Jon Fortt, Host, Fortt Knox

Rami’s Story and His Path to Juniper’s Corner Office

@ JuniperLeadership Voices Rami Rahim
Jon Fortt headshot
The still image is of Rami Rahim on the screen talking to Jon Fortt via Zoom. Under Rami’s picture is the headline, “Rahim: Today’s Toughest Problem.” The Fortt Knox logo is in the upper right corner. Rami is wearing a blue shirt and glasses.

CEO Rami Rahim on Juniper’s story and his own journey from engineer to CEO.

00:10 Today's toughest problem 

13:30 Rami's personal story

37:08 Rami's personal low point - Death Valley

41:00 What got Rami through his low points - Core Belief

49:30 Juniper Networks and the future 

Juniper CEO Rami Rahim recently sat down with Jon Fortt, host of the Fortt Knox show, to discuss the state of the networking industry today, how it’s changed over the last 25 years, and where it’s headed in the future. Rami touches on how Juniper is changing the game in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and turning AI skeptics into believers as the network evolves into a self-driving machine. He also talks about how the importance of the networking industry has grown over the last few years and accelerated the value proposition that Juniper has always delivered. Tune in to hear more of this eye-opening conversation, including Rami’s own personal story and remarkable leadership journey from engineer to CEO. 

Show more

You’ll learn

  • What Rami thinks is the toughest problem facing the networking business today 

  • The biggest changes to the network and to Juniper over the last 25 years, according to Rami, and what he sees as his most important responsibilities as CEO of Juniper 

  • Rami’s path at Juniper and what he sees as the company’s greatest achievements 

Who is this for?

Business Leaders Network Professionals


Jon Fortt headshot
Jon Fortt
Host, Fortt Knox

Guest speakers

Rami Headshot
Rami Rahim
CEO, Juniper Networks 


0:00 welcome to fort knox i am john fort here this time with Rami Rahim the ceo of juniper networks rami welcome and i'm

0:08 going to start the way i always do asking about today's toughest problem and given the economy

0:14 uh given the stock market given supply chains uh take your pick but what would you say

0:21 the toughest problem either in a literal sense or from a leadership and management perspective is

0:27 yeah first john i want to just thank you for having me i'm uh delighted to be here i think if you were asked many

0:33 people in my shoes today they'd probably start by saying supply chain supply chain is sort of the

0:39 a pretty tough challenge these days that anybody that's in the business of developing systems that have a hardware

0:45 element you're going to deal with the challenges of procuring components shipping products all over the world and

0:50 we're not immune to that i have to say i am proud of the way that my team has been handling the situation

0:56 but you know my view is that's a problem that's going to be transitory eventually that will resolve itself

1:02 uh a tougher more strategic problem is you know juniper is in an industry that

1:08 is changing uh where the past has been about developing solutions that help companies

1:15 scale the internet but speeds and feeds about performance i think the future is

1:20 not about that the future basically treats that as stable stakes it's about experience basically every project

1:28 every uh digital transformation initiative in a company in a corporation

1:34 depends on the network and performance of network is no longer enough it really is around the experience that that

1:40 network delivers to the end user that becomes the most important thing that's a challenge because it presents new

1:46 problems to solve but it's also a wonderful opportunity for juniper to embrace

1:51 what and maybe this is too uh cute or abstract a question but we what even is

1:57 the network anymore i used to think of the network as something that you could go

2:02 look at right like you could go into the closet and look at the networking gear routers and switches depending on which

2:10 point you want to look at and then eventually you know you're going into the enterprise and you're looking at either the cabling or you know the the

2:17 wi-fi routers and whatnot but now in this 5g internet of things era

2:23 everything is becoming networked right and then you've got software-defined networking so is the

2:30 value in the software or you know how much of it is in the hardware how much of it is custom chips i mean

2:36 it gets what is a networking company anymore you know you don't know how good a

2:43 question that actually is because when i started a juniper 25 years ago

2:49 the network was built of networking elements that were essentially pieces of hardware that contained the silicon the

2:56 transistors all the way all the entire software stack and that was value that

3:01 was sold to our customers on a crate that's not the network anymore yes of

3:06 course there is still a hardware element to the network because at the end of the day you need these big high performance

3:13 devices that move information move packets from point a to point b but

3:19 many elements of the next generation network the network for the next decade are in software layers that have now

3:26 been extracted from that system that sits on the crate that ends up in a central office or a data center and has

3:33 moved in the cloud so one of some of our most differentiated products take our

3:38 client to cloud ai driven enterprise solutions the control and the management of that

3:44 network is no longer something that our customers need to deal with as on-prem technology it's delivered as a

3:52 service from the cloud what's the net effect of that dramatic simplicity in how you operate a

3:59 network in many ways we're moving towards a network that operates itself because the intelligence of that network

4:05 no longer resides in the network but it actually sits in the cloud that overlooks things manages things operates

