Lessons in Leadership

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Douglas Murray says that it was in business school at Johns Hopkins that he began to think about how to become a better leader. “The professors got us thinking of different ways to approach complex problems,” he says, and the diversity of his classmates helped him appreciate multiple cultural perspectives.

Murray earned his Johns Hopkins MBA in 1998, while he was working for AT&T. Today he is chief executive officer of Big Switch Networks, the Santa Clara, California-based software-defined networking company. He was named to the position in late 2013 after serving as senior vice president of Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China for Juniper Networks, an American manufacturer of networking equipment.

“What I use most from my MBA relates to management,” he says. “For example, how do you create a vision/strategy/execution model to align everyone in the organization? Something that threads all the way through, so individuals can see their role in the vision of the company? The management and leadership courses helped me in shaping who I am as a leader.”

After working at AT&T for almost a decade, Murray decided to take his MBA to Silicon Valley. He was one of the first employees at a digital storage company that was acquired by EMC, and he later took a position at Sun Microsystems.

Murray’s role at Juniper placed him in charge of firewalls, intrusion detection, and other core risk-management tools. When based in Hong Kong for Juniper, he oversaw burgeoning markets in China, India, South Korea, and Australia, among others. “I learned an incredible amount about culture and how to manage across borders,” he says.

His role as CEO of Big Switch Networks allows him to disrupt an industry that he has long been a part of. “Servers, storage, and applications have changed over the last 20 years,” he says, “but the networking world has remained static and is ripe for disruption. Marry that with cloud computing and big data, and the network has become a bottleneck.” Those bottlenecks mean opportunities to innovate, and the confidence to continually learn and innovate has been a major theme in Murray’s business career.

“I grew up in a fairly conservative family from New York, with a dad who worked at 3M for 30 years,” he says. “I took away from Hopkins that taking risks is important – it needs to be a measured risk – but if I hadn’t made the decision to get my MBA, I’d still be at AT&T now instead of running one of the most exciting companies in Silicon Valley.”

– Sam Hopkins

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