September 24, 2018 by Michael Weening

Finding Opportunities to Disrupt: Yves Desmet Joins Calix as Vice President of International Sales


Last month, Yves Desmet joined the Calix team as vice president of international sales. As he gets integrated into the company, I spent some time with him to learn more about his past and his plans for the future at Calix.

Michael: Welcome to Calix, Yves! Tell me a little about yourself and your background prior to joining us.

Yves: I have been in telecommunications for almost 30 years with a technical background. I started managing R&D teams, developing digital voice recorders for banking and police applications. From there, I started developing more applications to record international phone calls for police forces, which is how I really got into core telecommunications infrastructure.

I actually developed the first real-time monitoring device, where over a computer network, you could listen to a phone call from hundreds of miles away. This was just at the beginning of VoIP. So, at one stage, I thought, if I could just talk back, I could actually make phone calls over the Internet. I started my own company to develop our own VoIP tool. It was a little like Skype, but this was the mid-Nineties. However, we quickly learned with our goal to sell specifically into the European market, we would never get our money back. So, I worked through my business network to get connected with Clarent Technologies. They were one of the pioneers of VoIP and we became their first international distributor. They grew from a 15 people to a public company. In the quarter they went public, we had accounted for 27 percent of their worldwide revenue. Then due to our size and customer reach, we were their first acquisition after going public. I headed up their indirect sales channel for the international market and eventually became the head of EMEA sales.

In 2003, Clarent was acquired by Verso Technologies. In my time there, I grew to become SVP of worldwide sales. However, being based in Belgium and a leader of a NASDAQ-listed company, I was traveling a lot, 260 days per year. That was my life for about seven years. While I loved the job, I also have a family and I made a choice to make a change.

I reached out to a contact, the founder and CEO of BroadSoft. He had a need to boost sales efforts in EMEA and I started there. It was a golden opportunity to both scale back and take on a new challenge. I started in Eastern Europe and expanded to all of EMEA, helping to grow that business more than 30 percent per year.

Almost a year ago, BroadSoft was acquired by Cisco. As you can tell from my story, I am an entrepreneur. I am a guy who likes to build things, build strategies, execute the strategies, and actually grow companies. But, becoming one of thousands of employees at Cisco was not what I wanted. Earlier this year, once again through my network, I started talking with Calix and visited the California offices, which led to me joining the company in my new role.

Michael: Why did you join Calix at this time?

Yves: Calix is of a decent age. Not a startup, but a re-startup, a company in transition. And I like that. I like to take something and grow it. Calix had some efforts in the international market and I can come on board and bring my skill to help Calix grow to the next stage.

Also, I implemented two transformations at BroadSoft. One was transforming the sales force from a pure product to a solutions sales force. And second, from mostly indirect sales through partners to a direct sales team in the service provider space. In the past four to five years, we transformed again from a solutions sales team, to a cloud sales team, which requires a totally different way of thinking. Both are actually coming together right now at Calix. The company is transforming from a hardware sales team to a platform sales team and adding cloud on top of that.

Then there is the culture too. Across all of my interviews, there was an openness and constructive conversations with everyone. Everyone shared how they think about things, how they think about the strategy. I spent a lot of time with everyone and really got to know the company. There was also a willingness to invest the time in getting to know me and how I could fit.

Success is hard work and also being at a good company. I don’t believe success just comes from the employee. It’s an ecosystem. You work for a company. The company has products and you have your own contribution as part of a bigger team. All parts have to work together to have success.

So, the ability to grow the team, the business, and those transformations are what really excites me.

Michael: What do you think is the opportunity ahead for Calix and you in this new role?

Yves: With the new generation of the company, how we operate as a company and the new generation of products and cloud solutions, I think we have the ability to become one of the real players in the next generation telecommunications industry.

If I look at the way the fiber access market works today, there will always be very cost-sensitive service providers and the very traditional service providers, who take extended periods of time to make changes. But there are the leading companies, the ones who are really transforming themselves, who want to make a difference, who are moving very fast and disrupting their markets. There are examples in every market, North America and international, who want to prevent becoming a dumb pipe provider and differentiate as a value-added service provider. I really believe in that segment, we have the opportunity to be the leading vendor for those customers and really grow together in a partnership.

Michael: Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know

Yves: I believe in lifelong learning. People never stop learning nowadays. As a hobby, I am doing a PhD. I am in my third year of the PhD, so most of the studying is over. Now, it is mostly research, developing methods, so it’s really the fun part. I am doing this as an independent student at two universities. I can do it at my own pace, which is good for my professional life. I am expecting to complete my thesis in three to three and a half years.

Beyond that, I love to travel, which is logical in my career. I love fine dining and nice wine, which I also collect. And then finally, if I still have time left, I love sailing.

Michael: We are thrilled to have Yves on board and leading our international team at this exciting inflection point for Calix. For all of you joining us at Calix ConneXions, introduce yourself to Yves at the event.