4:11 things optimizes things that's the future that we're driving towards so where's the value in the ecosystem then

4:18 i came up in tech as a reporter during i think more of the hardware scale era

4:23 where you had yes you had like individual networking players like you guys like cisco but then you had hp and

4:31 dell right trying to build up as much share of wallet in the enterprise as

4:36 possible and fold in things like at least your lower level networking and

4:41 then you know deliver a services organization that was just able to suck all of that revenue up and and

4:48 simplicity meant having a lot of people and being able to sell everything through those people now you've got

4:55 these hyperscaler cloud players that are also about scale and also i think to some

5:02 degree about um commoditizing specialized players potentially like

5:10 juniper so how do you thrive in that era either become a consolidator or become so differentiated

5:17 that that doesn't happen yeah so it's another good question you thrive by innovating and this is a

5:24 competitive industry in some cases you're competing not just with your

5:30 peers and your classical competitors you're competing with your customers and you brought up

5:35 for example the hyperscale cloud providers practically every hyperscale cloud provider is a juniper customer

5:42 today and yet these are companies that are packed full of very smart engineers

5:47 that can do a lot on their own so in some sense you're always competing with

5:52 them you're demonstrating to them that you can keep up with their your their requirements you're demonstrating to

5:58 them that you can innovate in ways that would be difficult even for them to do um so

6:03 that is how we ultimately succeed now that's just one element of our uh business that cloud provider component

6:10 we also have a thriving service provider business and an enterprise business and the name of the game there really is

6:17 around um innovation it can't just be about hardware speeds and feeds um making sure

6:25 that the you can keep up with their traffic demands because honestly that's just become tables table stakes we're

6:31 changing the game right now and innovating in areas like artificial intelligence

6:36 every day changing skeptics in ai into believers moving ai from what is

6:43 traditionally been powerpoint to actual practice and achieving real outcomes so

6:48 we can go to an enterprise customer for example and say i can give you the fastest time the

6:54 deployment of a new network in your business or the fewest number of trouble

6:59 tickets or the fastest time to resolution of trouble tickets you know these are the areas that you need to

7:04 innovate in in order to thrive in this industry so is that the

7:10 main value of ai then in the space where you're operating is

7:17 simplifying the implementation process for customers absolutely the analogy i like to use is

7:24 kind of like the self-driving car you know in many ways we're moving uh the industry the automobile industry

7:30 to self-driving what does that mean it's gonna radically change the face of cities no more need for parking lots

7:38 much safer fewer lives lost as a result of what is inevitably coming there is a

7:44 similar need and i believe a destiny that's going to happen in this industry towards the

7:50 self-driving network a network that essentially doesn't require human beings to ensure that things stay up that it

7:57 performs well and that's great because ultimately you want humans to focus on the much more strategic components of

8:04 their business you want to focus them on new revenue streams competing against upstarts or trying to disrupt them and

8:12 the best way to do that is to free their their their time from just keeping the lights on of getting the dreaded 3am

8:19 call because you know something has gone wrong in the network and the business is being affected as a result of that

8:25 that's what we're striving to achieve and i'm you know super happy to report that it's not really just a matter of

8:31 a vision anymore we're demonstrating this to our customers and i think we're reaping the benefits from a business

8:37 performance standpoint now what about areas like industrial iot um

8:43 over the last few months talked to a number of different companies executives uh across the ecosystem qualcomm

8:51 reported some big numbers of growth there you know talked to some startups who are working on 5g

8:57 in this area um and i i wonder about it particularly

9:03 because there also seems to be this overall technology trend toward okay the overall blanket horizontal promise has

9:10 been made for the potential of things like iot ai etc but really delivering on

9:16 the promise it seems is going to take specific industry solutions and people

9:21 who have knowledge of those industries and can connect the technology's potential into the customer's need and

9:28 especially in this economy being able to kind of generate revenue not just kind

9:34 of good feelings um seems especially important so so how does that in industry focus and that

9:42 vertical focus fit into your strategy and what needs to be done yeah you know it used to be at juniper

9:49 that the first problems we were solving as we were building our first products that helped the internet scale at the time of the dot-com boom

9:56 was around connecting people and the internet was essentially doubling every few months and we were a

10:03 small startup and that was our timing was impeccable because we were trying to sell to some conservative buyers that

10:09 didn't really want to bet their networks on startups but they had no choice because we were the only ones that could provide them with a solution to keep up

10:15 with that insatiable demand that's generated by humans today it's not just about humans

10:21 as you mentioned it's really about connecting literally everything and

10:27 the one thing that we have learned is that when you're trying to connect things and not humans is that

10:33 delivering that experience that i was just talking about that an incredible end user experience becomes even more

10:38 important when you're connecting humans in an office environment um and things don't go wrong humans will pick up the

10:44 phone and say you know the wi-fi sucks uh something is broken uh when you're connecting things

