Posts Tagged leadership

Lessons in Leadership from John Chambers (Cisco): Keynote at 2015 IIT GLC Conference

wpid-20150724_091332-1.jpgHere are some highlights from John Chambers’ keynote.  He advised leaders to be ready to pivot and change, reinvent and stay close to the customers and partners, and get the market transitions right.  He said, the word “linear”, does not exist in startup vocabulary, because startups think exponentially.  Giant corporations need to think exponentially to remain competitive.   In this much hyped era of InternetofThings, Chambers observed that connecting devices is worthless, unless it is connecting right people, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Speaking at IIT conference, on his last day as CEO, at Cisco, Chambers said, as the society is rapidly moving from information age to digital age, those who are slow to change and reinvent, will get left behind.  Some of the top challenges for a corporation to move into the digital age include, deeply entrenched culture that resists change, siloed teams and lack of cooperation between teams, resource constraints, and security concerns.  Here is where a leader’s role is extremely crucial.  To move into and compete in the digital age, corporations need leaders who are world class in operational execution, said Chambers.  Explaining how Cisco pivoted and reinvented itself, Chambers shared that Cisco moved from routing to switches to voice to wireless to storage to telepresence.  Great leaders are great, not because they shine in times of growth and good fortune, but because they handle well the challenges and setbacks, said Chambers.

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Critical Attributes in Leaders at Various Stages of Leadership Journey

EPPIC, an entirely volunteer driven, non-profit organization, found with a mission to create a forum to leverage entrepreneurship, mentoring, and networking opportunities in life sciences, celebrated its 15th anniversary, at TiE office, in Santa Clara.  The event, sponsored by Genentech, was attended by 110 life science professionals, and served as an early introduction to 2014 Eppic Annual Conference, scheduled for February 1, 2014, at Westin, South San Francisco.  The agenda for this anniversary event included 3 excellent panels and concluded with a keynote by Ann Lee, Senior Vice President of Global Pharma Technology Development at Genentech/Roche.

Here is the brief synopsis of the keynote.  Lee shared her own personal leadership journey and discussed the critical skills necessary at various stages of leadership for anyone following a similar career path.  During entry into the professional world, as a research fellow, it is critical to have technical expertise and grit to take the initiative and making contributions of value.  On the next step in the leadership journey, at the level of Director, one assumes greater share of managerial responsibilities and providing effective leadership to the teams.  At this time, hiring the best, becomes a critical responsibility.  As one progresses to Senior Director level, ability to communicate effectively with the seniors, becomes crucial.  This is a transition from technical mindset to be able to hone in on key points and communicate them effectively.  It also becomes important to focus on providing guidance and developing others as it is increasing not about you along, but increasingly it is about others in the team.  Lee emphasized that authenticity becomes critical as people will watch for congruence between what you say and what you do.  Greater self-awareness will enable greater authenticity, said Lee.  At VP and Senior VP level, one requires courage because one may be called on to make many tough decisions including work force reductions, killing a multi-million dollar project that may be eating up resources and so on.  Principle centered approach can effectively guide a person in making those critical decisions.  And just as one influences an organization with their decisions, organizational values also play a key role and guide the decisions, of its leaders.  For instance, Genentech takes great pride in being patient-centered company and decisions are often made after considering the impact on patients.  At this stage, leaders also have to focus on strategy and change and have to lead with a long-term vision, as opposed to fighting fires.   People look to the leaders for inspiration.  Mindfulness or daily meditation can help a leader be more effective, said Lee.

Lee then discussed Genentech/Roche’s commitment to diversity.  (In addition to recruitment for biotech and medical device companies, I also offer corporate trainings on diversity and global inclusion and in 2010, I did training for almost 400 Medtronic employees in India, and this part of Lee’s talk was very interesting to me.  Here is a link to my interviews ).  Lee said that her company employs 2200 people, at 4 different sites, with a lot of functional diversity. Working across cultures is frequently challenging, because there is often distrust, preconceived notions, and logistics challenges, including ill timed phone calls, that exacerbate problems.  Instead of delving immediately into work, it is often more productive to set aside time for getting to know people and develop personal relationships, with team members at remote locations.  When working through preconceived notions and unmet expectations, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective and give credit for positive intent, and to seek to understand before being understood, said Lee.  Genentech/Roche has a commitment to increasing the number of women in the workforce and make opportunities for advancement, available to women.  However, it is not about quotas, said Lee.  A diverse workforce enhances and enriches the entire team and increases the diversity of thought, which in the end always leads to better problem solving, greater creativity and higher productivity, she said.

Lee also touched upon importance of work-life balance and flexibility in an individual and within an organization.  In the end, it is always about relationships.  Relationships with colleagues, allies, coaches, and sponsors are all different and need to be maintained differently.  For instance, coaches may talk to you but mentors talk with you and sponsors may talk about you, sometimes even when you are not present.  Summarizing and sharing the learnings from her own leadership journey, she said “be authentic, have greater self-awareness, and play to your strengths”.  Additionally, “you need to pursue your passion, do what you love, be resilient and face challenges head on”.  And finally, “remember that relationships matter and define your own path to fulfillment”, said Lee.

