At JFrog, we are passionate about hiring talented people who will help us leap higher and think big, further our innovation, and win in the market – it’s written in our Codex. For this reason, we continue to grow our board of directors and advisors because having solid guidance and the right mix of talent on our board is important to help us, our community and shareholders reach the next level of success in a market that is defined by rapid transformation.
We are honored to welcome Yvonne Wassenaar, a seasoned DevOps, Cloud and Security leader to our Board of Directors. Yvonne is an impressive leader who brings a deep understanding of the DevOps, security, and IoT markets, coupled with her strong experience in scaling, diversifying, and transforming businesses will be a valuable compass for us as we continue to help enterprises transform their DevOps and DevSecOps journey.
To welcome Yvonne to the swamp and allow the JFrog community, customers, and partners get to know her a little better, we met with her for a casual Q&A about how she got started, key things she learned while helping other FORTUNE 500 companies grow, the trends she believes will have the biggest impact on the DevOps, Security, and IoT industries, and more. Here is what she had to say:
- Tell us a bit about yourself
- Who were some of the mentors that shaped your career growth and why?
- Having led some of the world’s biggest tech companies – both private and public – across a diverse range of functions, what do you feel are the key things growing companies should keep in mind?
- With such a diverse array of tech industry experience, what is it that attracted you to the DevOps space overall and — more specifically – JFrog?
- What current trends or market moves do you see as potentially having the biggest impact on the DevOps, Security, and IoT industries?
- You’ve led large teams of professionals through important periods of company growth. What would you say is the key to inspiring teams of professionals to grow with you – or phrased another way – what qualities are important to have on a team in order to catapult a company through the next phase of growth??
- You’ve had experience with some of the world’s largest tech companies and many of them helped shape entire industries. With that in mind, what do you see as some of the opportunities for JFrog moving forward?
- If you were to sit next to Warren Buffett on a plane from NYC to San Francisco, how would you pitch JFrog and what we offer as a ‘can’t miss’ investment opportunity?
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself – did you grow up with a passion for technology or was there someone/something that inspired you to go in that direction?
Like so many things in life, my path to technology was a curvy one. I entered college with the ambition to be a business economist, but then fell in love with the art and science of computer programming thanks to my calculus professor who talked me into taking his Pascal programming class. After learning Assembler, Fortran and the like, I started my career as a software engineer working for Accenture when Cobol was cool. After spending quite some time focusing on programming, I shifted my focus from building products to building companies.
After graduating with an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA, I returned to Accenture’s strategy practice to work with companies across a wide range of industries. But I felt strongly that if I wanted to make an impact on the world the best way to help transform the way people work, live, and play is through technology. I also fell in love with the fast pace with which technology changes, the drive to innovate, and the challenges large enterprises face in keeping up with that change or risk becoming irrelevant.
As a young girl I never dreamt I would become a tech CEO, CIO, or a board member—in part because there were few female role models to suggest that possibility—but when I look back on the amazing opportunities I’ve had throughout my career, I can’t imagine having spent time doing anything else. I am thankful to all those who helped me along the way and, hopefully, through my actions and accomplishments I can be a role model for other young women as we look to bring more diversity into tech and leadership.
Q: Who were some of the mentors that shaped your career growth and why?
My father taught me there was no greater gift in life than an education and I saw how his own dedication to a life of teaching at San Jose State University helped open doors to the future for so many. However, what I learned later in life is that working hard and being smart will only get you so far. To deliver your greatest impact it helps to surround yourself with people who encourage you to take risks and support you no matter what the outcome. I’ve had many such mentors throughout my career, including Carl Eschenbach, my VMware client when I was a partner at Accenture. Later Carl became my boss at VMware where he gave me my first shot as an operating executive. Carl helped me understand the practical realities of building out transformational go-to-market teams and he is still a great mentor and career coach to this day. Another guide for me is John Chambers, who was a board member at Airware who encouraged me to take the helm as Airware’s new CEO. Being Airwave’s CEO was the hardest position I ever held, but I never felt alone because I had John in my corner and had the opportunity to learn from one of the best. With John’s support I navigated some very tough times, built a great team, and pushed the boundaries of what was possible with drone analytics.