10:50 let's say you're connecting robots in a warehouse environment they typically don't have that capability and so the

10:58 uptime of the network the performance of the network the network being not just up but actually functioning properly and

11:04 your ability to consume metrics that give you the confidence the assurance that it's functioning properly becomes

11:11 of paramount importance which is why this ai driven self-driving network

11:16 concept that i've just described very much applies to large warehouses factories where there

11:22 are robots and machines that are being connected so they can do their day-to-day uh work it's a it's a great

11:29 opportunity for us and one that fits right into our areas of strength

11:34 now you've been at juniper for um a long time yeah so

11:40 i i want you to put this moment um economically the broader environment

11:47 into perspective how challenging is it um

11:53 is there anything that you compare it to whether we're talking late 90s early 2000s financial crisis etc

12:01 you know no i think it's somewhat unique at this point in time first if you look at the pandemic and what

12:08 that has done to the economy if anything it has highlighted

12:14 and put a spotlight on the importance of our industry right i mean think about where we would

12:19 be if we didn't have a network that would keep us connected with our families

12:25 uh keep our kids educated enable us to get health care to do commerce to do

12:31 business and if anything i think the pandemic has highlighted and

12:37 accelerated the value proposition that we have always been delivering

12:43 at juniper so that in some sense yes the pandemic presented headwinds but it also

12:49 provided some tailwinds if you will for our industry and then the supply chain challenge is definitely unique i i have

12:55 been at juniper for as you mentioned a long time 25 years or so and we've never

13:01 experienced anything that has been this broad-based and touched so many different elements

13:06 of our business and it really has taught us to up our game and execution and how we work with our contract manufacturers

13:13 our semiconductor partners and and so on okay so um we've talked about juniper

13:21 and the industry i want to come back to that uh when we talk about the vision going forward but now i want to learn

13:27 some more about you um and i like to start at the beginning so tell me uh where were you born

13:34 tell me about the household parents siblings yeah so i was born in beirut lebanon of

13:40 palestinian descent i left the middle east when i was very young and i moved west to canada that's where we

13:46 ultimately immigrated as a child at two sisters an older and a younger sister

13:51 um my father was an engineer and

13:56 you know my mom was uh somebody that really put a lot of pressure on us to con to work hard at

14:01 school both my parents instilled the strong sense of work ethics in me and in my

14:08 sisters i think my father's career choice of being an engineer he was a civil engineer definitely was an

14:14 inspiration to me ultimately choosing a career in engineering i've now lived in

14:20 the u.s for the longest in my life so i'm a proud american and i've grown deep roots here with two

14:26 children a loving wife a wonderful career um you know this is this is my

14:31 home now so tell me about uh early memories 70s 80s

14:38 in canada what what do you remember from that period middle child um

14:45 well i'll tell you that what ultimately got me into technology was probably when

14:51 my parents bought for myself and my sisters our first personal computer in

14:56 fact i remember it was an ibm pc junior uh which was a very interesting device and

15:03 i have to say i was intrigued fascinated immediately hooked to it and i tried i

15:10 was trying to figure out what to do with it but i have to say ultimately the thing that got me to really

15:16 be inspired by it is when computer graphics started to become a thing and graphics software became available and

15:24 affordable to households and when i ultimately bought my first

15:30 graphics programming or software program i ended up

15:36 marrying a creative side that i had in me to technology and i would lock myself in my room for hours and hours maybe

15:43 even days on end and just create art on the computer and ultimately that sort of gave me this belief that i needed to

15:50 choose a career not just in technology but in computer graphics and in fact the first part of my career the first

15:56 company i worked for in canada when i graduated from my undergraduate school the university of toronto is a company

16:02 called ati technologies which built graphics processors and now is actually

16:08 a part of amad yeah yeah exactly tell me about tell me about the

16:13 artistic side like when you got the pc around you were 12 years old but let's go back even earlier

16:19 than that um what were you into outside of school artistic expression

16:25 uh activities what so on the artistic front i i spent a lot of time drawing um

16:33 painting you know that was my outlet that was the way in which i balanced

16:39 what i also did which is a lot of hard work and studying for school um and i did that you know on

16:46 traditional pen and paper prior to moving to uh doing it on computers and

16:52 um i still sort of have a lot of that in me today but let's just say i don't have the patience nor do i have a lot of the

16:58 time for it outside of that what were you drawing oh everything it it really depended on

17:06 what was inspiring me so i i remember i i spent the summer learning how to windsurf so i draw a picture of

17:12 windsurfers i was into automobiles i draw a picture of my favorite cars i was into the toronto maple leafs the hockey

17:18 hockey team up in toronto canada i draw a picture of you know the goalie for the toronto maple leafs at the time ken

17:24 regett so it's just whatever was top of mind whatever was inspiring me i did do

