Last October, when it was announced that Bobby Leibrock would become the next CFO of IBM subsidiary Red Hat, finance team members no doubt understood that the open-source developer was coronating not just any IBM veteran but a strategic finance executive who for years had been entrenched along the front lines of IBM’s software acquisition activities.
Leibrock’s M&A resume began around 2006, when IBM acquired content management software developer FileNet for $1.6 billion.
“They asked me to be what was known as a ‘product pricer,’ a role that involved figuring out how to merge FileNet’s portfolio into ours from a pricing standpoint,” explains Leibrock, who notes that along the way he would frequently find himself seated across the table from the acquired company’s management while he stared down at a list of pricing-related questions.Read More
Fast-forward to IBM’s acquisition of security intelligence software developer Q1 Labs in 2011 and Leibrock’s appointment as CFO of the new security software unit that IBM established to house its newly acquired security offerings.
“IBM would buy some 12 to 15 software companies a year, and while the security software sector wasn’t the biggest involved, it was strategic in that it connected IBM’s identity security with its data security portfolio,” recalls Leibrock, who adds that his 19 years at IBM remained largely inside the software lane and seldom if ever crossed over into the tech company’s hardware or professional services businesses.
Thus Leibrock’s call to leadership wasn’t immediate, and his career appetite seems to have been driven perhaps not so much by titles as by challenges.
Still, as he advanced upward within IBM, the CFO path began to come more into focus.
Reports Leibrock: “I wasn’t always planning to be a CFO, but from having had the opportunity to sit across from CFOs, I sort of learned what I wanted to be as a leader through observing both the good and the bad.” –Jack Sweeney
“Although I started my career with a finance degree and in an entry position in finance, I didn’t really set my sights on the role of CFO. I actually looked for challenges at each step that allowed me to have greater influence on the businesses I was part of—and, eventually, my interest grew toward the impact that a CFO can make.” –Bobby Leibrock, CFO, Red Hat
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CFOTL: Tell us about Red Hat … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Leibrock: For about 3 years, I was able to work at arm’s length with Red Hat as I helped IBM to decide on the acquisition and then make its synergies successful on the IBM side. I have just been very intrigued with a number of dimensions. One is the people and the culture here. Then you have the portfolio of market-leading products itself. And then there’s where we’re going, which is very exciting, too.Read More
On the people and culture side of it, Red Hat has just celebrated its 30th birthday, but we’re that 30-year-old who still feels like a kid. We have that start-up mentality, that flare, that open organization. Anyone can send any senior leader an opinion about anything without any consequence—and they do so regularly. When I joined, I got many emails asking me this question or that question from all parts of the 20,000-person team.
Back before the acquisition, Red Hat’s financials showed growth in the teens that produced a billion dollars in cash a year—so it was high-growth and profitable. We’ve really maintained this high-growth, high-value potential, and now we’re executing against it. This is why I was excited to come in.
We have three main industry-leading platforms. Our flagship offering is our Linux product, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Think about this as the software that sat next to a win against the Windows Operating Systems for years. Really, for the public cloud, the hyperscalers, the Amazons, the Microsoft of choice is Linux. Red Hat is at the top of this market with our Linux operating system.
The other two are more emerging parts of the portfolio. One is our Kubernetes product, OpenShift, and the other is our automation product, Ansible. All of these are open-source—that’s the unique part about this. They’re open-source products for which we provide the subscription and run support at an enterprise level. The Ansible product is a great product that automates tasks around the data center. OpenShift, our Kubernetes platform, has just hit a billion dollars, which is a very important milestone for any product. This is really key to where we’re headed as we go forward.
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