Feature Story

Leadership@Cisco: Padmasree Warrior

by Joie Healy

Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's Chief Technology & Strategy Officer talks about her vision as a leader and where she gets her inspiration. She says everyone should take time out for themselves to help spark creativity in the workplace and in their lives.




I take my work very seriously, I don't take myself very seriously.

I think when I was a kid, I wanted to be a, um, astronomer … 

I don't think I ever imagined that I would be leading technology and strategy for a big company.

When I talk to young people about going into careers in math and science now I always tell my story about how I left India with 100 dollars and a one-way ticket, when I came to the U.S.

I am passionate about mentoring and coaching, especially women. I'm very passionate about seeing women be successful in general in the industry, but more particularly in the technical fields.

The main characteristics I think of that a leader needs, first and foremost, a vision of where we want to go.

A leader often has to make bold and tough decisions, they aren't always going to be popular, and so I think if you get caught up in just doing what is a popular decision, you will not move in the direction that you need to.

So where I get my inspiration, first and foremost it's my family. My family helps me be grounded to reality and I think that puts things into perspective for me.

I love to go for a walk, I love to spend time in an art museum, or go for a theater performance and look at people and performances that are very different from my analytical side of my job, and the free form creativity inspires me.

A couple of things about myself that may surprise people, I'm a poet, I write Haiku's and I write Haiku's on Twitter, and I share them publicly. I often get feedback from what I would say legitimate poets (laughs). I'm a pretend poet. But I love that, you know.

And I also paint, I paint mostly in water color, but I just started experimenting with acrylics.

I think all of us need some time to develop ourselves and drive our own creativity whatever that may be.

But clearly in the next five years one of the trends I see happening is that everything that we used to do physically is moving into the digital space. You know, how we form friends, how we do, how we connect with people, how we share what we do.

Beyond that, I think in ten years there will be lots, a lot more, I think, innovation in cross-disciplinary fields, like bio-synthetics and what does that mean, how will we create new materials that are going to be very different from what we have seen so far.

I really believe in talent. I'm a big believer that a leader is only successful if he or she surrounds themselves with great people, people that are better, smarter than you are.

But I think in the last few years, the transformation we have driven at Cisco is something that I'm very proud of because I think it is often difficult for a very successful company to recognize that there is a change of course needed and to do that quickly.

Leadership@Cisco is a video series that introduces you to our leadership team at Cisco. During this series you will learn what inspires each individual, what they are most proud of and even something that might surprise you about each person.