17:30 the canadian thing i played hockey for a few years um i played a couple of instruments but i never really stuck to

17:36 anything i was sort of one of those kids that moved around from hobby to hobby pretty quickly was everybody

17:42 comfortable with that were you comfortable with that i mean these days um people are really into specialization

17:48 i personally think too into specialization i went to a liberal arts school i like to dabble in a lot of things i see value in that but i mean

17:55 you know a lot of times parents will want their kids to focus on math and science and engineering and be

18:01 freaked out if they want to be artistic what was the situation for you no i honestly i i couldn't be happier

18:10 and more proud of my parents than the fact that my parents just gave me a lot of leeway and a lot of support

18:16 irrespective of whatever career choices that i you know i decided on

18:23 now i will say that i definitely had an inspiration from my dad not because of

18:28 pressure that he put on me but i saw the passion he had for

18:33 building and creating things now he was a civil engineer so he built buildings and bridges and things of that nature i

18:40 ultimately chose a path on my own of electrical engineering and it became about building

18:46 you know different things chips to be uh honest quite uh initially and then moving on into networking from there

18:53 tell me about your dad's passion for building you know ethnically palestinian

18:58 in um lebanon there's a lot of destruction happening right there's a lot that's

19:03 being torn down so somebody who wants to build that's probably more than just physical and literal in that sense right

19:11 absolutely i mean my dad um worked at a time when the need for construction in the middle east was

19:17 absolutely there and he built everything from hospitals to bridges to

19:23 um you know office buildings when he moved to canada i believe for there was a period of time where he helped in

19:29 building nuclear power plants so he had a pretty robust career and i remember growing up

19:35 i was extremely proud of what i was seeing and ultimately that definitely had an effect on my

19:41 career choice to move into engineering and he actually he would tell me he'd say look the future is going to be more

19:48 around technology it's going to be more around computers and electronics so if you do choose a path in engineering then

19:53 you sort of um let's just say encourage me to consider a path that's more in the future of

19:59 engineering engineering around computers and technology uh at what point did

20:06 you really start to from uh academic perspective capitalize on that

20:13 so you know moving to the west to canada when i was a child

20:19 english was a second language i was i felt sort of out of place

20:24 uh and and honestly school didn't come easily for me

20:29 but i was motivated what grade were you when you made that probably grade three but i was

20:36 motivated to really improve and so i'd go the extra mile i had

20:42 lessons after school um in everything from math to english

20:48 and i remember i put in the hours i don't know why but i really did pull in the pull in the hours and i think it was

20:54 very much the the values of work ethic that my parents instilled in us all of

21:00 us as children at the time and i just got better and better and so

21:05 you know by the time i got into junior high school or middle school as they say here in the u.s and then ultimately high

21:11 school i certainly like to have fun i had a lot of friends but i worked very hard as well um you know

21:18 and ultimately that led to an ability to pursue a career in engineering and the ability to go to university of toronto

21:24 and ultimately to stanford to get my master's degree i would be remiss if i didn't ask about

21:30 your mom um and what her influence was both on

21:36 the ethic right the work ethic and also on the specific interests that you had

21:42 you know i think with my mom she was just the um

21:48 always uh supportive you know it was basically unconditional love and support

21:55 irrespective of the decisions that we ultimately made in our lives

22:01 and i think that just took a lot of pressure off of us as kids growing up in that household

22:07 knowing that we could pursue a career in anything that we ultimately wanted and we would have that level of support is

22:14 everything and i've learned so much from my mom um as i rage my teenage kids uh

22:20 today okay so let's let's talk about um post

22:26 college and go back and get anything from college that we need to but you mentioned ati and i remember you know

22:32 ati and and amd sort of getting together um but after the well during the period

22:40 there which wasn't too long how did that start to blend your

22:46 artistic visual interests into your technology interest and um why did you

22:52 leave so i left ati not because i there was anything wrong with ati technologies i

22:58 was drawn to the action in silicon valley i saw that there was something special

23:04 happening in silicon valley and honestly i just wanted a piece of it and and i also thought i'd move to

23:10 silicon valley and pursue a career in computer graphics so i came down

23:15 silicon valley i um started my master's degree at stanford by the time i was graduating i did an

23:21 internship i actually did an internship at a company that was in graphics

23:26 but i honestly got bored in that internship because that was a company that just didn't challenge me

23:33 enough and i think it was based on that borden that i thought oh you know what let me

23:39 spread my wings a little bit see what else is out there um look at other problems that need to

23:45 be solved and came across this problem of the network the internet and it was the

23:52 right time to be looking at that problem because it was just at the beginning of the dot-com boom

23:58 um none of the traditional technology at the time could keep pace with the

24:03 explosion of traffic in the global network and i figured you know what that will be the problem that i'm going to

24:10 pursue my career in and i came across a tiny little startup of around 20 people or so called juniper

24:16 networks and they you know convinced them that they need to take a shot at me straight out

