CTO Sessions: Yair Hershko, Zadara

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? “Technologies are born to solve challenges and I don’t believe there are any overhyped technologies.”

Headshot of Yair Hershko, Co-founder and CTO at Zadara

Name: Yair Hershko

Company: Zadara

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: March 2011

Location: Israel

Zadara's Co-founder and CTO Yair Hershko brings passion and energy to his role overseeing Zadara’s technology strategy. He brings over 25 years of experience in software development and in various technical leadership positions. Previously, Hershko was a Senior Director of Software Engineering at LSI following the acquisition of StoreAge where he served as VP of Engineering.

What was your first job? My first job in the high-tech industry was a part-time student position (during my BCs studies) in the defence industry, developing an intelligent tracking system that was able to track multiple targets concurrently.

Did you always want to work in IT? I always wanted to work in designing and developing mission-critical, complex distributed software systems, which are the core of IT.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a B.Sc in Computer Science - Information Systems Track, from The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. During my CS studies and a few years afterwards, I held various jobs as a software engineer in disciplines such as defence and medical systems. In 2001, I landed as a senior software engineer at StoreAge, a small start-up that developed an innovative storage virtualisation platform. It was a great company, with amazing people and technology. At StoreAge, I held various managerial roles and eventually lead the engineering team until the company was acquired by LSI Corporation.

I lead the engineering team responsible for the integration of the StoreAge virtualisation technology into the LSI Engenio line of products. In 2011, after LSI has sold the Engenio business unit to NetApp, I co-founded Zadara with other leaders from StoreAge to build the first enterprise Storage-as-a-Service platform that provides a true multi-tenant cloud storage platform with the agility, economics, and business model of the cloud.

What type of CTO are you? I am passionate about technology. I am a visionary but practical and a team player. I believe customers and business partners are key to understanding market needs, and technology partners are fundamental in building solutions. I think long-term, building sustainable products and business, while focusing on short-term business success.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning (DL) are the IT technologies that will have the most profound impact on humanity. Delivery of AI and DL though cloud services, centralised and at the edge will drive innovation and transformation.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Technologies are born to solve challenges and I don’t believe there are any overhyped technologies.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? I am most proud of launching a unique GPU-as-a-Service offering at the edge cloud. This offering allows customers to efficiently leverage GPUs for AI and graphics workloads close to where the data is generated and consumed with cloud agility and economics.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Zadara is very much in the business of digital transformation. That’s what we do internally at Zadara, as well as externally with our customers. Business challenges are dynamic, and so is the IT required to support them. Digital transformation using cloud services reduces operational and financial risks. Leveraging IaaS and SaaS for most IT needs allows an organisation to focus on its core competence, thus making operations much more efficient, supporting revenue growth.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Customers are looking for a complimentary solution to the centralised hyperscaler clouds. They’re looking for a solution that will allow them to run and consume cloud services at the edge with low latency, high bandwidth while meeting data sovereignty regulations. MSPs are looking for a partner to help them offer new cloud services while simplifying operations and reducing financial risks. Zadara solves both challenges by delivering edge cloud services through a global network of leading MSP partners.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Business goals drive technology choices. My role as a CTO involves having a broad corporate perspective, while understanding the business goals and the operational challenges. I collaborate with sales and marketing to understand market trends and customer pain points. And I work closely with product management and engineering to ensure we develop cutting-edge technologies that translate into innovative products and services.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not at all. Product strategy and tech strategy work in tandem. Product strategy defines the “why” and “what.” Technology strategy defines the “how.”

What makes an effective tech strategy? Technology is an enabler for business goals. Hence an effective tech strategy delivers advantage to the business and value to customers through innovative yet simple solutions. IT tech strategy should be resourceful by leveraging intelligent software to maximise hardware utilisation and efficiency. 

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? The IT world is much less conservative than it used to be. Today, new technologies emerge very rapidly, and with the advent of cloud computing, it is easier to test and adopt new technologies. 5G and IoT are expediting the adoption of intelligent edge cloud computing. And cybersecurity must be a cornerstone in every technology strategy.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Building Zadara was and still is my greatest achievement. It has been a great journey, and I am proud of the technology we have built, and the products and services that we are delivering to our customers. But mostly, I am proud of the team. Building a successful company requires smart people who get things done collaboratively and view themselves as a team. The team we have built at Zadara is my biggest achievement.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I am very content with the direction and choices I have made in my career. I find my work interesting, challenging and satisfying. In hindsight, there are small things I could do differently, they happen on an almost daily basis, but mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve.

What are you reading now? Thinking, Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman – an inspiring book on the way we think and operate.

Most people don't know that I… My father, Avram Hershko, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family, travel, hike, and cycle.

Ask me to do anything but… Deal with useless and inefficient bureaucracies.