Key Takeaways

  • Establishing and embodying core values is crucial for fostering a strong organizational culture. It's not just about having values; it's about living by them consistently.
  • Encouraging open communication, feedback loops, and accountability throughout the organization promotes innovation, growth, and alignment with company values.
  • Viewing failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback is essential for rapid improvement and organizational resilience. Integrity and humility play key roles in this process.
  • Effective leadership involves empowering teams, fostering autonomy, and actively participating in problem-solving. Leadership isn't confined to executives; anyone can inspire change.
  • Contributing to the community and giving back is integral to a company's ethos. Community involvement fosters team cohesion, generosity, and a sense of purpose.
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is ethically important and strengthens the company. Employee resource groups and strategic investments in development support this goal.
  • Utilizing technologies like AI responsibly requires a balance between innovation and ethical considerations. Education and mentorship are vital for navigating technological advancements.


In this episode of The Leader Show with Lou Carter interviews Sanjay Poonen, CEO and President of Cohesity. Sanjay delves into Cohesity’s distinct culture and values that have earned it recognition as one of the Most Loved Workplaces. 

He underscores the significance of upholding Cohesity’s R-A-D-I-O values: Respect, Attitude, Delivery, Integrity, Obsession that helped foster a culture of feedback, growth, and accountability at the company. Additionally, Sanjay emphasizes the importance of accessible leadership, diversity, and inclusion, alongside Cohesity’s commitment to responsible AI and employee development.

Executive Summary

Hello, everyone, and a warm welcome to another exciting episode of The Leader Show with Lou Carter. Sanjay Poonen, CEO and President of Cohesity, is joining us today. Cohesity specializes in creating software solutions that enable IT experts to back up, manage, and analyze data across various systems or cloud services. It is ranked number 36th in the 2023 Global Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces.

As for Sanjay, he has a history of scaling businesses and developing strong teams. Starting his career with pivotal positions at Microsoft and Apple, Sanjay boasts an impressive educational background with an MBA from Harvard, a Master’s degree from Stanford, and a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth. His expertise and leadership are further recognized through his role on the board of Philips.

With that said, let’s find out what makes Cohesity a Most Loved Workplace®.

The Key To Cohesity’s Esteemed Culture

Firstly, Lou expresses eagerness to delve into Sanjay’s background, Cohesity’s RADIO values, and its recognition as a Most Loved Workplace. Sanjay, joining Cohesity 18 months prior, credits founder Mohit Aron for establishing the RADIO principles: Respect, Attitude, Delivery, Integrity, and Obsession. 

He emphasizes not the novelty of these values but the importance of embodying them to sustain a strong corporate culture, drawing lessons from both successful and unsuccessful companies. His focus has been on living by these values to foster Cohesity’s esteemed culture.

The Transformational Power Of Accountability And Feedback In Cohesity’s Success

Next, Sanjay discusses the importance of not just espousing values but living by them, illustrating this through leadership classes he has conducted for over 20 years across various companies. He highlights a revealing exercise where he presents values that seem universally admirable, only to reveal they belonged to Enron, underscoring the gap between professing values and actually embodying them. 

Sanjay stresses the importance of self-assessment within the company, encouraging teams to rate how well they think they adhere to Cohesity’s RADIO values and to take constructive action based on these reflections. He believes that listening to feedback from both employees and customers is vital for fostering product innovation and customer obsession, which, combined with integrity, forms the foundation of a great company.

The Impact Of Real-Time Feedback And Growth Mindset At Cohesity

After that, Sanjay reflects on the significance of continuous, real-time feedback in leadership and management, moving beyond traditional annual or semi-annual reviews. He emphasizes the importance of immediate feedback after key meetings and presentations, including those with the board of directors, to foster a culture of learning and improvement. 

Sanjay values openness to constructive criticism, especially from those in lower positions, to counteract the tendency of individuals to defer excessively to those in leadership roles. He advocates for a growth mindset, influenced by Carol Dweck’s work, suggesting that a willingness to learn and adapt is crucial for personal and organizational development. 

According to Sanjay, this approach has shaped his leadership style and contributed to the evolution and transformation of his company’s culture.