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San ...

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EPPIC will host its Annual Conference on February 1, 2014 at the Westin in South San Francisco.  Mark your calendars for a great conference with excellent keynotes and panels on a variety of topics and watch out for preview blogs on the event.  Register early at, before the event gets sold out.

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GITPRO ( conference, 2012 on Emerging Technologies & Opportunities

The GITPRO conference had full attendance with almost 400 participants, including volunteers, panelists, keynotes, and sponsors.  The three tracks dedicated to technology, career and leadership, and startup boot camp were well attended and well received.  Below are some highlights from the three keynotes and then from each of the tracks.

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, writer, and entrepreneurship coach at Stanford, gave an excellent keynote on how to build a scalable startup whose goal is to solve for unknown customers, unknown features.  While the focus in larger companies is on execution of known business models, the startups are temporary organizations with goal to search for repeatable and scalable business model built on value proposition for the customers after acquiring thorough, deep and intimate knowledge of customers’ needs and pain points.  In his keynote, Anand Deshpande, CEO of Persistent Systems, shared the opportunities and business landscape inIndia. Indiais not just a consumer of science and data but is emerging as an active and viable participant and meaningful contributor in science and data and R&D.   Dr. Prasad Kaipa’s keynote was focused on how one can grow professionally to become a wise leader, not just a smart one.  With stories and examples from Mahabharata, Kaipa shared how a wise leader is called to a noble purpose, uses multiple forms of intelligence, and is not attached to a fixed point of view or ideology.

Shishu Bedi, COO of AdMaxim and David Cao, Founder & President of Great Wall Club discussed monetization of mobile apps, in the tech track.  Mobile platform has seen accelerated growth and the next revolution will be in smart TVs to reach millions of people and future technologies will dramatically change how we interact with TV, said Bedi.  The new generation of TVs will have all the applications and functionality of smart phones, tablets, and PCs and this will be the hottest space during the next few years.  It will be about who understand the user demographics and how the user interacts with TV.  Cao also believed that understanding of user behavior was important to monetization in this space.  According to Cao, although the distribution of android apps market is bigger than the iPhone apps market, monetization of android market is much more difficult because user behavior is unpredictable in the android market.

Ajit Deora Partner, LightSpeed Ventures and Shan Sinha, exCEO of DocVerse (sold to Google) discussed the basics of raising investment.  What VCs care about is getting huge multiples on their investment with least amount of risk, in the minimum time period, said Deora.  Deora went on to define that in more detail.  VCs generally expect to get 20% ownership, with 5X returns, in the minimum time period.  They like the least amount of risk, with great and team with proven track record, huge market with less to no market risk, low technology risk, scalable business model, and capital efficiency.  A huge market takes care of execution risk and though team issues can be fixed, no one can fix market challenges, so market risk is a definite no, no, said Deora.  Low tech risk means VCs like technology that is implementable and scalable.  Sinha shared his 3 basic rules for fundraising.  Rule no. 1 is about having and telling a compelling story about how entrepreneur’s product or technology will enable changing the world for better.  Rule no. 2 is having a clear understanding that investment is a tactic and not a milestone.  A milestone is growing the team or refining the product or increasing the customer base and the investment should enable the achievement of the milestone.  Before going out and asking for money, the entrepreneur must define the milestone and ask if it is a meaningful milestone that will substantially increase the value, when the milestone is achieved.  Rule no. 3 is about determining the need and raising the right amount and not too little money or too much money.

Rajesh Shetty,Mentorand Coach and Praveena Varadrajan, VP at FICO discussed essentials of managing with influence, in the leadership track.  In today’s technology age, it is not the first impression that we should focus on but the zeroth impression.  “People do their homework about you, even before you have the opportunity to meet them”, said Shetty.  Building a personal brand is not about what one says about oneself, or the extension of one’s employer’s brand, or one’s presence on the social media, or about one’s power and influence, nor is it a gift, nor is branding permanent.  In order to build your brand, said Shetty, “you must prove to the world that it is an assessment of your promise to the world and capacity to fulfill and execute it and with ongoing proof of accomplishments by people who are competent to make that assessment, typically in the field of your expertise”.  So what actions one must take to build a strong personal brand?  “Start with your strengths”, said Shetty.  The strengths that may be invisible would emerge, if one kept a journal or notes or by talking to the mentors who often have a greater insight in the mentees’ strengths.  And with all that, one must contribute meaningfully that would leave the world, a better place.  Varadrajan advised that contributing meaningfully is a precursor to managing with influence.  It is important to share the big picture and build credibility by interacting with honesty and integrity, said Varadrajan.


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