significant amount of time to achieve that.
You had experience with Avaya Technology, which is now part of Extreme Networks. Recently the company moved into networking top tier with the acquisition of another important player – Aerohive. How do you feel about Extreme’s rapid growth and its influence on the global market?
Actually, I started with Nortel Networks which later became Avaya and now is a part of Extreme Networks. Extreme provides a solid portfolio and an amazing technology which, for me, is definitely the right direction. It is no coincidence that all my data centers are running on Extreme’s solutions. I also own a sizable lab with (almost) all of the company’s product lines to test new versions and capabilities, as well as gain first-hand experience before I deliver certain solution to a customer. Aerohive is a major addition to Extreme’s already impressive portfolio and will certainly help to deliver even better experience for today’s distributed network topologies management.
What was your journey to the Extreme Hero program like? What made you want to join this club?
I want to be the best I can possibly be, in any field I’m involved in – for the benefit of everyone around me. It’s my way of life. Therefore, becoming an Extreme Hero was a pretty obvious path for me to take, as I was able to exchange knowledge and skills with the A-Team of great professionals from all around the world. My only wish would be that we had a better way to communicate with each other to consult and share experience and solutions.
Do you feel like a hero at work sometimes? :)
Luckily for me, I do. It feels great to be called into a situation to solve a major problem and, quite literally, save the day!