Q. Having led some of the world’s biggest tech companies – both private and public – across a diverse range of functions, what do you feel are the key things growing companies should keep in mind?
Scaling a company is a lot like raising a family. At every stage of growth there are things that both excite and challenge you, as well as trade-offs to be made. For example, with the benefits of scale and brand recognition, there may be a loss of agility and speed. Growth will also inevitably bring shifts in how work gets done, who owns what scope of work, and how decisions are made. While some leaders will rise to the occasion, not all will be able to evolve and subscribe with where the company is going next. While some new areas of expansion will thrive, others will fail and need to be shifted or shut down – potentially leading to layoffs. However, what I’ve learned over the years is there are three key things to remember when it comes to scaling a company:
- Life is all about opportunity costs and trade-offs so be thoughtful in how decisions are made. It’s important to recognize there are seldom easy answers, but not making a decision also has consequences.
- Nuances matter, but don’t over complicate things. Typically only ~20% of the decisions drive over 80%+ of the business impact.
- Time horizons are important: Consider the implications of the choices and potential outcomes over the pressure to ‘get it done’. It’s easy to fall prey to considering actions in the context of a static world, but the world is dynamic and markets will continually evolve and shift over time, which needs to be factored into your thinking.
Q. With such a diverse array of tech industry experience, what is it that attracted you to the DevOps space overall and — more specifically – JFrog?
I am very energized to be working with the JFrog team. The problem JFrog is working to solve is big and important, the culture and team are amazing, and I believe I have the right experiences and passion to make a meaningful impact on their future journey.
I have been a big believer in the DevOps movement since my days at New Relic when the DevOps market was still nascent. There is a better way to build and run the software that powers the world around us and that is done by fully embracing the power of DevOps. JFrog empowers the maturation and proliferation of DevOps across organizations with a focus on binaries, which is truly unique – and it’s this focus that excites me. JFrog is also able to meaningfully improve the security profile of organizations as they digitize the world around us. Yoav Landman, JFrog’s co-founder and CTO, shared a powerful analogy with me about the power of binaries: When you take an airplane flight, there are many warnings to not bring liquids in your carry-on luggage. But the airlines realize despite all the warnings they provide, they can’t be sure you are not bringing liquids in your carry-on luggage, which is why we all need to put our carry-ons through the TSA scanners at the security checkpoint. When it comes to software development there are lots of places you can check for bad things in the code, but ultimately the most important place to check for security issues is right before that software is put into production by managing and ensuring the quality of its binaries.
Q. What current trends or market moves do you see as potentially having the biggest impact on the DevOps, Security, and IoT industries?
Cybersecurity risks are going to continue to rise at an exponential rate for a long time to come. The reason for this is not just because the surface area of what can be attacked is getting larger with the explosion of mobile and edge devices, but also because software is increasingly powering all aspects of our lives – from cars to city infrastructure, healthcare systems and personal devices. This means that bad actors can demand higher compensation for getting into our organizations and our homes because they can do much more than just steal our personal information–they can shut down the nation’s critical infrastructure, crash financial markets, and more. While we can’t stop the proliferation of software, we can do more to improve its security profile.
The push for organizations to digitize will continue to put pressure on the talent markets. Despite the slowing of the global economy, technical talent will continue to be in short supply. Thus, organizations must continue to invest in processes and tools to increase the productivity of the technical talent they have, while offering bleeding-edge solutions to attract and retain top tech talent. To help better address the tech skills shortage we’ll inevitably see more accessible technical solutions being brought to market (low-code/no code solutions are a good example of this), we’ll see more task automation, and increased use of machine learning & AI to reduce the burden of work on humans.
Q. You’ve led large teams of professionals through important periods of company growth. What would you say is the key to inspiring teams of professionals to grow with you – or phrased another way – what qualities are important to have on a team in order to catapult a company through the next phase of growth?
