Manoj Leelanivas, EVP Chief Operating Officer, Juniper Networks

Be Bold Podcast—Episode 5: Lead With Your Strengths

Be Bold
Manoj Leelanivas Headshot
The title, “Be Bold Podcast: Lead With Your Strengths.” Photos of the host, Manoj Leelanivas, EVP Chief Operating Officer, Juniper Networks, and guest, Anne DelSanto, technology leader.

Looking to take your career in tech to the next level?

Get inspiration from technology leader Anne DelSanto, who played to her strengths and overcame challenges to build a successful career at IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and as a board member of Juniper Networks and many other leading technology companies—all while prioritizing family.

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You’ll learn

  • How to leverage your strengths while navigating your career journey

  • Advice on finding growth opportunities in today’s job market

Who is this for?

Business Leaders


Manoj Leelanivas Headshot
Manoj Leelanivas
EVP Chief Operating Officer, Juniper Networks

Guest speakers

Anne DelSanto
Technology Leader


0:00 foreign

0:03 you know I often look back at that time

0:05 and say it was probably the most

0:06 difficult decision of my entire career

0:09 to step away from a career I had just

0:12 launched the as400 product line I was

0:15 one of the top countries uh experts in

0:20 the architecture of the as400 I I was

0:23 the person who launched it in Boston I

0:26 was young this was heady stuff and so to

0:29 to make a decision at such a height to

0:32 walk away was very difficult

0:35 [Music]

