Zscaler CEO Jay Chaudhry reminisces about his life journey and shares his mantra for success



In a career spanning several decades, entrepreneur Jay Chaudhry took several quantum leaps – from a software engineer to selling computer products before he finally found his calling: an entrepreneur excelling in launching, and nurturing successful startups.

One of the keynote speakers at the 10th anniversary of the non-profit Indiaspora conference held Oct 14-16, at Hayes Mansion in San Jose, California, Chaudhry said, “None of my business ventures were solely to make money, they were set up to make a difference and if you do good things in life, money follows.”

Chaudhry is an Indian-American billionaire entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of cloud security company Zscaler. The seasoned and successful entrepreneur and CEO has founded a series of successful companies, including AirDefense, CipherTrust, CoreHarbor, Secure IT, and Zscaler.

Known for introducing visionary innovations that address the demand for securely enabling emerging technologies, such as the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange for distributed and highly mobile enterprises, his work in the IT security sector has made him a trusted advisor for many enterprises’ CIOs and CISOs.

Chaudhry has more than 25 years of security industry expertise, including engineering, sales, marketing, and management experiences with leading enterprises, such as IBM, NCR, and Unisys. Prior to founding Zscaler in 2008, Chaudhry founded and led AirDefense, a wireless security pioneer, before its acquisition by Motorola. From 2000 to 2006, Chaudhry founded and led CipherTrust, the industry’s first email security gateway, before its merger with Secure Computing. Chaudhry also founded and led CoreHarbor, a managed e-commerce solution, before it was acquired by USi/AT&T. In 1996, Chaudhry founded and led his first company, SecureIT, the first pure-play Internet security service, before it was acquired by VeriSign in 1998.

Honored twice as an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year (Southeast USA)” and “Entrepreneur of the Year (Silicon Valley)”, he has also received recognition as InformationWeek’s “Innovator & Influencer”, SC Magazine’s “Market Entrepreneur”, and two awards from IIT BHU Varanasi as “Alumnus of the Year” and “Alumnus of the Century in Making”. Chaudhry earned his MBA and his MS in Computer Engineering and Industrial Engineering from the University of Cincinnati and his BTech in Electronics Engineering from IIT BHU Varanasi. Additionally, Chaudhry has completed the Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School.

When asked about whether there had been any down moments during the engaging journey of excellence, Chaudhry said that he got his first job in IBM’s sales division. “I really didn’t know how to sell. I tried many times but nobody would listen. As I was making no headway, I came across a few Indian names and then I picked up the phone book and highlighted 300 Indians, thinking that they will be more sympathetic,” he held the audience spellbound as he recounted his professional journey.

Sharing his learnings along this enriching experience as a sales executive, he said: “There will be 100 calls where people will hang up on you, and then there will be one call that changes everything, gives you hope and inspiration.”

As advice to wannabe sales executives, he said that they need to believe in what they are selling. “Once you have belief and conviction because you know your stuff then it becomes easier. after wasting some months, I realized I was talking to the wrong people and then I started approaching the heads of securities. If you talk to 10 security heads, seven will say you are crazy, two will say you have something interesting to say but I am not ready for it, and one will say what an exciting and creative new idea. “That one yes will make you forget that you had to face nine persons who failed to take advantage of something special that you had to offer. Then you move forward.”

On family life and sleep, he said: “If you want to have a happy life then get your spouse involved in business with you. Good health is an important requirement for a good life and a work-life balance. If you don’t have good health nothing matters. Mental health has more to do with the family while physical health is dependent on good food, good exercise, and a good night’s sleep. Most of the time I follow these rules unless my travel disrupts my schedule.”

Chaudhry’s journey began in a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas and took him to Silicon Valley. “Sometimes it seems more like a dream than real life. I have been lucky all along the way,” he said. The biggest asset he had in his childhood was a desire to learn. “Books became my best friends. I loved to read, loved to learn, and whatever book I came across I devoured. My high school had a small library and I ended up reading all the books that were there.”

Being a good student because of hard work Chaudhry became the number 1 student in his school and later his university too. His academic brilliance impressed his teachers who were only too eager to help him along the way. “I was the number 1 student across universities in Himachal Pradesh. I then decided to pursue engineering. After getting into IIT I chose electronics engineering.”

“The biggest shock or challenge was the English language. There were many who made fun of me. I resolved to act on it. There were students in the institute who needed help in maths and science. I helped them out in return for their assistance in improving my English and my communication and presentation skills. Good communication and presentation skills are important for every part of life. That’s the lesson I learned at IIT and kept working on it even when I came to the US. That has helped me a great deal,” Chaudhry recounted.

His shift from engineering to business was quite by accident, he said. “After doing engineering I started software development and I worked for a small company. That’s when I realized I enjoy talking to people rather than writing codes in front of a computer all day long. That’s when I moved to sales and marketing. That helped me a lot and gave me exposure to what I wanted.”

During this phase of his life, he witnessed the launch of premier startups and successful business ventures which inspired him to take the next quantum leap that took his career to new heights and honed his abilities as an entrepreneur to perfection. “Seeing Intel and Netscape kick off, I got inspired and thought if they can do it, why can’t I? My love for reading again came to my aid and I read up all about these companies as I prepared for my foray into business. My wife Jyoti who is from a finance background ably supported me.”

“The ability to take risks is fundamental to doing something worthwhile. We quit our jobs and took the plunge and floated a startup. It became successful rather quickly and that started us up. We set up several start-ups all of which became successful. If I can do it, you can do it too. It is all about challenging yourself and being passionate about your convictions,” he added.



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