24:22 of stanford university and the rest is fate i guess and it's so

24:28 uh unique because as you said you've been at juniper for more than 25 years

24:35 um usually to get to some next level at some point people

24:40 need to leave a company either because the existing leadership doesn't want to sort of get

24:46 out of the way or internal politics or whatever what is different about juniper how have

24:53 you managed to stay there for a quarter century yeah um

24:59 you know first i can't i could not be more grateful of

25:04 the opportunities that juniper has presented me and my recipe for success has never been

25:10 around creating this five five-year or 10-year career arc a plan that i was methodically

25:18 pursuing it was always around the here and now it was always around

25:23 getting recognized by building a reputation of being able to get stuff

25:29 done and ultimately when that next opportunity would emerge and inevitably

25:35 in a good company they're going to emerge you raise your hand and because you've built this track record uh

25:42 a a reputation of of getting projects done on time with

25:48 high quality you're always going to be considered for that next step now you don't always get to

25:55 you know take that next step but at least you will be considered that's the recipe that worked time and time again

26:02 for me at juniper all the way from an individual contributor working on the smallest pieces of logic on our first

26:10 piece of semiconductor that went into our very first router through the engineering ranks into

26:15 product management into general management and then right up to the point of uh becoming the ceo of the of

26:22 the company that has been the recipe that has worked for me and you know i think it can work for others as well

26:27 like there's a bit of a lost art if you will in our industry of sticking around and rising through the ranks so

26:34 maybe i'm a rare case but i think i'm a case that can apply to others as well well especially now and i think it's not

26:41 all the workers fault that the relationship between company and workers become pretty transactional in a lot of cases

26:49 in some ways perhaps um the compensation and equity influences that

26:55 hey let me go someplace younger newer where there's more upside potential if i'm going to be paid that

27:01 way perhaps it's just the narrative in silicon valley and how that's shifted over time so how do you

27:08 um how should you reset that narrative so that it

27:14 encourages that kind of longevity yeah so you're now talking about a problem that i think is definitely here and now

27:20 in silicon valley i mean the ability to attract and retain talent now in the valley is not easy right it's an

27:26 incredibly tight labor market and it's a very competitive

27:32 workforce market today so it is definitely something that's top of mind it is definitely a part of my

27:37 responsibilities as a ceo of this company and i really think it comes down to a couple of different things first

27:43 um is compensation you've got to be competitive right and with wage inflation and so forth that's

27:49 becoming more and more of a challenge but you have to do what you need to do second

27:55 i do think there is a culture aspect of this it's people are devoting so much of their

28:01 time to working with their colleagues you have to make work a place where they can

28:07 do their best work where they feel like they have a voice where they feel like they can they're included

28:12 that they have the support from their managers especially over the last couple of years as we've been going through this pandemic the importance of human

28:19 leadership has become you know just paramount um and then the last thing and

28:26 especially i think this is true for a technology company it certainly is true for me and why i stuck around is people

28:32 want to latch on to a mission that they believe in and i think juniper is very much a

28:38 mission-driven company yes we're building great solutions for the client to cloud the ai driven enterprise but

28:45 ultimately what does that mean we're helping our kids get educated we're helping researchers find cures for

28:51 deadly diseases where you know enabling service providers to provide health care across

28:57 remote barren lands i mean these are things that to me are exceptionally motivating and have kept

29:05 me here at juniper so articulating that narrative when you're when you're marketing your products we don't just

29:10 look at this as marketing our products to our customers we're actually marketing them to our employees to prospective

29:16 employees um and i think that's become more important the rev than ever in this day and age

29:22 let me just take a kind of blind um

29:28 whack at this and ask about a period in your career when maybe you might have

29:33 left juniper and specifically right around the financial crisis i mean it's early

29:39 in your management the management part of your career and tenure there i think you were

29:46 what vice president of product management i imagine

29:51 customer budgets are shrinking perhaps even juniper for some period of time is shrinking

29:57 and then even as things start to turn around in the industry in general maybe

30:02 you got offers to go elsewhere that might look attractive did that happen um yeah i mean certainly i've

30:09 been a company for so long that uh offers have come and gone but but if i were to pick a moment and

30:16 there's more than one but let me just pick one early 2000s there was an industry challenge that was

30:22 happening um juniper had largely been seen as a company that had missed a big

30:30 networking technology trend around carrier ethernet you know ethernet was traditionally this lan technology at

30:37 technology that connected devices inside of an enterprise now was moving out into

30:42 the carrier space and we were slow to embrace that and many people had countered us out and

30:49 so it was a low point not just for me but for the company and we saw a lot of attrition i i lost a lot of good friends

30:57 and colleagues at the time but i discovered something about myself which is that you know when the tough

31:03 get going you either sort of give up throwing the towel or you prove the skeptics wrong and i think i'm more of

