Forbes Beyond CIO Series: Shaygan Kheradpir, CEO of Juniper Networks

September 08, 2014
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Shaygan Kheradpir’s Journey from CIO of Verizon to CEO of Juniper Networks

by Peter High, published on


At the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network event, the 120 or so chief information officers who were in attendance were polled to see how many of them had the ambition to become a CEO one day. 70 percent answered that they were, in fact interested. Although the law of averages would suggest that most of those executives will not reach that goal, some will. Thankfully, there are more examples of executives who these CIOs can look to for inspiration and insight.  Shaygan Kheradpir is one of them.

Kheradpir is the CEO of Juniper Networks, but spent a good chunk of his career in IT departments, first at GTE, and then as CIO of Verizon. It is also notable that he lives in an area where university-level education has been deemed by some to be less important than it once was, and yet he has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.  Instead of roots in the start-up community or in Silicon Valley, Juniper Networks was his first Silicon Valley experience. After his time at Verizon, Kheradpir moved on to become the Chief Operations and Technology Officer at Barclays PLC.  The diversity of roles he has had and industries that he has served highlight how Kheradpir has thought about his career path a little differently. When asked about his path, he suggests that he has always thought a bit beyond the parameters of each role he has had, and thought more broadly about the value that he can provide to others in the company. He also emphasizes the importance of great mentors along the way.

(This is the 18th article in the “Beyond CIO” series. To read past interviews with executives from companies like American Express, HP, Symantec, T.D. Ameritrade, and Aetna, please click this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: You’ve had a very interesting career journey. Recently you were CIO and CTO at Verizon, then Chief Operations and Technology Officer at Barclays, and now you are the CEO at Juniper. Was becoming a CEO always a goal of yours and how actively did you plan for this?

Shaygan Kheradpir: I never think of it that way. It was never a grand plan or a list of career progression check marks to move from manager to director to VP etc. My focus at every job from day one is not to become a CEO, but to make my time impactful. You do that by defining that impact and surrounding yourself with people who also want to make a big difference like you and take it from there to have a great bond with an able team on a rewarding journey.

With the team and ensemble around me that I had at every job stage – be it a few people or a few thousand people, the key was to always take a step back, look at the responsibilities assigned and try to figure out how to make a big difference in the markets and the customers that we serve. Whenever you do this, good things happen – people start asking: “Who did that so well? Let’s give them more responsibility!”

So whatever role I’ve had in my career, I always try to take a step back and define what it could be in terms of contribution.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • Who were some of your mentors along this journey?
  • You now live in an area which is famous for kids dropping out of college and starting businesses (Silicon Valley). In fact there are leading thinkers like Peter Thiel who encourage bright young minds to do so.  You not only stayed in school, you did so through to the point of getting a PhD. I imagine you have an especially interesting set of perspectives given the educational path you walked and the milieu you currently operate in.  What insights can you share?
  • A reason for your phenomenal career success as a technology executive was that a lot of time you were able to bring to life the imperatives of other business departments through better use of IT. It seems it was an organizing principle for you.Is that true?
  • One of the things that has traditionally held back CIOs to advance within their firms is a lack of operating experience, the lack of P&L responsibility. What were the ways in which you got that experience?
  • You were a CIO yourself and now you have a lot of CIOs as clients. In the years since you were last a CIO, what are your thoughts on how this role has evolved?
  • What are some of things that are in your strategic roadmap at Juniper?
  • In terms of the pace of innovation today, yesterday’s good work may become redundant very quickly in the mind of a customer. How do you manage and excel at this innovation process – to gauge what the customer wants and how to execute it well?

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