The Path To Rapid Learning And Success In Innovation And Leadership

Moving on, Lou discusses the concept of “Tabula Rasa,” or starting fresh, as a means to transition from success to either another success or a quick failure. He mentions that the idea isn’t to fail repeatedly but to fail quickly in order to achieve success sooner. This approach is about learning from failures and making necessary adjustments, not about being labeled a success or a failure. 

Lou then asks Sanjay if this concept of quick failure for rapid learning and improvement has been observed in engineering and product development contexts, highlighting its relevance across different fields.

Sanjay responds by emphasizing learning from failure, integrity, and servant leadership. He shares his personal journey, highlighting the invaluable lessons from lows more than highs. He advocates for acknowledging failures, maintaining humility and hunger, and having zero tolerance for lack of integrity, citing Warren Buffet’s criteria for selecting people: energy, intelligence, and integrity, with the latter being crucial. 

Furthermore, Sanjay stresses the importance of integrity starting at the top, modeling servant leadership to invert the traditional hierarchy, thereby prioritizing frontline workers. He agrees with Lou on the significance of ensuring integrity within the company to align actions with espoused values, reflecting on Enron’s failure as a lack of integrity at the top. 

Sanjay concludes by underscoring the importance of accessibility and communication between executives and frontline employees, learning the most about the company through interactions with its root-level workers.

Fostering Growth Through Failure: Building A Culture Of Accountability And Empathy

In the same vein, Sanjay emphasizes the importance of standing by people through successes and failures, underscoring the value of creating a safe environment for failure to foster growth and improvement. He believes in balancing feedback, accountability, and growth, advocating for empathy, self-awareness, and humility in leadership. 

Inspired by leaders like Satya Nadella and embracing a growth mindset, Sanjay highlights the importance of a feedback loop and teachable moments, including private settings for discussing failures without public humiliation. 

Accountability extends to all levels, with a culture that celebrates successes widely and examines failures privately to ensure learning and avoid repetition. This approach, according to Sanjay, encourages a learning organization where failures are not feared but are seen as opportunities for improvement and team cohesion.

Empowering Leadership: Lessons From Satya Nadella’s Strategic Vision

Sanjay highlights the transformative leadership of Satya Nadella at Microsoft, attributing the company’s remarkable growth and market success to Nadella’s strategic vision and execution. 

He emphasizes that leadership qualities are not confined to top executives; anyone can inspire change and influence others, regardless of their position. Sanjay stresses the importance of being a solutions-oriented leader, one who doesn’t just present problems but also proposes and implements solutions. 

This approach involves being actively involved in problem-solving, offering guidance without taking over, and empowering teams to find their own solutions. Such leadership fosters a culture of autonomy, innovation, and accountability, where successes are celebrated, and individuals are encouraged to grow and potentially lead elsewhere. It contributes to a legacy of effective leadership and organizational growth.

Redefining History: Honoring Our Collective Story And Community Contribution

Moving on, Lou suggests redefining “history” as “our story” to emphasize the collective contributions and achievements of individuals throughout time. He highlights the importance of acknowledging and honoring the people who have supported and guided us, including mentors and guides. 

Sanjay follows up by elaborating on the importance of community involvement and giving back, positioning it as integral to Cohesity’s ethos alongside customer obsession. He underlines the dual engines driving the company: product innovation and customer obsession, with community engagement as another foundational pillar. 

Additionally, Sanjay encourages voluntary participation in community service, particularly highlighting initiatives during Thanksgiving and through various charitable organizations. He believes these activities not only foster team building and reveal team members’ personal attributes but also cultivate a culture of generosity. It reinforces the belief that giving is more rewarding than receiving, thus strengthening the team’s cohesion and sense of purpose.

The Role Of Employee Resource Groups And Strategic Investments In Development

Subsequently, Sanjay discusses the importance of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in fostering a diverse and inclusive culture at Cohesity. He views ERGs as platforms for support and engagement in diversity, inclusion, and community service, emphasizing the concept of citizen leadership and philanthropy. 

