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Luke Kanies
Luke Kanies accepts the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in the software category in June in Seattle. (GeekWire file)

Luke Kanies, the founder of Portland-based Puppet, is stepping aside as the software company announced Monday that president and COO Sanjay Mirchandani would be taking over as CEO.

Puppet, which makes IT-automation software, said in a news release that Kanies will remain with the company as a member of the board.

Mirchandani joined Puppet in May after serving as corporate senior vice president and general manager at VMware for Asia Pacific and Japan. Before that, he held several management positions at EMC and several senior management roles at Microsoft, the release said.

Kanies said in his own blog post that it became clear in early 2015 that he was “running out of steam” and that “opportunities and challenges the company is facing now … are far from what I love to do most, and far from my core skills. We need to scale, and we need to execute.”

In June, Kanies accepted an EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in the software category.

Mirchandani called Puppet “a truly revolutionary company” and said that it has grown to become the market standard for IT automation. The company was founded by Kanies in 2005.

“I have enormous respect for Luke,”Mirchandani said. “He built a company that has transformed the industry. I am honored to continue what he started and lead the business as we embark on an exciting new period of growth. I look forward to working with our talented team, customers, partners, and community to scale the use of Puppet worldwide through product innovation, go-to-market execution, and operational excellence.”

Here’s the full statement from Luke Kanies:

Hi all,

I’ve been working incredibly hard since I started Puppet in 2005, and have been pleasantly surprised each year that we’ve been able to expand our goals and set our sights on even bigger targets. I am intensely proud to say that we really do have the opportunity to provide the core platform that brings software automation to the world.

Even more so, I am proud to have built a company people truly like to work at (my favorite is seeing people give their families a tour around the office, happiness beaming from them). I am proud at how customer-focused we are, and proud that we at Puppet are helping to drive the conversation around diversity and inclusion in technology companies, in Portland and around the country. I can’t think of a more important or valuable legacy than enabling women and people of color to participate fully in the technology revolution, opening up ever-increasing opportunity for those groups and getting the best ideas and abilities wherever they are. This work cannot be done in one generation, but each of us can at least help.

For all that, it became clear to me by early 2015 that I was running out of steam. I’m still energized every day by the time I spend with the team, and I will always be thrilled by trying to unlock the evergreen puzzle of how to build a product that deftly solves a problem that a customer didn’t even know they had. The opportunities and challenges the company is facing now, though, are far from what I love to do most, and far from my core skills. We need to scale, and we need to execute. Everything else we do must be in service to those. There is still a lot of great product work ahead, and it’s about spreading our solution around the market rather than solving the problem for the first time.

Puppet needs, and Puppet deserves, someone who is as excited by and skilled at the challenges of the next ten years as I have been in the last eleven and a half years.  When I decided to hire a COO, it was always with the hope that that person would step into my role. Since joining Puppet in May, Sanjay has brought a level of urgency, energy, and operational strength that was missing from our company, and he also brings experience at scaling international sales forces, which will be particularly needed by us over the coming years.

As a result, effective immediately, Sanjay will take over as CEO, and I will focus on my role as founder and as a member of the board. I am confident he will lead the company to continued growth, significantly improve financial and company performance, and double down on building a great company that is fantastic at developing technology that truly helps its users.

My task now transitions to enabling Sanjay to succeed as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. Once Puppet’s need for my help in the transition winds down, I will stay engaged for the long term, as a board member, founder, and shareholder, even though I will not be full time.  I ask your help in supporting and empowering Sanjay, to drive Puppet’s mission of enabling the adoption of software automation around the world.

Over the next month, you aren’t likely to see me much around the Portland office. I’m going to be attending a couple events, focusing on PuppetConf, working with Sanjay to transition, and touring all of our offices around the world. Don’t worry, though, I’ll make sure you’ll have plenty of opportunity to spend time with me–it just might not be in the next month.

This is incredibly hard for me, and I don’t take any of it lightly. While this will be a difficult transition, I believe in the long run it will be best for me, for Puppet, and for our users and customers.

I have not made plans for what I’ll do once this transition is over, but you can bet it will involve building something that unlocks a new market, makes someone’s life just a bit simpler and hopefully better, and involves my entering another dense period of personal learning and growth.

Thank you to each and every one of you for the hard work you’ve put in to get us where we are, for the belief you’ve had in what we’re trying to do and my ability to lead you to do it, and for your commitment to the customer and the mission. I’ll always be available for a quiet chat, a shouty listen, or just a great story.

All the best,


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