Powerful influences

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Four of the network industry's most powerful individuals tell us about the people who have inspired them.

John Chambers, president and CEO, Cisco

My mom and dad have had the greatest impact on me professionally. They were both doctors, and they taught me how to be calm under pressure. In terms of business leaders, Jack Welch has been inspirational, primarily in terms of his philosophies - such as being No. 1 or No. 2 in your industry as well as learning how to deal with the world the way it is.

In addition, his Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan has had a major influence on me. He is in a very challenging spot in the world where his only natural resources are his people, and he is currently focusing half of his budget on education. So his ability to balance the short-term and long-term objectives for his country, even under the utmost of pressure, is something I truly admire and am learning a great deal from.

Eva Chen, CEO, Trend Micro

Steve Chang, my brother-in-law and now chairman/founder of Trend Micro, has been my direct mentor in business. Steve, my sister Jenny and I basically worked together from the beginning of the company in the 1980s. Steve always said, "Be the best part of yourself." This means know yourself, focus more on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, and apply those strengths against any position you hold. Actually, the word "trend" in Chinese ideogram is complex - it means "go where the energy goes." Steve calls it using free energy as a business practice.

In the early days Steve and I knew I had to go where the gaps in the business were. I rotated through various jobs over time - manufacturing and global logistics, regional office start-ups, marketing, CTO and now CEO. At times of uncertainty I always recall the sentence "be the best part of yourself," and I overcome the hesitation to take on new challenges.

Another Steve - Steve Jobs - well, he is my hero, though I have never met him. I admire his persistence and ability to come back. He has a passion for innovation and perfectionism for the customer. He was away from the company and came back even stronger and more focused. I did the same by choice.

My art teachers also have influenced me - they helped me look at the big picture, zoom in on the details and zoom back out to see how all the pieces fit together. That is very important for a CEO. Even my Pilates instructor makes me think about the business differently. If I have terrible pain in my neck, I may have to exercise my back or my stomach to make the pain go away. If there is an issue that seems to be in one part of our business, sometimes we have to look at an entirely different part of the business to fix the issue.

John Partridge, president and CEO of Inovant, the global IT operation for Visa International

Throughout my career, I have been surrounded by many colleagues who influenced me, but the two people who stand out the most are Hans Tjian, [a longtime, well-known banking executive who passed away earlier this year], and Raimundo Morales, [currently general manager of Banco de Credito, Peru]. I had the honor of working with both earlier in my career when I participated in the bank officer training program at Wells Fargo. Hans and Raimundo brought the business focus to operations and technology, and I admired how they strategically implemented information systems to deliver real business value. Like many young executives, I was too eager and wanted to rush through the problem-solving process, but they taught me that the best way to achieve results was to take a more controlled approach. That slice of knowledge has served me well to this day - especially in an industry like payments, where we're processing thousands of transactions per second with virtually no downtime. Taking the time to step back from everything that's going on has proven successful for building solutions to the technology challenges we face everyday.

Dianah Neff, CIO for the city of Philadelphia

The first person who most influenced me was my mom. She was a working mom in the days when that was not the norm. Still, she always found time to make each of us kids (and there were eight of us) feel special. She demanded we work hard and follow through when we made a commitment, and she was the first to show me how reaching out and helping others (no matter what our situation was) could enrich a person. She is one great woman, who even at 80 works to help "older" seniors have productive lives.

The second person who most influenced me was my senior high school English teacher, who helped me understand the wonders of expanding my world through reading. A third person was a business mentor early in my professional career who helped me move from technical staff to management. And the final key person in my professional life was the city manager in Palo Alto, Calif. Palo Alto was my first government job back in 1986. Under his guidance, I learned how to effectively use technology to improve people's lives.

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