Sanjay strongly believes in the significant impact of having diverse voices in the workplace, including women and underrepresented minorities, not just for filling quotas but for strengthening the company. He highlights efforts to create role models at senior levels and ensure the company is welcoming and inclusive for all, including his own daughter. 

Additionally, Sanjay mentions Cohesity’s recent strategic M&A move to expand and strengthen its market position. He stresses the importance of investing in employees’ development, even during economic downturns, by offering training and learning opportunities, underscoring the value of a learning organization.

Cohesity’s Approach To AI And Leadership Development

Towards the end of the episode, Sanjay discusses the importance of responsibly harnessing the power of AI, likening its potential to both beneficial and destructive forces. He highlights Cohesity’s commitment to responsible AI development through its innovative project, Gaia, which aims to revolutionize its industry with its groundbreaking approach. 

Sanjay’s dedication to leadership development is further emphasized through his personal involvement in the Leadership Now courses, reflecting his belief in the role of education and mentorship in fostering future leaders.

Thank you for your time!


Lou Carter : As CEO and President of Cohesity, ranked number 36th on 2023 Global Top 100 Most Loved Workplaces. Sanjay Poonen leads the company in revolutionizing data security and management with over 25 years of experience, including transformative roles at VMware and SAP.

Sanjay has a history of scaling businesses and developing strong teams. He began his career at Microsoft and Apple, holds an MBA from Harvard, a Master's from Stanford, and a Bachelor's from Dartmouth and serves on the board of Philips.

Today, I'll talk with Sanjay about the unique culture and RADIO values at Cohesity, exploring why employees choose and love to work at one of the world's Most Loved Workplaces. Great to be here on The Leader Show today with Sanjay. Sanjay, welcome to the Leader Show today.

Sanjay Poonen : Thank you, Lou, pleasure to be with you on your show. Thank you for having me.

LC : I can't wait to learn more about you and also about Cohesity, your RADIO values, what makes you a Most Loved Workplace and really what you do in the world. It's so important, the RADIO values, there's a lot to dig into. So let's start. So today, let's talk about Cohesity and about you. What drove you to create the culture values and the Cohesity itself? Tell me more about that.

The Cohesity Culture Journey Through RADIO Principles [01:40]

SP : Quite frankly, as I joined here 18 months ago, the RADIO values existed by a founder. He's a wonderful gentleman, Mohit Aron. Respect, having a positive attitude focused on delivery, integrity, obsession. That's the R-A-D-I-O on RADIO. So I just kind of took it and I think the most important thing we all learned from many companies, you look back at great companies who have sustained great culture, and even some companies at Enron that did not sustain great culture is the more important thing, isn't the acronym, it's living by those values. So I just basically took the value and said I like them. I like things like integrity, I like things like customer obsession. I like things like delivery. Let's live by them. And that's really what I've sought to do. Not reinvent the wheel, but really live by them. And that's really been my story in my 20-30 years in the technology world and we've been very fortunate to create and cultivate a very strong culture at Cohesity.

LC : It's interesting, Sanjay, what you say about Live by Them. The second part of the Love Workplace Index, the LWI is does the company live by the values that it espouses, right? Putting it on the wall, but do we live it? So tell me more about that, about how the living of the values, how that's important to you, perhaps even in your own life.

Cultivating Authentic Leadership And Cultural Integrity [02:52]

SP : Lou, you know what, when I joined, I do leadership classes for my managers and individuals. I've done that for 20 years, way back from my Informatica and then Symantec and then SAP and VMware days. We get many of our managers tree, I put a slide up that has a set of values that I ask people to guess which company it's, it has very high motherhood and apple pie statements.

They all guess it's Apple, it's Disney, it's Nike. And I say, no, it's actually Enron. When I show that to them, their jaws drop. I said, the point is not having things on paper. It's being able to live by them. Then I asked our teams to rate ourselves first to the executive team. How do we rate ourselves on each of those on a scale of one to 10, that's ourselves, and then how would others rate us?

