Is Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior Quitting?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jun 02, 2015


Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO and strategy officer, is reportedly leaving the company soon. She was considered as a potential CEO candidate before Chuck Robbins was announced as CEO recently, succeeding the company’s longtime CEO John Chambers.

Sources told Re/code Warrior’s last day on the job will be July 25, the day before Robbin takes over as the CEO. Incidentally, COO Gary Moore and President Rob Lloyd, both considered the front-runners to become the next CEO when Chambers retired have just resigned.

Cisco’s management shakeup raised several eyebrows within the company and in the industry. Cisco, which was on a CEO hunt for nearly three years as Chamber had always mentioned the role of succession plan in business. When Robbins vaulted Lloyd and Warrior who were considered the most likely successors, it did come as a surprise to the industry.

Warrior has been CTO at Cisco since 2008 and also added the CSO credential in 2012. The India-born tech pro earned a chemical engineering degree at New Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology. She then moved to the US and earned a Masters in the same subject at Cornell University. While studying for a PhD she accepted a job in Motorola’s Semiconductor unit and stayed on at that company for more than two decades. She spent four years as Motorola’s CTO before joining Cisco.

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She succeeded Charlie Giancarlo, a longtime Cisco executive who was once considered a possible successor of Cisco, but he quit and joined the telecom company Avaya, spending eight months as its interim CEO and is now its chairman. Chambers often mentioned Warrior’s name as one of the sharpest technology persons in the world.” She is often referred to as the “Cisco Superwoman” in the industry.

According to an ET report, Warrior had a mixed reputation at Cisco and within its bigger eco-systems. “On the plus side, she’s smart, articulate, good with customers and was a well-known name and face associated with the company. She was often front and center on stage at the company’s annual customer conference, Cisco Live, demonstrating new technology. And she’s been an advisor and mentor to startups, particularly startups founded by women.

On the downside, she reportedly didn’t garner a lot of internal respect as an engineering leader, which is the unit she was originally hired to run,” the article reads. While Warrior first co-shared the role of head of engineering with Pankaj Patel, but when Cisco started its headed the entire engineering unit, which 35% of its 70,000 workforce.

Warrior became the chief strategy officer, and reportedly did not handle a single successful engineering project at Cisco. Her acquisition strategies and other business acumen are worth mentoring.

Re/code reports that it’s not clear if Warrior has a new job lined up, but according to sources she is planning to explore taking board seats with other companies. She’s already a director at cloud software and collaboration company Box and retailer The Gap.

In recent years, Cisco has faced stiff competition in network-switching equipment, its biggest single product category. In addition to competing against makers of conventional hardware, Cisco also faced the heat from emerging players pushing software-defined networking, or SDN, a shift expected to reduce purchases of inexpensive commodity switches and other hardware with open virtualization techniques. Meanwhile, in a blog post, Robbins said he is about two weeks away from formally naming his leadership team.