31:10 the latter i wanted to prove even my friends that had decided to abandon us

31:15 that they made the wrong decision so we dug our heels i remember it was a very small team of people we just

31:22 camped out inside of a meeting room and just started to think about all the necessary decisions build by partner to

31:29 build what would be a late but good enough carrier ethernet products to meet the

31:35 market demands and we did just that we in fact that was the the genesis of the

31:40 mx product line in the company that ended up being one of the most successful products in the industry and

31:46 the most successful product today at juniper so i often tell my team you know pressure can kill you but it can also

31:53 create diamonds and in this case it created a diamond a multi multi billion dollar diamond for the company how did

32:00 you get from good enough to a diamond you know

32:06 i think the talent at juniper has always been and continues to be off the charts

32:13 amazing and that's another thing that has kept me here john i'm always learning here i have never

32:20 ever in my career felt like i am the smartest guy in in the room

32:26 and there are always people to learn from whether it be on the technology side the business side finance you name it so i i really do think it just comes

32:34 down to having exceptional talent that managed to create a product from semiconductor

32:40 all the way through the software stack that was just superior higher performance lower power

32:46 consumption more programmability more flexibility than what was out there and our customers saw that and you know

32:53 bought lots of it but surely there must have been strategy behind okay let's get i don't want to call it

32:59 necessarily the minimum viable product out to show that we've got a stake in this area where people think we've mixed

33:06 missed it but then to apply the right amount of talent and resource to it

33:11 to grow our capability more quickly than the competition who do you put in charge

33:16 of that is that a big team or a small team how is it constituted do you keep it in the same

33:22 workspace as everybody else or do you split it out like how do you go from from good enough to a main company

33:30 driver well because this was such a big decision for the company this was a ceo

33:36 level decision that needed to be made we could either buy our way into the market we

33:41 could partner our way or we could build now i was an engineer at the time or probably more of a product management

33:48 manager at the time so working closely with engineers defining the products and ultimately working on you know the

33:54 execution of the products so i chose the path of build and i ultimately had to sell it i mean

34:01 it wasn't you know after locking ourselves in this room brainstorming filling up white boards

34:08 literally from florida uh ceiling with uh grand plans of how we're gonna build

34:14 this incredible product ultimately once we landed on something that we felt was compelling it came down

34:22 to selling the concept selling the vision to the decision makers and because this

34:27 was such a big decision for the company it really did rise to um the ceo this is the cto the chief

34:34 technical officer of the company and you know i think they made the right decision and in retrospect i think we can all say we made the right decision

34:42 okay so at what point uh presumably after this did you figure out that you might want to be ceo

34:50 to be perfectly honest never i i never had my sights

34:55 on becoming ceo but that said i was very ambitious

35:01 uh so that's why you know i felt if i became ceo that's awesome but you know there's i'm gonna need to take some

35:07 steps along the way uh and that's why i bring it the way i did i said might wanna be ceo

35:14 not that you're like macbeth and you're gonna you know knife anybody in your way including but i mean um at what point

35:21 did you think okay uh within the realm of possibility of my time here at

35:27 juniper i could run this place if if uh the board needs me to and you know if i'm in

35:34 that position that's something that's within the realm of possibility for me okay i see what you're asking right now

35:39 i think when i was uh when i became the head of the platform systems

35:45 division basically responsible for all products development uh strategy

35:51 road maps in the company uh reporting directly to the ceo and i

35:57 saw what it was like and the decisions that needed to be made and the challenges that had to be faced

36:04 uh and this was probably around a few years let's say three four five years before

36:11 the opportunity to actually take the ceo job became available

36:17 what was it about that proximity and the level of responsibility and access you had

36:24 that that made that something that you saw was possible

36:29 i guess when you see it firsthand um you understand the topics the

36:35 discussions the decisions i'm not saying that i felt like okay

36:42 this is easy i could do it that was never my style never my character uh but

36:47 i definitely started to build the confidence that these are skills that i

36:52 can acquire and ultimately having that chair at the

36:58 ceo table gave me that confidence that allowed me to raise my hand and

37:04 take the ceo job when it became available okay now i always

37:10 like to ask about an experience i call death valley the lowest point because i think how one gets through that is

37:18 instructive yep so we talked a bit about early 2000s and juniper's difficulties

37:24 but for you individually personally what was the toughest time

37:31 either career-wise or personally where perhaps you thought that you know

37:37 whatever path you were on you were going to have to make a dramatic change well

37:43 that early 2000s point was an example of that because it was actually quite tough on me and everybody at

37:50 juniper to persevere through what was a pretty difficult time period for the company

37:56 but that was not the you know the only time um

38:03 every career step i took was a big decision for me but some were

38:10 bigger than others so we talked about moving to become a ceo but there were other earlier ones maybe

38:16 one of the most important decisions that i took and yes you could say it was a tough decision and i think that's the

