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From The Classroom In India To Silicon Valley: NetApp CEO’s Journey To The Top

‘We didn’t have a TV until I was 15. I never saw a computer,’ George Kurian tells CRN. ‘The short story of my life is you can try out new things.’

Born in Kottayam district of India, NetApp CEO George Kurian never expected he would one day lead a Fortune 500 technology company. In fact, Kurian never saw a computer before moving to the U.S.

“I grew up during a time in India where computing and information technology didn’t exist. We didn’t have a TV until I was 15. I never saw a computer,” said Kurian. “The short story of my life is you can try out new things, never give up and as long as your adaptable and willing to learn from failure you pretty much pick up most things in life.”

Kurian is one of just nine CEOs of Indian origin ruling the tech industry. And, he’s not the only superstar from his family: his brother is Thomas Kurian, the CEO of Google Cloud. So, how did identical twin brothers rise to the top in one of the world’s most competitive, fast-moving industries?

“I must give credit to my parents,” said Kurian at NetApp Insight 2019. “I think they were both phenomenal role models, self-starters. They came up from poor backgrounds and made extraordinary contributions to their communities. They encouraged us to not be afraid. That allowed us to take risks and do things we wanted to do. They always left us with the message that we are incredibly blessed. There are so many people in India who did not have access to the opportunities that I had, so I am always grateful for that.”

Kurian joined NetApp in 2011 and was named CEO in 2015. He was instrumental in creating NetApp’s data fabric strategy, enabling the company to move into a cloud-first business model.

“I always believe in what people call a growth mindset that talent and success is not determined by your innate ability but by persistence and getting up and trying new things and not being afraid to fail,” said Kurian. “We try to do that in the institution at NetApp. We’ve done a lot of innovation over the years because we had the courage to try. We didn’t always get it right the first time, but we didn’t give up the first time we failed.”

Kurian also has made volunteer work a cornerstone of NetApp’s culture. Specifically, Kurian continues to give back to the school in India he attended as a child.

“We’ve always believed that it’s the responsibility of those that have been given a lot to give back and help. We try and do that personally by helping the children at the school I went to …to have meals and have a good lunch everyday that’s important. My dad was one who didn’t have access to a hot lunch and here’s a way to recognize his memory and give back.”

Hear more from Kurian’s interview in CRN’s video.

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