And we looked in the R-A-D-I-O as to which areas we scored well as we thought and others in our company would rate us and where we scored poorly in our own estimation. And I said, let's go fix it. So it's very simple in that fashion. I think life as a way of having reflection. Sometimes people will tell you in our values where we're doing well and there's always feedback is the greatest gift.

And I think when we listen to folks who can give us statues and then we listen to our customers, I mean the two core goals of what I've sought to drive every company I've been involved in are product innovation. I'm an engineering person at core and customer obsession. So when you have those two core engines on top of a bedrock of incredible integrity, I think you build a great company.

LC : That concept of feedback as gift is so important. I'm giving you a gift not to hurt or harm you with something that perhaps you did wrong, which is not bad to talk about anyway, but to give you to do retrospective as we say in engineering or feed forward, feeding forward into the model, into the system so that it continuously adapts and evolves and in management, being a Baker scholar at HBS, you know how important that is to feed forward in adapting and growing with so many models out there from Deming to continuous improvement models, it's so important and it's not without application to leadership, it's not without application to leadership.

Have you seen that evolve in your own leadership and within your team where feedforward where continuous feedback helps to evolve and transform your company and culture?

Embracing Growth Mindset For Organizational Learning [05:11]

SP : Yeah, I think the whole age of sort of once a year reviews maybe in twice a year reviews. I mean, that's okay. We got to do that for formality of HR processes, but I'm a big believer at just point about real-time feedback. Okay, so I'm in a meeting, let's just start with me. I always start with myself. It's just a board meeting I've presented to the board. I want real time feedback from the chair of the board.

How did it go? What did I do well? What did our team do well right there, while it's tell them maybe it's the last 15 minutes of the board meeting we carve out or he calls me off of the board meeting and then right off the meeting I'd like to give feedback to those who presented. And the same way when it's important, maybe it's an important presentation, a keynote that I'm doing. I want to get live feedback right away from the people who grow.

And you have to have a high tolerance to get negative feedback because the higher up you are, more people are predisposed to kiss up to you and you want to allow a tremendous amount of opportunity for people to be absolutely critical and especially critical up. And when you allow that to happen and when people feel comfortable, you build a learning organization. I'm all about growth mindset. Carol Dweck's book had a tremendous impact in my life, which is when you have a know-it-all attitude, you're going to be small. But when you have a learn-it-all attitude, you're going to be big.

LC : Beginning, fresh from the start. Tabula Rasa gives us a chance to go from a success that we've had to another success or failure failing fast. This concept, people tend to think, oh, let's fail over and over again. It's not about failing over and over again. It's about failing fast so you can get to success.

Succeeding and failing doesn't mean you have to be a success or a failure. It means you have to learn from those failures and redo them. In engineering, have you seen this at play and also within just product development in general?

The Indispensable Lessons From Failure And Integrity [06:53]

SP : Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when I tell my own life story, sometimes in our leadership classes I tell people to plot their life journey, just a simple X axis this time and Y axis is the ups and downs of their life. And I start by exemplifying my own story from the point of, and everybody thinks my life is one up and to the right. No, it's not true. If you heard my story, there are lots of trusts, there's values, and I'm here to tell you that I learned a lot more in the values of my life and the trusts that didn't last forever than the peaks.

And anybody who tells you they're up into the right is kidding yourself, or I want to meet that person or they're lying. All of us, I look for people who failed and can be honest about it. Obviously if you're continually failing then there's a problem, but the lessons of what you learned from your failure are tremendously important to keep you humble and hungry and that's super important.

Another example is just integrity. We need to have a low tolerance for lack, low integrity. I love Warren Buffet's line. He said he looks for three qualities in people. Number one is energy, that's passion. Number two is edge, that's sort of intelligence. And the third is integrity. And he said, if you don't have the third, the first two will kill you.

And that's another area where we want to teach our organization to not tolerate lack of integrity. That's actually one where I want to fail quickly and remove people from an organization who don't have high integrity. They're often the bad apple that's going to bring the entire basket down.

LC : You mentioned Enron before. I thought that was brilliant because Enron could very well have been a Most Love Workplace. It could very well have had all of these wonderful attributes of integrity, of ethics, of alignment, of values and vision, and people just didn't know or perhaps did know that at the top there was something incredibly wrong. It's something incredibly wrong. And that's really what you're saying is we must ensure integrity inside of our company so that it is aligned truly with the actions and behaviors of what we're espousing.

