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“Five things you should do to create a fantastic work culture”, With Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks

Promote Ethical and Diverse Leadership A good C-suite is representative of all its employees. Representation at every level of the company not only boosts innovation and employee engagement, but also cultivates diversity of thought. On International Women’s Day this year, we invited guest speakers with various backgrounds to share their perspectives and speak to the […]


Promote Ethical and Diverse Leadership A good C-suite is representative of all its employees. Representation at every level of the company not only boosts innovation and employee engagement, but also cultivates diversity of thought. On International Women’s Day this year, we invited guest speakers with various backgrounds to share their perspectives and speak to the benefits of cultivating diversity of thought in the workplace. Different perspectives are key to solving the problems of any industry.
Juniper also recently signed the Paradigm for Parity pledge. Paradigm for Parity is a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the corporate leadership gender gap. It is comprised of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in the corporate world — one in which women and men have equal power, status and opportunity.

Recently we had the opportunity to interview Rami Rahim from Juniper Networks for our series about “how to create a fantastic work culture”. Rami Rahim is Chief Executive Officer of Juniper Networks and a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Rahim was appointed CEO in November 2014. Rahim began his Juniper career in early 1997, as employee №32, and worked as an engineer on Juniper’s first breakthrough product, the M40 core router. Rahim has progressed through a series of technical and leadership roles at Juniper, applying his engineering acumen to the design and development of Juniper’s industry-leading product portfolio.


Thank you for joining us Rami! Let’s talk about ‘work culture’. What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?

Rami Rahim: At our most recent company meeting, we unveiled our newly refined and simplified company values. While these values have always been at the core of our business, we decided to simplify what we call “The Juniper Way,” so our employees can easily identify and embody these beliefs both in their professional and personal lives. The Juniper Way is built on three pillars:

Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks

1. Be Bold — Juniper Networks tackles some of the world’s most complex problems. We do this by being bold and adopting a challenger mindset. We foster curiosity in our employees and allow them to go off-road with their thinking without fear of failing. The Juniper Way is also about seeking diverse ideas and pursuing simplicity in everything we do.

2. Build Trust — The trusted relationships built with colleagues and customers is the cornerstone to Juniper’s success. Trust must be cultivated and earned by demonstrating a commitment to shared success, great care for the individual and the team and consistent and respectful actions over time.

3. Deliver Excellence — Excellence is considered an outcome and at Juniper we strive for it in everything we do. It means we commit to consistently high standards — innovating, driving quality and ensuring rapid time-to-market. Our customers depend on us to act with urgency in helping them solve their most complex challenges.

Can you talk about your advice for “managing the millennial mindset?”

Rami: Millennials strongly align work with their values. For millennials to be inspired, they must feel they are working toward a greater cause or purpose. A company’s values must be at the forefront of every pursuit to cultivate an engaged and inspired workforce.

In my experience, millennials also like to feel challenged. These are creative and driven young people and the best way to utilize their talents is to create opportunities for them to solve hard problems — whether that be a feat of engineering or developing a multifaceted business strategy.

What are your “5 ways to create a fantastic work culture”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Rami:

· Cultivate Corporate Social Responsibility Create a company and environment that employees are proud to show up to every morning. Prioritize things like reducing carbon emissions, producing quality goods and sponsoring worthwhile initiatives. Engage in philanthropic activities that directly benefit your industry, whether that’s supporting STEM education for underrepresented populations or doing pro-bono work for a nonprofit. In the spirit of enacting our values, we recently contributed more than $13 million in funds to our nonprofit STEM partner organizations. We also expanded our OpenLab program, which provides a hands-on experience for students, customers and partners to learn and use Juniper’s resources. In addition, we partnered with TechWomen, a group that empowers and connects emerging women leaders in STEM from Africa, Central and South Asia and the Middle East.