Trust is incredibly important when it comes to developing high performing teams. The definition of trust in this context is “skill * reliability * motive”. People will trust you if:
- They believe you have the skills to do the job
- You have a track record of being true to your word and delivering great work, and
- They feel you have honorable motivations.
To achieve all these things it’s important to remember:
- Actions speak louder than words
- Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. No one should waste time re-inventing the wheel but they should learn in the process of leveraging the wisdom of others and paying it forward; and
- Always treat your team and customers with respect and integrity. The harder the decisions you need to make as you scale, the more important this last piece becomes in setting the foundation for the long term trust and impact of your team.
Additionally, agility is a must have. Change is the only constant in fast growing companies. This is even more true in the tech sector where we’ve repeatedly seen evidence that historical success is no predictor of future leadership. To create a more agile organization and team it’s important to be curious, seek out different perspectives to solving hard problems, focus on leading vs. lagging performance indicators, be willing to try out new things, and always keep an open ear for your customers and team. Being agile is never resting on your laurels and letting past success get to your head. Long term success favors those who are humble and focus on the impact they have yet to make in the world.
Q. You’ve had experience with some of the world’s largest tech companies and many of them helped shape entire industries. With that in mind, what do you see as some of the opportunities for JFrog moving forward?
JFrog’s Liquid Software vision is to power the seamless, secure flow of binaries from developers to the edge. This is a bold and powerful vision that positions JFrog in line with three fast growing market trends: developer satisfaction and productivity as the number of developers continues to rise and the war for tech talent continues; increasing importance of securing the software supply chain as more organizations fall victim to cyberattacks–something that has become a boardroom conversation; and the global explosion of IoT and edge devices–from drone fleets , to toll road sensors, refrigerators, and wind turbines all running on software that needs to be securely managed and updated in a very distributed, real-time manner.
There are two areas I believe are critical for JFrog to focus on as they look to scale their business: education and speed. Education of the broader market on the importance of binaries is critical because too many people think JFrog is just a DevOps company. While JFrog is indeed a leader in DevOps, its focus on binaries positions it to bring a much broader value proposition to both existing and new customers. Speed in the sense that fast growing markets wait for no one. JFrog is not alone in understanding the current market trends and there are plenty of companies that are going after the same problem set. Time to market and growth of market share matters. All too often when customers have settled on a solution they believe is “good enough”, it doesn’t matter if your answer to the problem is better, they are unlikely to make a change until there is a crisis or a natural refresh cycle occurs. Getting ahead of this is important for long term success.
The great news is I believe JFrog is already on top of the opportunities ahead of them. The team is passionate, focused, and aligned. They have clarity of vision; solid, consistent execution on both organic and inorganic opportunities to grow market share and solidify their leadership position. I also feel strongly that JFrog is well positioned financially to be a long-term winner. I am very much looking forward to joining Shlomi Ben Haim and the JFrog team on their continued journey to success.
Q. If you were to sit next to Warren Buffett on a plane from NYC to San Francisco, how would you pitch JFrog and what we offer as a ‘can’t miss’ investment opportunity?
Warren always talks about the importance of focusing on “wonderful companies”, those with better economics and competitive positions. I can’t think of a more wonderful company than JFrog. As co-founder and CEO Shlomi Ben Haim says, “Once You Leap Forward You Won’t Go Back!”
To me it is clear JFrog is currently undervalued by investors and the company has the potential to deliver extraordinary long-term financial returns. While some doubt the company because its stock is currently trading lower market multiples as compared to others in the DevOps space, JFrog has a long track record of strong and profitable growth. More importantly, from an investment perspective, binaries are becoming an increasingly strategic part of a companies’ software supply chain from the data center, up to the cloud, and out to the edge. Not only are binaries important from a DevOps perspective, they are becoming increasingly imperative from a security standpoint because it’s the binaries (not the source code) that ultimately go into a company’s software production environment and live on the IoT devices in all our hands. Effectively managing binaries is critical for ensuring a strong security profile for your organization. JFrog is the clear winner when it comes to binary full lifecycle management today and when coupled with the strong vision and execution of the JFrog team, I believe the company is incredibly well positioned for long term success.