As Chief Technology Officer, Padmasree Warrior helps define Cisco’s technological strategy and drives innovation across the company, working closely with the senior executive team and Board of Directors. As an evangelist for what’s possible, she pushes Cisco to stretch beyond its current capabilities, not just in technology, but also in its strategic partnerships and new business models.
In her role as the Senior Vice President of Engineering, Warrior co-leads Cisco’s Engineering organization alongside Senior Vice President, Engineering, Pankaj Patel. Together they set the vision and strategy for the organization, and they lead a team of over 24,000 engineers to execute on the group’s strategic priorities. Warrior focuses on core switching, collaboration, data center/virtualization, and cloud technologies, as well as architectures for business transformation.
Warrior’s energetic, approachable, and pragmatic leadership style integrates ideas from diverse sources that include engineers, sociologists, technologists, marketers, and policy experts. She has earned a reputation for establishing processes that tap a rich diversity of technical, business, and entrepreneurial knowledge to nurture disruptive and breakthrough innovations, then speed their development time to market.
Warrior joined Cisco in 2007. Prior to that, she was the Chief Technology Officer at Motorola.
In addition to her work at Cisco, Warrior serves on a broad range of government and industry advisory boards, as well as those of charitable and community organizations. Recently, the San Jose Mercury News listed her as one of the 2011 Valley’s Most Powerful Women. Fast Company magazine listed her among the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and she was one of six women nationwide selected to receive the "Women Elevating Science and Technology" award from Working Woman magazine. In addition, she received the 2009 Annual Achievement Award by the Forum for Women Executives and Entrepreneurs. In 2007, she was inducted into the Women in Information Technology International Hall of Fame.
Warrior holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi and a master of science degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University.
In 2007 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering from New York's Polytechnic University.
“I didn’t think about entering the tech industry because I was not sure whether I could be successful in a work environment that, back then, and today still, was very male dominated,” she said. “I thought an academic career would be less demanding and perhaps more flexible.”
Midway through my doctorate, I took a job with Motorola working at a semiconductor factory in Arizona. I assumed that I would stay only a year, but instead spent 23 years at Motorola, working my way up to the position of CTO in 2003. Four years later, I was hired by Cisco to be its first ever CTO.
I was one of only a handful of woman at my first job and recall it was “a really daunting experience” having so few female colleagues. Cisco is still dominated by men — just 22 percent of the company’s employees are female — but I argue that women can use the skewed ratio to propel their careers forward.
I always tell women that the fact that you’re different and that you’re noticed, because there are few of us in the tech industry, is something you can leverage as an advantage.
Frankly, I think one challenge is that having few women in your work environment makes you feel a little isolated and alone. I’m an extrovert, I like talking to people and I make friends easily, but if your personality is somewhat different I think you would struggle to connect with people..
Now, we’re in an environment where you can be who you want to be. If you’re a person who’s tough and can push back that’s great, but if you’re a person who has a different style, you can be successful with that. I think more and more the environment is becoming one where people can truly be authentic.
I do believe that it’s important to have a foundation at a very young age, or something that sparks that initial interest in tech or science.
However, there is another thing that is important: I think the critical point at which women decide whether to have career in tech or not is at the level of their first job. It’s really important that at that point, women feel like they can be successful and have a career [in tech]. I have seen women who are very interested in tech finish their graduate or undergraduate degrees, but then choose not to pursue a career in tech because they’re not sure they want to spend the next 20-30 years in an industry that’s very male dominated.