· Think Like a Start-up One of the things Juniper has initiated over the last few years is streamline and flatten the organization. We’re a $5 billion revenue company, with an $11 billion market cap, but we’re organized as a startup. There are no concepts of business units and very few silos within the company. This allows us to understand a trend that’s happening in the industry, make a decision and then execute on it as quickly as possible. It also creates a cohesive sense of mission and purpose for a company of nearly 10,000 employees.

· Encourage Employee Passions Outside of the Workplace At Juniper, we encourage employees to pursue a “side-hustle” or passion outside of work. This not only leads to dual-thinking and increased creativity, but makes for a happier and more engaged workforce.

· Promote Ethical and Diverse Leadership A good C-suite is representative of all its employees. Representation at every level of the company not only boosts innovation and employee engagement, but also cultivates diversity of thought. On International Women’s Day this year, we invited guest speakers with various backgrounds to share their perspectives and speak to the benefits of cultivating diversity of thought in the workplace. Different perspectives are key to solving the problems of any industry.

Juniper also recently signed the Paradigm for Parity pledge. Paradigm for Parity is a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the corporate leadership gender gap. It is comprised of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in the corporate world — one in which women and men have equal power, status and opportunity.

· Practice Accessible Leadership A leader who lives behind closed doors doesn’t do much to inspire employees. At Juniper, we implemented an “Eat with Executives” program where employees have a chance to regularly meet with C-level staff. Whether you are a startup, small office or global company, it is important to foster a sense of accessibility and accountability between business leaders and every level of employee.

Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do you think so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?

Rami: Culture cannot be measured. Companies can offer incredible benefits and perks, but if there is little understanding about the vision and purpose of the company, then the culture will suffer. Our founder Pradeep Sindhu clearly laid out our mission in 1998, and it has remained at our company’s core ever since. He has always said that we are a company built on engineering with one simple goal: to solve the industry’s hardest problems. To truly achieve a strong work environment, CEOs need to be personally visible in sharing the company’s aspirations and direction.

What is a mistake you often see young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?

Rami: You can’t force culture. Culture is something that must be cultivated over time. New leaders might try to implement a number of cultural “best practices” from the start, but this can often feel artificial and overly curated. Culture cannot be rushed, but a great way to kickstart a healthy work environment is to lay out the proper foundation and let it build organically over time.

To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?

Rami: Whether you are an office of 50 people or a global corporation with thousands of employees all over the world, it is imperative that you hear the on-the-ground feedback from every level of your business. As employee #32, I’ve been able to see nearly every side of the business from different vantage points over the years. Not all CEOs have this luxury. Regardless of a leader’s background with the company, it is important to create a regular cadence of check-ins with leads from different sections of the business to ensure you’re getting a comprehensive view of the company and its employees.

Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?

Rami: My personal hero is my father. He was an engineer by trade and inspired me to choose a career in technology — a profession that has been a lifelong passion of mine. He worked hard and continually sacrificed to ensure my sisters and I had a great education and taught me the importance of curiosity, lifelong learning and a strong work ethic — all values that I have sought to instill in my own children.

What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?

Rami: You are the only one responsible for your performance. If you push yourself to produce your best work, think creatively to solve problems and collaborate with colleagues, then you are already taking the necessary steps to accelerate your career and find success in your profession.

Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?

Rami: At Juniper, we encourage our employees to engage in passions outside of the workplace. Many employees expressed interest in giving back to the community and promoting STEM education in underrepresented populations, so we’ve provided opportunities for our employees to pursue these activities in tandem with their work at Juniper. For instance, as mentioned, we recently partnered with TechWomen, a group that empowers and connects emerging women leaders in STEM from Africa, Central and South Asia and the Middle East. We recently had two employees spend time oversees in Egypt and Nigeria, respectively, to connect and mentor young women in those areas. Philanthropic pursuits inherently hold value, but these types of engagements also encourage and nourish multidimensional and engaged employees.


Thank you for these great insights!

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