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NEWSMAKER: Padmasree Warrior

RAZR-sharp move

Leslie D'Monte  |  Mumbai 

The highest-ranking female executive in Motorola's nearly 80-year history, Indian-born IITian Padmasree Warrior, has now joined Cisco as its chief technology officer (CTO) after spending over two decades at Motorola.

Warrior has filled the CTO's position at a time when Cisco is rejigging its image "" from a boring networking company to that of a young consumer-friendly brand.

Warrior, 47, was named Motorola's CTO in 2003. She held numerous positions at the company over her 23-year career, including corporate vice-president and general manager of Motorola's energy systems group and corporate vice-president and CTO for Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS).

She became Motorola's CTO under Chief Executive Chris Galvin in 2003, was credited with Motorola's "seamless mobility" approach of having communicating from any location over any device. The concept of "seamless mobility" was adopted by Zander, who joined Motorola in January 2004.

She holds an M. S. degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and a B. S. degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi. In 2007, she was awarded Doctor of Engineering, Honoris Causa from New York's Polytechnic University.

Warrior is also an external director on the board of Corning Corporation. She is one of the highest ranking Indian-American women in the field of technology in the United States.

Her exit from Motorola, though, has not been without controversy. Her departure was reportedly announced via a company-wide e-mail.

She quit after Ed Zander's high-profile exit. Shortly after Zander took over, Motorola introduced the highly popular RAZR phone.

However, its sales slowed in the face of fierce competition and the company failed to introduce another hit. Under Zander, Motorola slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 among the dominant handset makers "" Nokia and Samsung.

Since Motorola's mobile devices division represents about half of Motorola's sales, the almost flat RAZR sales took their toll, after which Motorola began a price war that hurt its profit.

Detractors say that as head of Motorola Labs "" the global software group and emerging early-stage businesses of the company which was responsible for coming up with new ideas "" Warrior should share the blame for falling profits.

The Cisco management, however, is convinced of its choice. "Padmasree's new role as CTO will help to develop and promote Cisco's future technology leadership," said John Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco, whom she will report to.

"She is a technology visionary, an excellent leader with a strong industry voice and business acumen, and we are thrilled to welcome her to our leadership team," he added.

Meanwhile, Warrior has already started her stint at Cisco by spelling out her vision on Cisco's official blogs after her appointment (the Web 2.0 vision).

"... I am eager to bring to Cisco my technical expertise, over 20 years of experience in many aspects of the communications industry, a global bent of mind and an energising leadership style. As we get to know each other, you will also see me as a tireless champion for innovation and inclusion. I enjoy envisioning and creating the future, and leveraging technology leadership for business growth. Expertise, experience, energy "" these exemplify my platform for achievement. This platform paradigm draws me to Cisco. ... However, I will begin by listening...your comments, please."

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First Published: Fri, December 07 2007. 00:00 IST