0:44 hello everyone and welcome to another

0:47 episode of be bold

0:49 today I have the pleasure of speaking

0:52 with Ann Del Santo an inspirational

0:54 leader who has trailblazed throughout

0:56 her career while also prioritizing

0:59 family

1:01 today we talk about her journey hurdles

1:04 she faced along the way the mentors that

1:07 inspired her

1:08 and the advice she has for young people

1:10 building their own carriers

1:13 welcome to the podcast Anne it's a

1:15 pleasure to have you today

1:17 and full disclosure for the audience you

1:19 know and Del Santo who joins us today

1:22 is a member of the board of directors at

1:24 Juniper Networks she's an inspirational

1:26 leader in the tech world

1:29 but she started off in New York from

1:32 your accent I can tell you're from New

1:33 York but tell us a little bit about your

1:36 beginnings and how did you get

1:38 interested in Tech in the first place

1:41 well thank you manage

1:43 a wonderful

1:48 meetings and so it is it's great to join

1:52 you for this uh yes you definitely

1:55 picked up my new York City accent I I

1:58 grew up in Queens New York and I would

2:00 say uh the beginning of my love of tech

2:04 really began

2:06 um with an algebra class I fell in love

2:09 with algebra and geometry and I just

2:13 could not believe

2:14 um how rewarding it was to solve

2:17 problems to solve for an equation many

2:20 listening probably think that's

2:22 unbelievable but it's true and that was

2:26 really the beginning of of my love of

2:29 technology and and really solving

2:31 problems through the use of Technology

2:35 that's great algebra hmm

2:38 so from what I know I think you did your

2:41 schooling in St John's and you started

2:44 off in math with a minor in computer

2:48 science how did you get like really into

2:51 it like algebra was a great start but

2:53 math and computer science how did you

2:54 get into it

2:56 yeah I

2:58 I'd say John's because it was I paid my

3:01 way through college and so that really

3:03 you know helped me decide where I was

3:07 going to end up going to college

3:09 and my love of math through high school

3:12 made me realize that math helps you to

3:15 think through things it helps you to

3:18 prove your theories and and come up with

3:21 a solution and I thought it was the best

3:23 preparation at the time I was actually

3:25 thinking I might want to be a lawyer and

3:27 so I said what what could I major in

3:30 undergraduate that's going to prepare me

3:32 for the rigors of putting together a

3:34 case and I could think of nothing better

3:36 than uh you know proving a calculus

3:39 theorem and advanced calculus in physics

3:42 and so I did that it was a concentration

3:45 you had two choices in math you could go

3:47 applied or Theory and at the time

3:50 Applied Mathematics was computer science

3:52 and that was really my first

3:54 Taste of programming developing and

3:58 again solving Solutions with technology

4:00 and just the rewarding feeling when you

4:03 see that output come out based on your

4:06 program so it just it kept in

4:09 interesting me and and and getting me

4:12 excited about what laid ahead

4:14 beautiful Theory and from Theory you

4:17 move to applied math

4:18 and

4:20 if I look at math as a whole then going

4:22 into computer science these are not

4:24 areas which was typically

4:26 female dominated areas in the past it is

4:29 predominantly male dominated areas so

4:31 when you can't do this did you have any

4:34 early mentors how was it getting into

4:35 this field which is predominantly male

4:37 dominated at that time and did you have

4:39 any early mentors or anybody to help you

4:41 through this journey

4:43 yeah I would say uh you know looking

4:46 back at the time I just loved math so

4:48 much I never really actually lifted my

4:50 head up and looked around to see there

4:52 weren't very many of me in the room but

4:55 I did have two great girlfriends and we

4:57 were the only three that were in that

4:58 graduating class of math but um I also

5:02 had an older sister uh Regina and she

5:05 ended up majoring in math we both had

5:07 this love she went into Actuarial

5:09 sciences and more on the business side

5:11 but I I always had somebody that I could

5:15 share this love with and that it was

5:17 reflected back to me that that this was

5:20 fun and interesting

5:23 um and I could have a social life as

5:24 well so so that so that really did

5:28 continue to encourage me

5:30 you had a great role model your elder

5:32 sister that's awesome

5:34 after school you know getting before

5:37 getting into a profession I think you

5:39 had told me earlier that you know you

5:41 had a brief snippet where you actually

5:42 work for your dad you know your dad in

5:45 the accounting profession and you did

5:46 work for your dad and there were some

5:47 early experiences which came out of

5:49 working for your dad and maybe some

5:51 areas you definitely want to be in and

5:53 some areas you definitely do want to be

5:54 in right there was some formative period

5:56 for you do you want to share a little

5:57 bit about that

5:59 sure like you said my dad was in

6:01 accounting he he did various roles on

6:04 Wall Street and one summer I I worked in

6:07 an accounting department in a brokerage

6:09 firm

6:10 for me with my dad being an accountant

6:12 and me loving math I just thought

6:15 everybody becomes an accountant you know

6:17 when you're in school you have no idea

6:19 but after working that summer in what is

6:23 the back office I realized this is not

6:26 something I want to do the rest of my

6:28 life and when I was developing and

6:32 programming in college I likened it to a

6:35 back office job and so while I wasn't

6:37 quite sure what I was going to do with

6:39 this computer science love

6:42 I knew that sitting in front of a screen

6:45 and developing all day

6:47 um I I just couldn't see myself doing

6:50 that I didn't know what else a career

