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Tech boss eyes sales growth as he wins prestigious award

THE Wishaw-born boss of US technology firm F5 Networks has reinforced his expectations of continuing revenue growth for his company in its current fiscal year in comments made shortly after lifting a prestigious business award.

JOHN McADAM: Said his US firm was hiring aggressively worldwide.
JOHN McADAM: Said his US firm was hiring aggressively worldwide.

John McAdam, who began his career with Honeywell in Scotland, said F5 has forecast that sales will grow between $408 million (£245m) to $416m in the quarter ending March 31.

The update comes after the NASDAQ-listed company, whose software improves the efficiency and security of information held in data centres, booked profits of $277m last year, on turnover up 8% to $1.5bn.

F5's growth is reflected by its increasing staff numbers. In the last three months it has added 160 people to its ranks, swelling its global headcount to about 3500.

While the bulk of its development staff are based in Seattle, it employs field sales and marketing staff around the world, in locations such as Edinburgh, London, Beijing, Tel Aviv and Tomsk.

Its clients include Facebook, Cisco, AT&T, Alaska Airlines and, in the UK, major banks.

Given the strides made by the company under Mr McAdam, who has been CEO since July 2000, it is perhaps no surprise he was named executive of the year by Puget Sound Business Journal last month.

Previous winners have included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Jeff Raikes, chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Mr McAdam, who has also seen F5 named the best company to work for in Seattle and named by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 25 hottest tech stocks, said: "I'm really proud, it really is quite a big deal here in the north-west US. If you look at some of the previous winners you get a feel for it.

"It's been really good for the company as well. I got a tremendous amount of emails from staff saying how much they took pride in the award as well.

"Where we sit as a company, frankly, we're in a really good position, because if you look at a lot of the trends that are happening in technology - obviously the internet, security attacks, mobile phones, smartphones and applications for those phones - it's right in our comfort zone.

"We're hiring aggressively actually worldwide to try to take advantage of it. Net to the company we added 160 people in the last three months, and we are continuing to hire."

Mr McAdam has pursued growth through acquisitions during his tenure, noting that the strategy is to target small concerns with expertise F5 is keen to adopt.

He said: "We are always on the look-out for acquisitions. It's always small - we don't want to go big because you can really make mistakes when you do that.

"We have some dedicated people that talk to the venture capitalists about up and coming companies.

"The areas we are interested in are people with security solutions and expertise and also telecommunications, mainly in the mobile space."

Although he has been based in the US for 19 years, Mr McAdam has been observing the debate on Scottish independence with interest. The technology veteran, who graduated in computer science at the University of Glasgow while at Honeywell, reported that politics generally does not to interfere in his own business - whether in Washington, Edinburgh or London.

He said: "If you look at our business globally, it's all about the internet taking over.

"To some degree, politics has taken an effect in the United States with the government [federal] shutdown where you start to see budgets being kept down.

"Generally, politics doesn't affect business - it is all about internet growth, mobile traffic growth, people using smartphones, people using the internet for doing e-commerce or booking stocks or airline [flights].

"I don't think it [the independence referendum] will have any positive or negative effect [on business], but I might be wrong."

Equally Mr McAdam, whose career includes spells at British Steel and Ferranti, said there are no major cultural differences between how people do business on both sides of the Atlantic.

He said: "It's interesting. I don't know if you have ever looked at anything like this, but the number of Europeans in general - not just Scottish or English - that succeed in the US is quite low. I was asked to do a little talk down in London at the Prince's Trust on why I thought that was the case, and I don't know if I know the answer.

"The culture in the US is very, very similar to working in Scotland. Clearly there are subtleties about sense of humour, but once you get to know somebody [there are no differences].

"From a business perspective I think they are the same."

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