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Get To Know: Jamie Jefferies, VP and GM of EMEA, Ciena

Get To Know: Jamie Jefferies, VP and GM of EMEA, Ciena

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We caught up with Jamie Jefferies, VP and GM of EMEA, Ciena, to find out what makes him tick…

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

I moved to the US in 2010 in what was one of the biggest personal and professional decisions I have made. For the first five years, I was working exclusively on the Verizon account, and with a great team we delivered great results by focusing on several key milestones. I then ran strategic accounts in North America where I worked with many of Ciena’s largest customers. Looking back, it was a big decision to move to the States, but I have no regrets. I was fortunate to work with the most talented and dedicated team in the industry. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished together.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I like electronics and at the age of 16 I decided to leave school and joined British Telecom as an apprentice. It gave me the opportunity to work across a range of different fields and opened my eyes to a lot of different opportunities. I ended up going into transmissions and now optics. I guess you could say it was by chance I found myself in this space.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

As anyone that knows me will testify, I am all about the team. At Ciena, we have the best people in the industry in terms of professionalism, culture, spirit and qualifications. I firmly believe it is this diversity that builds a great team in any company.

My team in EMEA is 70% female leadership, which for many companies in our sector is rare. I am very committed to diversity across all areas and I think spending time on developing and supporting the team is important. It’s something I have perhaps become more tuned into as I have got older. I have two kids that are grown up and I understand how important it is to give them the opportunity to test themselves.

What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2020 and why?

The rollout of 5G is here and we are going to start to see more things moving to the Edge and become latency orientated. Think of driverless cars and Smart Cities – this type of technology demands real-time connectivity. These new use cases and applications will also start to see the rise in software-centric technology, it will become more important for networks to adapt and adjust ‘on the fly’ to support enormous growth in traffic and changing user needs.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

With respect to the network, there is a continuous need for better performance, more capacity and scalability. Software automation and adding more intelligence to network infrastructure are also major areas for investment.

And, with 5G coming to market, it’s not just about the wireless connectivity – this is only part of the equation. To keep pace with unrelenting business pressures and customer demands, we need to evolve networks so that they become more intelligent and agile every day.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

I try to maintain a good work-life balance but there will always be periods of your life where things can be challenging. I love running and cycling but I’m also a huge Liverpool fan!

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

Looking back, I think I could have been a bit bolder earlier in my career and taken a few more risks. While I accomplished a lot and feel very proud of my achievements, I think perhaps I could have been more assertive – particularly when I was in my thirties.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

Europe may be a short step behind North America and APAC in implementing 5G technology, mostly due to economics and licensing, but it is here. One of the main challenges is the diversity within Europe itself. Some countries are more advanced than others and each region has different regulations and pain points. In Europe, there is also a greater range of telecom suppliers whereas in the US this is much more consolidated, with only six major players.

The challenge for many is that Europe is often considered as one entity when it comes to wider product strategy, but this is not the reality when it comes to implementation.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

I have been in my current role for just under two years, but I have made changes to drive bigger ambition.

I have concentrated a lot of my efforts on building and growing the team by focusing on recruitment, creating advocates within the company and becoming a mentor for more junior team members. We have also set up what we refer to as ‘CienaNEXT’ – a programme that is targeted at developing people who are in the early stages of their career.

I am looking to challenge myself in a different way and help to inspire the next generation of employees. I also recently started working with KidsOut, our charity partners, giving children a chance to experience the world of technology.

More recently during the pandemic we’ve all had to change the way we work and collaborate. So, I am getting used to less travel and in-person meetings and have adjusted to more virtual interactions. As a leader, I have worked with my team to find creative ways to keep the team engaged and connected. One way we’re doing this is to hold more ‘fun’ virtual interactions – like a global employee virtual ‘talent show’ and encouraging our teams to participate in virtual running events. Equally as important, I am reminding my team to give themselves time to rest and recharge – even if they can’t travel for a holiday, it is important to take a break and spend time away from the ‘office’.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

Be committed, passionate and willing to work hard. You should also be prepared to take balanced risks and invest in talent so you have the best people around you.

It’s also important to make sure you are investing your time in the right company – I really believe you have to embody the company’s values and ethos when you take on a C-level role. 

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