6:52 would hold for me but because of this

6:55 accounting experience I knew that

6:58 development might not be in the cards

7:00 for me

7:01 so accounting had an influence no

7:03 software development I don't want to be

7:05 sitting in front of a computer so then

7:07 you ended up in IBM so how did that IBM

7:11 journey start you know how did you

7:12 progress in the IBM Journey

7:15 sure I I had the opportunity to be an

7:18 intern for IBM in my final summer at

7:20 college and this is happenstance and

7:23 sometimes this happens in careers you

7:25 know just these lucky happenstance I was

7:29 um assigned to a systems engineer of

7:31 course I never knew what this role was I

7:33 didn't even know it existed

7:35 but I worked with a systems engineer all

7:37 summer we visited customers throughout

7:40 Manhattan I ended up by the end of the

7:43 summer giving presentations at the

7:45 customer Visitor Center on capacity

7:48 planning and how do you manage memory

7:51 and swapping and disk capacity on your

7:53 mainframes

7:55 and this combination of technology to

7:58 solve business problems working with

8:01 customers understanding their businesses

8:04 and helping them see how technology is

8:07 the solver of these problems

8:10 I almost could not believe that people

8:12 would pay you to do a job like this and

8:15 I really did fall into it as an intern

8:17 so I began working for IBM and you know

8:21 as they say the rest is history this

8:24 pre-sales systems engineering solution

8:27 engineering really became the model for

8:30 for what most of my career was made up

8:32 of

8:33 so what I hear from you is that you

8:35 loved engaging with you know customers

8:37 solving problems you know different sort

8:40 of Applied math in terms of actually

8:42 solving problems but not sitting in

8:44 front of the computer right which is

8:45 what you hated the most

8:47 so I think you spent a few years at IBM

8:52 and then you took a break

8:55 to spend time with the family to start a

8:57 family you had kids and it was a big

9:01 Hiatus if I'm not mistaken do you want

9:04 to tell us something something about

9:06 that decision as well as coming back to

9:09 work later

9:10 sure

9:12 um you know I often look back at that

9:14 time and say it was probably the most

9:15 difficult decision of my entire career

9:18 to step away from a career I had just

9:22 launched the as400 product line I was

9:25 one of the top countries uh

9:28 experts in the architecture of the as400

9:32 I I was the person who launched it in

9:34 Boston I was young this was heady stuff

9:37 and so to to make a decision at such a

9:40 height to walk away was very difficult

9:43 but I I knew that it was right for me

9:47 and our family for me to do that and so

9:50 I did stay home uh eight years to raise

9:53 my two children and then did come back

9:57 into the workforce I hadn't met anybody

9:59 who had done that at that time and I

10:02 came back as a Solutions engineer for

10:04 Oracle which you know isn't isn't known

10:08 for its uh touchy feely you know soft

10:13 culture

10:15 um but but I was grateful for that

10:17 opportunity and and I I picked up my

10:20 career at Oracle

10:22 I mean there's a lot of things you kind

10:24 of you know to unpack right there from

10:27 what you said you were on a meteoric

10:29 rise at IBM and then you had to make a

10:31 decision okay family is more important

10:33 and a lot of female leaders go through

10:36 the same kind of question in their lives

10:38 you know when they are actually doing

10:39 really well and they have to make a

10:41 choice this or that and in your example

10:43 I think you're a shining example that

10:45 it's not a choice you can do both you

10:47 can actually take a Hiatus and most

10:49 people typically worry like you know if

10:51 you are out for a while and I think you

10:54 were out for about eight years and you

10:56 just came back and you didn't miss a

10:57 Beat right so and you're not entering a

10:59 company which is a easy company to enter

11:02 you know it's a very hard charging

11:05 toughest Nails company Oracle right so

11:07 you made the transition fairly

11:09 seamlessly is there any insights you can

11:12 share with you know female leaders who

11:14 are going through the same kind of

11:15 question in their life you know am I

11:17 going to miss out on something I have to

11:19 choose between one and two and how can I

11:21 re-enter the workforce in a way it's

11:23 comfortable and possible

11:30 most things in life that are worth doing

11:32 are difficult right it was difficult to

11:35 step away it's difficult to enter in

11:38 um your confidence is takes a real hit

11:41 but I I guess two things

11:44 um always having a learner's attitude uh

11:46 being a lifelong learner coming back and

11:49 saying you know what I'm going to learn

11:51 this latest technology that we're in and

11:54 I looked for the Unity of where I could

11:56 bring immediate value you know sometimes

11:59 if you look really different than

12:00 anybody else I was a little older I had

12:03 been out of the workforce

12:05 that actually also makes me unique and

12:08 so I look at my background and say but

12:09 what can I uniquely bring to this

12:12 opportunity

12:13 and at the time db2 IBM's db2 database

12:17 was a fierce competitor and so I knew

12:20 IBM competitive intelligence because I

12:23 had worked there and so I began to teach

12:26 at Oracle what are some of the

12:28 weaknesses or the competitive

12:30 differentiators that we could bring to

12:32 customers with our new 8i database

12:35 product and that gave me a place where I

12:38 could stand in confidence something that

12:41 other people did not have but that I did

12:43 have and I could bring that and then

12:45 about six months in there was a job

12:48 opportunity that opened for a team lead

12:50 and I thought you know

12:53 um I'm probably not going to get it but

12:55 I'm going to regret it if I don't at