SP : Yeah, I'd agree. I mean think there was a colossal loss of integrity at the top. And I think integrity has to start at the top. I often model what I call servant leadership. If we as invert the pyramid, everyone's sort of thinking what's the CEO going to command and control down the organization? And I show this picture of a set of birds sitting on various different levels of a tree and the chief bird sitting at the top of the tree and what do you think the birds at the bottom of the tree are looking up and seeing crap falling downhill. Okay, I'm just being PG 13 on your show.

The fact of the matter is when you invert the tree and the chief bird that's at the top of tree says, listen, I'm actually serving that engineer who's writing code or that rep who's selling code and then software company. We have two engines, people who write code and to sell code. And when you really realize the power of your organization is at the bottom of the pyramid, you inverted and all the layers in between we're kind of administrative layers that are helping. But the power of an organization never forget is at the root level of the company.

LC : We found that 80 to 85% of the Glassdoor, Indeed reviews come from the front line. So the other 15 whatever percent, 20% is actually the top executives. Why? Because we're talking to them all the time. We're connected to them all the time. We're missing this enormous 80-85% of people who are making these horrible comments because of the lack of communication.

SP : I think that's so true. I think Jack Welch used to say, if you're an executive, you need to count the number of times people at the field level are calling you versus you calling them. It's a good index. I've always thought about that. If I'm connected to the reps of this company to the engineers of the company and they feel so accessible that they can email or call me, I can't probably offer them service as the company gets bigger.

But at our size, I need to be accessible to the root levels of the organization. I love sometimes not just the executive staff meetings we do every week, but I love the we call Coffee Corner. We do 'em over virtual or physical meetings where I just meet with the first level leaf level people in the company. I learned the most, Lou, about our company in those meetings.

LC : That's the thing, the frontline staying the frontline. Jack always talked about that. I worked with Jack 20 years ago, I'll never forget sitting with him. He was doing a satellite broadcast and learning satellite broadcast. And he said this to me, and I think you see it too so far too often we find that companies blame and scapegoat leaders. We say, we can't really work with you anymore and we're to forget about all of the rest of these times.

So he said, stick by your people when they succeed and stick by them even more when they fail. Right? And isn't that important to what Jack's talking about there too in what you're saying is that we need to get in the front lines accept failure so they feel like they're safe to fail and do better and know that we're there, have their backs and can help them succeed even more for our customers.

So, we're not in this kind of soup of feeling like they'll be harmed or hurt for doing something wrong. So being there with them, leading them and encouraging them to comfortably share negative feedback seems very important. That's actually a question here for you. So as a leader, if you trust that employees encourage them to comfortably share, how do you do that to share negative feedback with employees? A good question there Scott Baxt.

Balancing Feedback, Accountability, And Growth [12:07]

SP : I think, listen, it really is a function of how much empathy, how much self-awareness, how much humility you have. When I look at leaders today that I admire people like Satya Nadella, Microsoft who's a big fan of the growth mindset, I think I probably learned about the growth mindset from him. I've known him for 15 years. He's a great friend. I think when I watched leaders who are welcoming of feedback, we talked several times about feedback being a loop.

Now I think when you fail you need to have a teachable moment all the way up to the top. I mean listen, you have to have a private feedback moment where people realize in many cases, listen, there is a negative situation that happened. Maybe we're late on a product release or we lost a deal. And you want to do that feedback in private it be a private certainly shouldn't be a public as they call public execution moment where everyone sort of hung out to dry or this garage paddle spanking moment.

That's just not appropriate enough. That could happen in the army of the past, but I think that general patent style of management is done. But in a private learning session, even including the CEO, we have to learn. If we don't have a postmortem where in the failing fast, we learn from it, we just perpetuate. And then you don't have a culture of accountability. So part of what needs to be balanced in this fail fast culture is also accountability all the way up to the top. And my view is I look at failures in a mirror and I look at success through a glass.