38:23 nature of the question that you're asking john was making the career choice to move

38:28 from an engineering track to a business track right i was very happy being an engineer i loved

38:35 technology i loved building products but i felt like there was something that was missing but i didn't know if that

38:42 itch was strong enough to risk everything on the engineering track and move to becoming a product manager and

38:48 ultimately a general manager and i remember really really struggling with that decision i didn't know if i would

38:54 be good at it i didn't know if i would like it and i ultimately it was a leap of faith to

39:02 um make that shift um and fortunately not only did i find

39:07 that i you know was pretty decent at it i actually loved it i loved that marriage

39:13 of technology uh products and strategy the ability to communicate and

39:19 talk to our customers and partners that was such a i don't know a great mix

39:24 of skills that i was building at the time so i felt it was the right decision for sure

39:30 that's that's important i think what i'm more asking about more than uncertainty is failure and loss

39:37 right um aside from that early 2000s period of uncertainty in the kind of the company

39:42 missing it what was the the hardest lowest uh moment that maybe prompted some

39:50 self-doubt even well you know throughout my

39:57 uh career in engineering i worked on products that i put my heart and soul into that ultimately were

40:05 cancelled when you are an engineer you don't necessarily see the business

40:10 logic behind that you what you see are people that are you know ripping the baby out of your hands uh the thing that

40:17 you have devoted so much of your time and your attention um and your you know cycles to for years

40:23 and years um so there were examples of of that there were products that we built for

40:29 markets you know certain elements of the service provider market that ultimately

40:35 didn't see light of day and for an engineer that has devoted so much of their time to it that was a very dark

40:40 difficult decision but i see those types of decisions now in a different light

40:46 you know i see them as sometimes you've got to make sacrifices in specific areas for the greater good

40:52 of the company and i understand them of course much more now than i did back then

40:57 okay so um i don't know if you want to take one of those in particular whether it

41:03 was the first or you know the one that you work hardest on or maybe one

41:08 sometimes you know the c-suite's got to make decisions um and you understand why they made the decision but you still you

41:14 know know that they made the wrong decision in the long term but what did you um

41:20 what did you get from that experience and not just the knowledge that eventually

41:26 um big decisions have to be made but getting through that experience of having something that

41:32 you believed in um canceled destroyed mothballed yeah what did that

41:39 what did getting through that do for you back then i have to be honest what i got was just a whole bunch of heartache

41:46 about it but i will say today if i reflect back on those difficult

41:52 periods in time castle products you know the pressures of the early 2000s all of those

41:59 challenges each and every one of them have created who i am as a leader today so

42:06 take for example one of those um product cancellations i think you've got to be empathetic

42:13 with people in your company when they are impacted negatively

42:18 by decisions uh and i've always said to my team it's important to be kind as a

42:24 leader and some people misconstrue that they confuse that with being weak as a leader no not at all as

42:31 a leader you're on the hook to make tough decisions sometimes decisions that can

42:36 impact people in negative ways but always do it with respect and with

42:41 dignity and and face up to it so if i were to make a decision now that impacted people in a negative way take

42:48 for example engineers that have products that they've been working on that are essentially going to get mothballed i

42:54 will go and talk to them directly and try to describe and explain the business logic behind such a decision and you

43:01 know what some of them might understand it and i hope that they would understand it some of them by not might not do it

43:06 but i think it's important as a leader to take that step nonetheless what are what are the elements and

43:13 you're getting to some of them of that kind of kindness right you're separating it from weakness you're still doing it

43:18 you're still mothballing the thing um but you're uh

43:24 you're visiting and doing it you're doing it in person you're doing it i don't know what what would you say are

43:30 the pieces of delivering that hard information doing that hard thing

43:36 that yeah that build in kindness well you know as a leader and certainly

43:42 that includes as a ceo so much of your job is communication

43:48 and it's selling right you're selling stock to investors products to to

43:53 your customers and partners you're selling a vision to your employees and you're also selling decisions that

44:00 you make to your stakeholders that includes your employees so when you so in that example that i

44:07 just provided about being kind kindness is essentially giving the

44:12 respect to those in your team to and by giving them the time to

44:17 explain to them the logic behind the difficult decisions that you make and again i have to

44:24 emphasize that it's by no means saying you don't make the difficult decisions you do have to make them but you owe

44:31 your team the respect and dignity to explain them and if you can do that i think you've got much more loyal

44:38 teammates that will stick around and support you it sounds like tell me if i'm reading

44:44 too much into this part of explaining is taking the time to think about

44:49 where your audience is what their starting point is of expectation

44:55 of emotion of commitment and then you know bridging from the information that

45:01 you have but starting from where they are as opposed to i'm dropping this decision down and

45:08 maybe i'll listen for when it hits you but maybe not absolutely the case i think you've

45:13 described it really well and you could probably just summarize it in that word of empathy right you have to be able to