12:57 least try and in the interview they

13:00 asked me have you ever been a manager

13:01 and I said no I haven't but you know

13:04 what I've been a mom and I think it's

13:07 pretty similar I've had to break up

13:10 fights I've had to have people work

13:12 together find the strengths move forward

13:15 uh you know it made the director at the

13:18 time laugh but I also got the job and

13:21 and so that was just another you know

13:23 don't hold yourself back don't second

13:26 guess go for things and if the answer is

13:29 no it's okay that's the season and

13:31 you're going to learn from that

13:32 experience and go on to something else

13:35 definitely I see you know you have this

13:39 you know Clarity in terms of what you

13:42 want to do you know always put the best

13:43 version of yourself doesn't matter what

13:45 the challenge is you know and you're

13:47 coming back to work started off as an

13:50 individual contributor and then

13:52 eventually became the group vice

13:54 president running all of systems

13:55 engineering in Oracle and that's not an

13:57 easy feat any learnings through that

14:00 experience you know how you grew up to

14:02 be a leader of people any mentors any

14:05 any insights or stories you can share

14:07 with our audience

14:09 sure I mean each each one of those steps

14:13 are our step and a season in your career

14:15 you start always keeping you know the

14:18 true north is our customers right we're

14:21 not a company we don't have customers

14:23 who love our products and so always

14:26 thinking about what is the best thing we

14:28 can do to have our customers fall in

14:30 love with our product and really

14:32 understand how it solves their Solutions

14:34 and bringing that to the people that

14:36 worked for me also really thinking about

14:38 career pathing for the people that were

14:41 in my organization so the internal focus

14:43 of making people love what they do every

14:46 day and feel like they're really growing

14:48 their career those were some key lessons

14:51 I learned as as my organization grew and

14:55 as as we grew to different places around

14:58 the world so um and I would say that my

15:01 mentors many times my mentors were the

15:05 leader I was reporting to I know you've

15:07 had Hillary on this podcast she was

15:09 definitely a mentor for me because while

15:13 when I started she was leading the whole

15:16 organization she always made it a point

15:19 to really get to know uh the shining

15:23 stars in her organization and I felt

15:25 very encouraged by that that you know

15:27 while she's in California and I was in

15:29 Boston she made it a point to talk with

15:32 me meet with me and those were things

15:35 that would just meant a lot as I was

15:37 building my career

15:39 um and being back in the workforce

15:42 so a New Yorker was already in

15:44 California in Oracle and then your next

15:47 Journey was to Salesforce if I'm not

15:48 mistaken in 2019 you joined Salesforce

15:51 again I think a company known for its

15:54 customer focus probably that's one of

15:55 the things which attracted you to

15:56 Salesforce and you grew in Salesforce

15:59 you're running a thousand plus people

16:00 organization hitting the products

16:03 that's a company in the peak of its

16:05 growth too at that time so what were

16:07 some of the challenges you faced what

16:08 were some of the

16:10 you know great achievements you feel

16:13 like you know you did in your journey

16:14 through Salesforce is there something

16:15 you can share with us

16:17 sure I mean Salesforce like you said

16:19 they were known for customer-centric I

16:22 think the technically the thing that

16:24 really got my attention in 2012 is I had

16:28 only been on on-premise software I had

16:30 not been I've not seen things in the

16:32 cloud and I was amazed at the power of

16:35 their platform I was amazed that every

16:38 customer was on the same version that

16:41 this is the SAS model these are things

16:43 that blew my mind back then and and I

16:46 wanted to be a part of it uh the new

16:49 challenge was taking on a global

16:51 organization dealing with customers in

16:54 every country around the world was that

16:57 new challenge that I stepped into while

17:00 I was there I also took on specialist

17:02 sales so you know a sales organization

17:06 that got me really working very closely

17:08 with product and that began

17:12 um just that really understanding

17:14 product the things that drive product

17:16 engineering product Road mapping and

17:20 that's how my final role was to lead the

17:23 platform product organization which was

17:26 which was a wonderful experience and a

17:31 lot of it was just all that years of

17:33 experience of studying customers

17:35 bringing it to our product roadmap and

17:38 really turning around the engagement

17:41 with customers from a product

17:42 perspective so that was wonderful it

17:46 also got me in a position to meet with

17:49 CEOs of isvs that we're building on our

17:53 platform and I think that was the

17:56 beginning of me realizing that working

17:59 with founder CEOs new CEOs

18:03 transformative CEOs and companies was

18:07 very exciting just sharing strategy

18:10 working on strategy uh which which I

18:13 would say was most instrumental in

18:15 laying the groundwork for the chapter

18:16 that I'm in now

18:18 hold that thought for a while I'm going

18:20 to get there I want to kind of spend

18:21 some time there but your journey is very

18:25 interesting for me because usually

18:26 you're sitting in you know the journey

18:28 to lead a product organization comes

18:30 from either you are you know in front of

18:32 the computer a lot of time in terms of

18:34 you know development or you know

18:36 Building Products you know having a

18:38 business background and then growing in

18:40 that journey and becoming a product

18:41 leader your journey is actually you

