The toughest challenge that Indian-born Cisco’s former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Padmasree Warrior faced was to tell a giant corporation chief executive to scrap an enterprise in which $100-million (Rs 713 crore) was to be invested.
“My job was to tell the CEO to abandon an enterprise in which $100 million was to be invested to foray into disruptive technology. It was one of my hardest decisions,” recalled Warrior at a women’s technology conference, which began on Wednesday in this tech hub.
Cisco, a $205.7 billion American technology heavyweight, develops, manufactures and sells networking hardware, telecommunication equipment and other top end products.
Addressing thousands of female technology professionals from across the country and abroad at the 3-day ‘Grace Hopper Celebration India 19’ (GHCI 19), organised by AnitaB.org, the 58-year-old Warrior said she was entrusted with the task of heading the corporation’s spin off into disruptive technology.
Warrior, however, did not reveal the name of the US-based multinational or its chief executive and the technology it was to rollout as a disruptor.
Named after American computer scientist Anita Borg, AnitaB.org aims to connect, inspire and guide women in computing and organisations, which view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.
The 10th edition of the women’s technology conference, from November 6-8 was part of the GHCI 19, named after pioneering woman computer scientist and former US navy employee Grace Hopper.
Concealing also the enterprise’s name and the year of its conception, Warrior said she had even hired about 50 techies in six months to work in the non-starter.
“The parent company was thinking of the technology as disruptive and willing to invest $100 million. I was told to go and make it a success,” said the former Motorola executive.
Motorola, a 90-year-old US company, shaped the mobile communications industry, inventing the first base station and most of the protocols and technologies needed to make mobile communications possible.
In her long and illustrious career, Warrior worked in many global marquee firms, including the US-based NIO, where she was the CEO and chief development officer at NIO Inc.
Warrior served at NIO’s North American headquarters in San Jose, California from December 2015 to December 2018. Known as Weilai in Chinese, NIO’s global headquarters is located in Shanghai Automobile Innovation Park, Shanghai, China.
NIO makes electric cars and competes in Formula E, a Formula 1 like electric race car championship, through its NIO 333 team.
At Cisco, Warrior led corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and venture investments during her 7-year stint in the US.
She was a chief technology officer also at Motorola, the inventor of the mobile phone.
Warrior, who is on the board of the software product icon Microsoft, served on the boards of a slew of global firms in the past.
Currently, Warrior is the co-founder and chief executive of Fable, a reading focused mobile-first startup, launching in 2020.
She graduated in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi in 1982, and moved to Cornell University in the same year in the US for higher studies, from 1982 to 1984.