Nambiar Rajesh bio imageWith which job role/position did you start your career?
After finishing my master’s degree in statistics from Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, I began my professional career at TCS as a systems analyst and programmer.

When did you join Ciena?
I joined Ciena as Chairman and President in May 2019 after more than 13 years with IBM in Singapore and Bangalore.

What kind of leadership style do you follow in your organisation?
I consider myself a coaching type of leader. From my perspective, the key element of leadership is to develop people by identifying and building strengths. Instead of micromanaging every step of the way, acting as a coach enables employees to try what options work for them and provide air-cover where needed.

How are you contributing to the growth of your employees?
I’ve found that employees’ best realise their full potential when they are stretched. One of my priorities is to encourage professional development for both soft and hard skills – that includes technical skills and also skills around management, leadership and inclusion.

Name one person who had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
I can’t just name one individual here – there are a host of people who have had an incredible impact on me. Let me start with my father from whom I learned not to be constrained by anything. He helped me understand that to succeed, I needed to push beyond my personal bounds and reach for goals I didn’t think I could achieve. Another example is Steve Jobs who taught how simplicity can be a lot harder than complexity and that you have to work hard to get your thinking clear to make ideas simple.

Share that one critical decision that you made as the leader of your organisation?
Our ability to understand and solve business problems for customers is even more critical than ever before. For us to continue delivering the service our customers require, I made a decision to transform how we work internally to be more cross-functional. By implementing an organised framework so various functional teams across India such as engineering, sales, marketing, etc. are more integrated, we are able to foster collaboration and ultimately produce stronger business outcomes for our growing customer base.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
For me it’s very simple, I’ll go by the attitude and willingness to learn. Once you have the right attitude, the skill set can be taught.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Humility. Leaders today can’t survive without the ability to listen and learn.

What is one lasting impact that you hope to leave on your present company?
For every role I’ve had, including my current one, I hope the mark I’ve left is that the organisation is better when I left than when I first joined. I give my job 100% effort and truly believe that’s what it takes to have a lasting impact – going all in. Whether it’s implementing new strategies, leading a paradigm shift or changing somebody’s perspective, the impact can be big or small but it should be better than when I first arrived.

What are you doing to grow and develop as a leader continuously?
I’m constantly learning and fostering a spirit of being taught. To me, the best skill for leaders to possess is learnability. I rely heavily on feedback to keep growing and developing – I listen very eagerly and appreciate feedback pretty much from anyone, especially from those who do not have an axe to grind. Another important way to grow as a leader is to be surrounded by people who are from diverse backgrounds whether it’s gender, age, race, education and life experience.

What advice would you give to the new-age leaders?

  1.  “A leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope” – I think the original quote was attributed to Napoleon but to this day it serves us well.
  2.  Be Authentic: Be You – that’s it! – in every situation online or offline. It takes courage but your team will love you for it.
  3.  Lead by example: Your team will forget what you said but they will recall what you did. And almost certainly they WILL remember how you made them feel.