In other words, when there's success, we celebrate it widely and everyone hears about it and the lowest level person gets recognized. I'll give you an example. We have win-loss reports of deals. I want the win reports to be broad and I want the loss reports to be narrow just so that people can not be having their nose smelling that loss and feeling shamed of no, this shouldn't be victim shaming or loss, but privately we need to have a learning moment.

If not, we'll keep losing. And I think the modern military even today works in that fashion. There is a notion of how we improve together as a team. We encourage each other, but at the end of the day, we are a learning organization to get better when failure happens, we don't treat failure as a continued malaise that's going to allow the organization to decay.

LC : You mentioned your friend at Microsoft Satya Nadella. He was the example really where he was scapegoated. He should not have been. He was massively successful and he took on the philosophy that you both ascribed to actually you're both, I can see why you're friends and that really has been successful for him, hasn't it? I mean in his leadership.

Inspiring Change And Cultivating Solutions-Oriented Teams [14:36]

SP : Oh, Absolutely! Look at the transformation of Microsoft. I mean it's probably 10 or 20 x the share price, market cap. Now the second biggest market cap company in the world, iconic move into the cloud and security and now agenda of AI. You got to respect what he's done. I think he's put himself right in the same league as Bill Gates who founded the company in terms of being one of the greatest CEOs, not just of that company, but I think as an Indian American, we're all very proud of him.

And the point of the matter is for people listening to the show, you can be your own Satya. I mean you don't have to be the CEO of Microsoft to be a leader. I tell people leadership is about getting people to follow them. I don’t know if it's Peter Drucker who says this leadership is about getting people to follow you doing what they don't want to do and loving it.

You can be a leader without having a large group of people. You have that sort of innate pipe piper mindset, which is I'm going to initiate change. I'm going to be a role model for that change. I'm going to convince people even if they don't report to me. I love people who are often the most hardworking, leadership-driven people and have zero people reporting to 'em. Those are the folks I seek out inside the company.

Of course, I want to grow them responsibility, put leadership underneath them, put management underneath them. But those skills are ones that you can develop before having a large organization. It's the power of persuasion. You need to be able to convince people to do something new who don't report to you. And that comes by building up your logic, your case studies, all the kinds of things, working a coalition, all these are very important skills for an organization to build as you build up a cadre of very sustained leaders.

LC : And you can't do that without solutions oriented leaders these days. You think back to a lot of presidential administrations and every president that I've known of and I've studied says this simple thing to me, which is when people come to me with problems, time and again, okay, that's good. I can have any problem and analyze for me any day of the world, great. It's so wonderful that you consulted to me the problem. That person can go away in my cabinet. What I want is that person to come in and give me a solution and say they'll take care of it and make it work because I've got a million things I have to do. We want more of those people on our team.

SP : For the first few times you're getting in the trenches and you're solving things and then people start to pick up, wow, every tough problem in a company is like a 500 piece Excel puzzle. And I think in the first few times as a leader, you can't just say, well go off and solve it. You have to participate in those first few meetings, listening, suggesting a few things, saying, okay, got it. I don't have the answer here, but here are a few thoughts. Why don't you go away and think about it? And before you know it, even if it's a complex puzzle, they've solved it, but all you have done there was you got in the trenches and you were with them. It's a little like a kid, right? A kid's trying to solve an important part or maybe you've given them a chore to do and they're finding it hard to do.

And then you step in as a parent, you help them, they still get it done, which was their responsibility, but you help them and you may not have even done more than 10% of what was needed, but just being there was an emotional uplift and adrenaline shot to that team solving it. Now at some point in time, you're able to pull away because that team self started. But I think at periodic times, a leader has to, I call it helicopter leadership.

You have to be at 50,000 feet level and then you've got to bubble down and not solve it for them, but be there in the trenches with them and then bubble back up. And then when they solve it, give them the credit. When you exercise that type of leadership, people are like, listen, when I need help, the CEO's there to help me, not because he or she's trying to take credit for it.

