Freshly appointed CEO of Citrix (July 11), David J. Henshall talks to the public and the Citrix community for the first time exclusively on citrixguru.com.  

There have been many changes going on within Citrix, highlighted with the departure of its CEO Kirill Tatarinov in early July. Inevitably, questions have arisen from the Citrix community about the future of the company, the reason behind the leadership changes, and the vision of Citrix’s new leader, David Henshall. Citrixguru.com is excited to share a two-part interview with David–his first public comments as CEO–so the Citrix community can get to know the new CEO better. The first part of the interview is focused on David’s appointment, his vision for the company and Tatarinov‘s legacy at the organization. Read on to learn more now.

Before starting, I’d like to thank David Henshall for his precious time and all Citrix employees who worked with me to make this interview possible. I also like to thank the CTPs who helped me for some questions (especially @JarianGibson).  





First and foremost: congratulations, David, on being appointed CEO of Citrix Systems earlier this month. Can you introduce yourself, and explain your background and career with Citrix?

Thank you. Appreciate the warm welcome. I joined Citrix in 2003 as the CFO, and I’ve spent my entire career working in technology. Prior to joining Citrix, I worked for a number of years in Silicon Valley before relocating to Fort Lauderdale, where I’m based today.

Of course, as the CFO, and then also as the COO, for so many years, a lot of people may assume that I’m just the finance guy, or just the operations guy. In reality, I’ve driven and been a champion for a lot of our strategy and product work, including pushing us to do more with R&D.

I’ve worked in tech for so long, because I absolutely love this industry and the creativity and innovation that we get to do every single day. At Citrix, I’ve found a home for so long, because I truly believe in our mission and the value we provide our customers – I think that’s a mission and value that will continue to resonate in the market for a very long time. I also believe in our people and the unique culture that Citrix is known for, and I see it as part of my responsibility to make sure that our culture stays vibrant around the world for years to come.

Do you have a message for Kirill Tatarinov, your predecessor? And what will your appointment bring to Citrix?

As I would for anyone who has contributed to this company, I would say ‘Thank you.’ When you look at the amazing work Citrix has done over the last five or so years, and how we’ve been moving along this path of transformation, it’s quite astonishing. We’re now at a point where our product portfolio and our ability to execute is the strongest it has ever been, and our customers are demanding more from us than we expected.

So, my vision is to help Citrix move faster, through simplification, focus and empowerment, to make sure that we can keep up with, and even stay ahead of, our customers’ needs. I adapted a great slogan from Facebook, now found on the wall in my office, to basically say: “Nothing at Citrix is someone else’s problem.” It’s a simple but powerful idea about unity and accountability. Having spent more than 14 years here, I know the company well, and I know our customers and partners, so I think we have an incredible opportunity to bring that vision to life.

Nothing at Citrix is someone else’s problem. -David J. Henshall

Citrix had 2 turbulent years with 4 different CEOs. What do you think contributed to the many changes of CEOs over the past 2 years?

Again, when I look at the work we’ve done over the last five years, I see tremendous progress and positive momentum on our transformation as a company. We knew that changing our business to a cloud model, and shifting from a perpetual business to a subscription-based business, would require a lot of work, as any transition does. We’ve been able to leverage the cloud experience of relatively new members of the team, including our Chairman, Bob Calderoni, our CMO, Tim Minahan, our Chief Product Officer, PJ Hough, our SVP, Engineering, Jeroen van Rotterdam and our SVP, Business Operations, Mark Schmitz. We’ve also spent the last year firming our integrated product portfolio and aligning roadmaps. With that foundation, we can focus on accelerating our business in all areas to keep pushing forward on this journey.

As for the number of CEOs, I think that we may be overstating the issue. In reality, Mark had announced his retirement plans far in advance of his transition and Bob’s role was acknowledged as purely “interim” while the Board completed their long search process. The way I see it, we have only had two, me and Kirill.




Your appointment has been praised by former CEO Mark Templeton and many Citrix partners. Having worked a long time with Templeton, what have you learned from him and will that come into play with leading the company?

I think you learn something from everyone you work with along the way, and Mark was a terrific partner. In my overall time at Citrix, I’d say I’ve learned that there are two things that are invaluable for an organization: passion and culture.

You need to be passionate about what you are doing; otherwise, why show up every day? I want to inspire curiosity and a continuous-improvement mindset within Citrix, so everyone is excited to be here and help us solve the problems of the future. And that all translates in a vibrant culture that is necessary for any innovative company to maintain excellence for many years, as Citrix has.

You’ve been working at Citrix for almost 14 years. What does it mean for you to be a Citrite?

This answer really fits with my previous response. It’s all about our culture and our people, who bring a passion to what they do every day. I like our old phrase, “Work hard, play hard.” Because it reminds us that we’re here to do business, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. Being a Citrite is being a part of that spirited community of people, and this is including our partners and customers, who love what they do and have fun doing it.

With being a long time Citrite, how is your point of view when it comes to direction of the company? Will it be more like the Citrix of old, more cloud focused, or combination of both?

When you look at our mission at Citrix, it’s remained largely unchanged for the last 30 years. We connect people and information, and that’s still incredibly relevant today. Our direction doesn’t change, but our business has to – any business has to – to keep up with the pace of change in the world and customer expectations.

When you hear us talk about our cloud transformation, there has been perhaps a misconception that this is strictly a product conversation. My message to the teams has been that cloud transformation is an overall company transformation that requires us to rethink our entire business model, processes and systems, moving from perpetual licensing to more subscription-based solutions. Practically speaking, this is a mindset when it comes to how people think about customer success, moving from a somewhat transactional approach to a continuous-engagement model.

We do have a lot of customers requesting cloud products and subscription services from us. It’s the fastest growing part of our business, and demand has been higher than we expected, but that doesn’t mean we are going to leave behind any customer that wants to stay on-prem. The cloud conversation right now is really a hybrid cloud conversation with very few customers approaching this as an either-or decision. It’s really about bridging where we are today with where our customers want to go, and finding better, more efficient ways to give customers choice with how they operate. My vision is that we stay focused on our mission of connecting people, organizations and things, while staying in front of and adding demonstrable value to the new technologies surfacing that can help us make that happen in the future.




There have been a lot of rumors about an acquisition or a privatization of Citrix for the past few years, and the community is concerned about the future of the company. What can you tell us about Citrix’s future? What is your long-term strategy for Citrix?

In my 14 years at Citrix, there have always been rumors floating around out there. What I always tell the teams about rumors is that we should be flattered; it’s a reflection of our importance within the tech landscape, our great customers and the successful business we have built over last few decades.

However, as a publicly-traded organization, we cannot comment on specific rumors or speculations. However, I can share my vision for the future. I believe that if you don’t know where you are going, there are a million directions you can head that all may be great work, but might not get you closer to where you want to be. I want us to clearly define where we want Citrix to be in the future, and then work backwards to figure out exactly how we’re going to get there. I believe in setting big goals and then setting milestones that everyone can rally around to make those goals happens. Alignment takes work, both in terms of transparency and repetition. We’re still working on a lot of things, so stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

Your presence on social media is currently limited to LinkedIn. Do you plan to create a Twitter handle?

Funny you should mention that: I decided recently to add a new Twitter account, because I want to have a bigger part in external conversations than I’ve had in the past. Things have been just a tad bit busy the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t found my rhythm, but stay tuned. You can find me @DavidJHenshall on Twitter.

 





Stay tuned for part two of the interview, coming on Wednesday, where David will share his vision on Citrix’s cloud strategy, talks about innovation and the future of the Citrix community.