45:19 put yourself in their shoes and to explain it in a way that really resonates with them now you

45:26 know i was an engineer i was a technologist i was literally in their shoes so i would have the

45:33 unique ability to express the decision in the right way to explain it but then

45:39 also to connect it to the success of the company and of course when we were talking about the success

45:44 of the company you have to explain that that is how we all succeed at the end of the day it's the success of the company

45:50 that gives us the ability to invest in new exciting areas to invest in new products and solutions

45:56 now is empathy harder to pull off with a hybrid and remote workforce

46:04 to be perfectly honest yes i i'm i think the last few years we have

46:11 demonstrated that we can be productive like i know people say but we've been so productive

46:16 in a remote environment and that's true i don't think anybody can argue with that we've shipped products we've hit

46:22 schedules we've met budgets we've done all that but i think there are there is a

46:28 downside to pure virtual that's not immediately observable it's something that takes

46:35 time to become observable and i don't necessarily think is very positive and that is what you're saying this ability

46:41 to empathize to connect to connect at a human level uh with people i mean i

46:46 think about all of the employees that we've hired over the last couple of years that have

46:51 many cases not even met in person their peers or their managers now that's

46:57 slowly changing fortunately but that is a big disadvantage especially when it comes to the issues around talent

47:04 attraction and talent retention that we were just talking about so um

47:09 pure remote i'm not a big fan of hybrid where there will be periods of time where people get together and work

47:16 face to face in person i think is the new normal and i think it's important

47:21 yeah i think about this a lot particularly when it comes to early career often younger

47:28 employees because what's what's bonding them not just to the career or to the

47:33 industry but to the place if not the relationships with the people and

47:38 the idea that some of these people you know mid-career managers senior executives actually know and care about

47:46 me and so i i get the hybrid thing uh i like flexible environments myself but it

47:52 also seems to me like if you're gonna do that boy you gotta just be a ninja in those two or three days a week that

47:59 you're together you gotta get everything exactly right and hit all the emotional notes because

48:05 you've got you know you're taking fewer shots so you got to make a higher percentage it's it's so true i i do think people

48:12 are starting to think much more uh strategically you know thoughtfully about how they're

48:19 going to leverage their time in the office when they're um you know face-to-face with their peers uh we've

48:25 started to do that my leadership team and i we've arranged our schedules our calendars so that the meetings that we

48:32 have that we schedule on our calendars are on days where we are going to be in the office and i've seen

48:38 um that you know the the bonds the dynamics between the team absolutely

48:45 improve as we increase the frequency of meeting in person look at at the end

48:50 of the day we are humans we are social creatures and there is only so much you

48:56 can do over a video link and i say this as a ceo of a networking company where you

49:02 know we benefit a lot from uh those that are leveraging the network for remote collaboration

49:08 yeah i mean look we're having we're having this conversation remotely now but you know eventually i hope we're

49:14 gonna have lunch or we're gonna have dinner um because you know that that's how uh relationships also build and grow

49:21 so i i wanna go back to um juniper

49:27 specifically strategically in the vision from here we're getting into this a little bit at the beginning of the

49:32 conversation but as we look toward the end of 2022 into 2023 and the main

49:40 macro factors and industry needs that are going to drive the demand

49:46 for the kind of technology that you produce what is it really that's going to

49:52 that you're going to focus on that's going to differentiate you so you know the big

49:57 trends that we're looking at that are happening now first digital transformation you know

50:03 the network has become not a nice to have but a absolute

50:08 must-have for any company that's going through any form of digital transformation and it can't just be

50:14 you know a best effort network it's got to be a network that provides an assured and

50:20 a secured experience to those that are using it second it's complexity complexity has become

50:26 this thing that has bogged us all down in this industry it has slowed down

50:32 customers across all segments of the market in some cases downright crippling

50:38 innovation and progress and as people come back to the office albeit gradually

50:44 nobody is rushing towards more on-prem complexity really is around

50:49 leveraging the cloud by simplifying um the i.t experience so how

50:56 are we pursuing this what does this mean for juniper this is what the net the network for the next decade is all about

51:01 we're changing the game with artificial intelligence we're changing believers as skeptics and

51:07 ai into actual believers i think we're achieving real outcomes with our ai that

51:13 are defeating complexity simplifying the lives of network operators and making it

51:18 so that those that are using the network to live work and play are actually trusting the network for their most

51:25 important applications irrespective of where they are in the office at home or

51:30 anywhere else that is our opportunity we've we have a juniper a 50 billion

51:35 plus market opportunity of which you know we are just a few points of market share so the

51:41 sky's the limit in terms of where we can take this company well we can use some of that uh optimism

51:48 uh in these economic times and and in these markets Rami Rahim ceo of juniper networks thanks

51:55 for sharing the juniper story and vision in your own story and vision as well really

52:01 enjoyed it thanks so

Show more