The Importance of a Mentor: Amer Deeba Reflects on His Career and Relationship with Philippe Courtot
When Amer Deeba moved to the US, he was a stranger in a completely new environment. He had come to the US to study computer science from Santa Clara University; with only $800 in his pocket and a one-way ticket, Deeba had put a lot on the line. Originally looking to pursue a PhD, Deeba shifted course and earned his master’s, opting to go into the tech industry.
It can take time, effort, and quite a bit of luck to establish yourself in any industry. To navigate and grow in your career – particularly somewhere like Silicon Valley, known for its fast-paced, innovation-obsessed atmosphere – can be difficult, but it can prove to be even more difficult for immigrants. With few local contacts and a limited support system, finding a foothold industry can prove to be exceptionally challenging; however, if you can find a mentor, then there is a reliable support system that you can rely on and learn from.
For Amer Deeba, his work spoke for itself, and caught the eye of his mentor. He began at Verity – where he first met his mentor, Phillippe Courtot, a French-American serial entrepreneur and business executive. After Courtot left Verity, Deeba did as well, and joined Adobe Systems as a software engineer. Following his time at Adobe, Deeba joined Signio, an online payments startup, again reunited with his mentor, moving up from a software engineer to a Product Manager. A year later Signio was purchased by Versign and Amer became the GM for the payments division and helped grow its sales by over 150%. After his time at VeriSign, he joined cloud security company Qualys as its Chief Marketing Officer in 2001, side by side with his mentor, who was the company’s chairman and CEO at the time.
Today, Amer Deeba is a Go-To-Market Executive that has been dubbed “a rare executive in Silicon Valley” and is known for his unique problem-solving skills. Though these accomplishments are his own, Deeba attributes his professional success in large part to all the years spent working with Courtot. “I think my training with Philippe was to always look at everything with fresh eyes with a fresh perspective. Try to understand what’s different and unique about it. Don’t try to take something and copy it. Just because it worked there, it’s not going to work here. While there are certain principles that you learn and you apply everywhere, you always have to put them in context.” This differentiated way of thinking had what set out Courtot from the rest, and it is what set Deeba apart, too.
Phillipe Courtot was celebrated in the technology world as a visionary – not only focused on the products and innovation, but also on people and what he could do to help them. A five-time CEO and leader in internet security technology, he was awarded the Editor’s Award by the SC Magazine in 2004 for his work in network security. Later in 2011, SC Magazine named him the CEO of the Year. As the CEO of Qualys, Courtot led the company to its initial public offering, though he later stepped down from his position for health reasons. Unfortunately, Courtot passed away in June 2021, leaving behind a huge legacy.
Amer Deeba was one of the few individuals with whom Courtot developed a lasting relationship that took on multiple roles. To Deeba, he was not just a mentor, but also a friend. He played a huge role in helping Deeba improve and learn in his industry. As is the case with any good mentor, they can notice the strengths and weaknesses in their mentees, therefore playing a critical role in helping them become the best version of themselves. Deeba had been introduced to the business side of things by Courtot, after starting his career as a software engineer. “He gave me my first opportunity to branch out from engineering to the business side and became my mentor. I learned so much from him throughout the years: how to design and build a technology platform, how to run a business at scale, how to understand the customer’s point of view, how to deal with competitors, how to market a product, how to view things not from the conventional angle but the correct angle, and much more.”
Amer Deeba worked with Phillipe Courtot for many years. The two were together at Verity briefly before Courtot left, with Deeba leaving soon after to join Adobe. It was while working at Adobe that Deeba realized he wanted to be in a startup environment – after coding for 10 years, there was not much left for him to learn. Courtot offered him a job at Signio, and he joined him there. That was his initiation into the business side of technology. “That was in late ’98. And we started looking at ideas together at that time, the dot com boom was starting to happen.” Deeba continued to work at VeriSign for nearly three years before leaving again. This time for Qualys, where Courtot was the CEO. Deeba and Courtot worked together for the longest time at Qualys. This is the company that Deeba and Courtot worked together to get its initial public offering. This was a great achievement for the two.
When Deeba left Qualys and moved to Moogsoft, he took the lessons from Courtot with him. “In business, Philippe taught me the power of packaging technology to make it broadly accessible, and not just for a technical elite. Democratizing technology is something I’ve focused on at Moogsoft, so our software is always becoming easier to deploy, adopt and use.”
After Philippe passed away, Deeba had been working closely with the Eduarte Courtot Foundation. “Philippe’s partner and himself, they created a foundation for helping underprivileged students globally, to get better access to education. The foundation was formed in 2018, and they asked me to be part of the board of directors.” Deeba joined them and has since been working as the Middle East Liaison. “Philippe left a substantial amount of money in the foundation. So, we’re trying to use it the right way.”
Amer Deeba and Freya Eduarte, Courtot’s partner, have been working together now to create programs for children in the Philippines and Lebanon. “I kind of go on the ground, try to understand schools and areas that need the help, and schools that are in desperate need and why. I kind of scope these opportunities, and bring them to the table, and we discuss them together.” For Deeba this is a way of giving back not only to the community but also to his mentor, in keeping his legacy alive.
When asked about the secret of life, Deeba quoted his mentor, “Philippe always told me: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’” Courtot left a significant impact on Deeba’s life, and he cherishes the moments he got to spend with him. Today, he credits Courtot for showing him the ropes and is thankful for all that his late mentor taught him. The success that Deeba has had in his life goes to show the difference that having a mentor can create.