18:43 started with the customers Solutions

18:45 what does it really help to make the

18:47 solutions take in terms of specialist

18:48 sales and then eventually gone to the

18:50 product organization very different

18:51 Journey but an equally powerful journey

18:53 and you know kudos to what you achieve

18:55 in Salesforce now let's go into the

18:58 second chapter uh the chapter which you

19:00 are in right now where you're really

19:02 enjoying this role where you are in the

19:04 board of many companies you're also

19:06 working with you know founder CEOs and

19:08 you know helping them see some of the

19:10 potential you saw you know when you

19:12 worked very early in your career and

19:14 making them see where they could be how

19:16 are you enjoying this role and tell us

19:18 inside you know what's most interesting

19:21 in this role

19:22 yeah in every season of your career

19:25 there there are real highlights or or

19:28 reasons that you know I used to say to

19:30 people who worked for me what makes you

19:32 jump out of bed in the morning you know

19:34 and there's it's different and it's

19:36 Unique in every season but I would say

19:39 in this season the focus on strategy

19:42 what is the strategy to to bring growth

19:45 um how do we transform so that we're

19:48 staying one step ahead of either

19:50 technological architectural changes and

19:54 Dynamics or what have our customers

19:56 looking for uh and then that close

19:59 working relationship with CEOs new CEOs

20:03 Founders CEOs uh CEOs like the CEO that

20:07 you have at Juniper who's just amazing

20:10 this amazing career from engineering uh

20:14 to being the CEO of this incredible

20:15 company I those are the those are the

20:19 aspects of this job that I I just love

20:22 and relish being able to do that you

20:25 know every day for companies that are

20:28 making a difference in so many

20:30 businesses around and I I'm back always

20:34 to that the thing that started me in

20:36 Tech I love companies that are solving

20:39 what looks like boring problems but are

20:42 but are universally needed across the

20:45 board and uh the companies that I I work

20:48 with today

20:49 all have a different aspect of that but

20:53 but that's a key part of the companies

20:55 that I was looking for to to work for on

20:58 their board

21:00 fascinating to hear that part of the

21:02 journey I also always enjoy speaking to

21:06 you because you have these nuggets of

21:07 wisdom you know which you are able to

21:09 impart in a matter of a couple of

21:10 sentences and I really enjoy that let me

21:14 ask you for

21:16 as we kind of round out the show as an

21:18 as an advice to the new

21:21 new folks are coming to the workforce

21:23 people coming from college not sure

21:25 where they need to be which area they

21:28 need to choose what's the advice you can

21:30 give for folks coming into this field

21:34 um you know doesn't matter which

21:35 background they come from which tubers

21:37 background they come from what's the one

21:39 or two pieces of advice you can give

21:41 them to make them thrive in this you

21:43 know Wonderful era we are in right now

21:46 in the midst of chat GPT AI everything

21:48 is changing you know every moment what

21:51 would be a CH piece of advice you can

21:53 give them

21:58 career is you know number one

22:00 there are many seasons in a long career

22:04 just like there are in life and for each

22:06 season take it as it comes and make the

22:10 right decisions for those Seasons the

22:12 decisions I made as a new systems

22:15 engineer at IBM was very different from

22:18 the decisions I made as a as a young

22:20 mother in very different as the head of

22:24 platform product Global product at

22:26 Salesforce and today but these seasons

22:30 do come and when you look back on them

22:32 you you want to feel no regret about

22:36 making the right decision about the

22:37 moment you are in and trusting the next

22:40 season that it will be okay that you

22:42 know and a lot of times uh that's what I

22:46 I Mentor people to do the other thing

22:48 that I would say is sort of the secret

22:51 to what I learned is opportunity almost

22:55 always

22:56 lies where problems lie it's it's

23:00 usually alone only place there's not

23:02 many people that run to that area

23:04 but if you have the courage to run to

23:06 the area where the problems are

23:09 you'll be amazed at how much opportunity

23:12 opens up when you are solving the

23:15 complex and the difficult problems

23:17 because that's where a lot of the value

23:19 is hidden so if you can solve these

23:22 problems and bring value to your fellow

23:25 employees to your customers to the

23:27 company you work for to anybody in your

23:29 life this is this is really you know

23:32 when I look back these are the places

23:34 the times when I I hesitated because

23:37 nobody else was there it can be a little

23:40 lonely it can be a little daunting but

23:42 when I look back those tended to be the

23:45 biggest places of opportunity

23:47 um in my career and in my life so so I

23:50 would encourage anybody in your career

23:53 journey to think about those things

23:55 um because there's there is opportunity

23:57 around and abounding

24:00 brilliant

24:01 let me summarize the two points number

24:03 one

24:04 be in the moment you know put your best

24:07 work in the moment don't overthink the

24:09 future and where you need to be focused

24:12 on your best work at the problem you're

24:14 solving the second is navigate towards

24:17 problem areas because that's where the

24:18 opportunities are you know growth and

24:20 comfort don't go together so you need to

24:22 be a little bit uncomfortable to get to

24:24 those growth opportunities those are the

24:25 two Sage advice

24:27 really a pleasure to talk to you and as

24:29 always thank you for joining us today

24:32 thank you so much

24:40 so much

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