He's trying to help, generally help. And then sometimes once it happens is people leave the company and they go on and do other things that are big. Celebrate that. If somebody leaves my company and becomes a CEO of another company, I've always said there's no success without successors. And man, I want to create a whole like Jack Welsh did of CEOs in this industry that were in the Poonen school of leadership because I was in the, I don't know, Pat Gelsinger was my boss at VMware, and then Bill McDermott was my boss at SAP and John Thompson at Symantec. And I was so fortunate to learn from people. I get to learn from people like Satya Nadela who was a friend of mine, Andy Jassy, and Amazon was my classmate at business school. So I think whoever your role models are at some point in time, those become your story and you have to both teach and start learning at some point in time. If you've been learning, you have to start giving back and teaching.

LC : We should change the word history, his-story to our story, right? Because it really is about that. It's the people along the way that have helped build this up and those that we give back to. Pay it forward is an enormously powerful model of giving back, of giving honor to those who have helped us get to where we are, our mentors, our gurus for that matter that we can bring with us when it's showtime.

Building Community And Teamwork: Cohesity’s Commitment To Giving Back [19:25]

SP : Of the ways we try to facilitate that, Lou, is to be very active in our community. I mean, to me, customer obsession is not just about customers, but also community obsession. So I talked about the two engines that fuel Cohesity and the companies have been involved in our product innovation because I'm an engineer at heart and customer obsession, but I think of another C other than the customer's community.

And I encourage our company just on a voluntary basis. No, this one's not obligatory serving the customer and innovating is obligatory of the company, but especially in November, which is Thanksgiving time here in the US. But there's other times in other parts of the world. To get involved in your community, we serve in Feeding America Second Harvest here in the Bay Area and pack fruit, or we go to the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen and help.

There's another organization called City Team that serves homeless people. You pick your favorite charity that you want to serve and get a group of people, 5, 10, 15 people and get them to serve the community together with you in that group, it's probably four, eight hours, maybe one day a year or maybe three, four times a year. Gosh, it's an incredible way, Lou, to build teamwork.

But you also discover things about people, and I've always believed it's more blessed to give than receive. In that giving, you actually develop a great amount of joy and you build a better fabric of your team.

LC : Absolutely. That goes to another topic, which is employee resource groups. These communities that are formed, the volunteer group you have is an employee resource. And having those enables us to see the power of how we can feel connected, not just to our ERGs, but to the larger company because of your giving that honor to who we are as individuals. Tell us more about those at your ERGs.

Cultivating A Culture Of Learning And Diversity At Cohesity [21:02]

SP : Yeah, I think what we try to do the resource groups is really make them a bastion of support, folks who can be involved in tying. For example, we have a lot of folks who are passionate about diversity inclusion, about serving in the community, about various different causes, and I almost call it sort of citizen leadership, citizen philanthropy. I don't want to force people to fund a charitable cause that I care about.

At some point in time, we'll do matching. We're not yet at the stage where we can afford to match those, but in previous companies we've had matched, we basically have a very, at that point, we'll have a very large database of causes and then resource groups that can be passionate about certain cause. Obviously it has to be legitimate. It can't be some, you know [inaudible] cause that's not something that the government respects and so on and so on.

But let's say it's a legitimate cause. We want resource groups to first off galvanize people within the company about a particular cause. I was very involved at VMware with the African-American community. I helped them. I helped the Latino community, I helped a number of other communities, and we are smaller at Cohesity, but we're building that same level of fabric because I fundamentally believe that this isn't just diversity for some kind of quota and numbers perspective.

It's about fundamentally my belief that having more women in the workplace or more underrepresented minorities in the workplace makes us a stronger company. I want my daughter, here's kind of a fundamental eyeopener. I grew up in a family with four boys. I didn't have sisters, but I want my daughter to feel like VMware is a place, a Cohesity is a place, or SAP is a place. All the companies I worked at that she wants to work at, and if she comes into work one day at Cohesity, spends some time there and says, dad, this is a whole bunch of men.

I don't feel welcome here because there's only 10% of me here or only 15% of me, and there's 50% of me in society, but there's only some small percentage. So from my perspective, you have to create both percentages that matter so that people can see that's the numbers of it, but you also want to create competent people, not just because they were a particular percentage in a minority group, but you want to also create role models at senior levels.

When we look at the senior levels of the company, we want those resource groups to be able to point and say, look at this leader of the company who exemplifies our values. And that's kind of the way in which we sought to build a culture. It's what I experienced at both SAP and VMware. And then of course, I've tweaked it a little bit in terms of building every company's unique.

You can't take exactly the cookie cutter of what worked for you in previous companies. I've had to build, for example, on top of RADIO values here. So we nuance it a little bit, but I've been very fortunate. This is a fantastic company of 2,000 odd individuals. As you probably heard in the press, we've just announced a fairly strategic M&A move to combine with Veritas that will get us to be an even bigger company and a leader in the economy of where we play.

So exciting times ahead of us with Cohesity, but I think this recognition of being a Most Loved Workplace is very important because we want the current employee set and the ones coming in to always feel you're working for a great company.

LC : That's the key, what you just said, Sanjay, to always feel you're working for a great company, setting it up for how we want the world to be for our children. I love how you said that so that we're truly giving that care attention toward people's careers. That's another thing actually, Jack says. He said, never work for a company that doesn't care about your career, right? You care about people's careers. You care about different resource groups. You care about feeding forward and listening and being a part of everybody's.

SP : I can pick on one thing you just said. Even during downtimes, research has shown, and certainly our survey research insight, our company has shown, but I've seen a lot of management research that even in downtimes, let's say you have to, during a down economy, keep employees salaries flat. If you invest in them, you train them, you get them ready.

So one of the things I've sought to do as role modeling, that is I teach leadership development classes myself. It's called Leadership Now. I've probably put about 3-4,000 people through that class over the 20 years that I've been doing it since 2004, 20 years at Informatica, Symantec, SAP, VMware, now Cohesity, and I don't outsource that to some HR consultant. They're good people who could do that, but I want to teach that for 4, 6, 8 hours, block that time out and do it, and then I ask people to exemplify that themselves.

When you invest in people right now, for example, it's an AI revolution. I want everybody in our company to learn about generative AI. We're going to help teach 'em. We're going to put 'em through classes. Some of that are going to be taught by internal people. Our founder, Mohit knows a lot about generative AI. He's going to teach some classes on that.

So we're going to basically create that learning organization. When you do that, Lou people appreciate it. We happen to be in an actually advancing economy now, so it's good. But during tough times, I tell all leaders, invest in your people.

LC : No doubt with the gen AI revolution, it's essential. You mentioned that one employee in your company who is alone, but they're still leading and they don't need a massive amount of employees to do that. There is the AI billionaire today, meaning that one person who can generate a billion dollars on their own, right? So if that's the potential, we really must invest in AI leader, dev as soon as possible, and it looks like you're doing just that too.

Championing Responsible AI: Cohesity's Innovative Leap With Gaia [26:29]

SP : Do it in a responsible way. One of the things, AI is a little bit like fire. It can keep us warm. It could burn down a house, and there's so much talk about this. We could have a whole different show just on responsible AI, but one of the things that we're emphasizing is responsible AI. We have obviously some incredible innovation we announced last week called Gaia. That's patent pending. It's just going to blow away our industry and its innovation. But part of the tenet of Gaia is responsible AI.

LC : It's outstanding. It's outstanding where you're doing. I'm going get over to your Leadership Now courses with Sanjay Poonen. It sounds like a great leadership course that you've been putting a great deal of your effort and time into, which shows a lot about who you are as a leader.

Truly awesome. Sanjay Poonen here on the Newsweek Leader show today, Most Loved Workplace, a Cohesity. If you'd like to check out more, first of all, to apply as well to Cohesity and become part of this awesome team and get an incredible leadership education and be part of this new future, check out Cohesity and Most Love Workplace, absolutely amazing today.

Sanjay found very few leaders like you who are truly dedicated inside of this essence of what leadership is all about. Nobody better to do it than you. Sanjay, thanks for joining us here today.

SP : Tremendous honor and thank you for awarding us this position. We take it with a great amount of humility and hunger and want to keep being a great place to work.