CEO Exchange announced this month’s CEO of the Month: Mayande Walker, OpenCT. This interview provides further insight about Mayande as a CEO, his likes and dislikes, his challenges, his future outlook on the industry and more. The CEO Exchange is a platform designed enable networking and collaboration in a meaningful manner, not just by discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the telecom, tech and content-driven industries but to set an action plan together for next positive steps forward.
Check out the full interview below.
How long have you been the CEO?
Since January 2017.
What do you love most about your job and why?
About 18 years ago I was involved in my first build-out of an optical dense-wave-division-multiplexing (DWDM) network and I actually fantasized (yes really) about building my own carrier services company! Creating a company and culture from an idea I envisioned long ago is immensely fun and rewarding. Knowing that we are disrupting an industry and at the forefront of a technology that most are just beginning to grasp is also very exciting and gratifying!
But what I love most about my job is being able to lead and learn from a team of incredibly talented people, all working together to help to build & grow our company. Every day I learn so much from my amazing team about things that relate to all aspects of the business, but also of life in general. I’m so blessed to have a team who has not only embraced my vision but has evolved it and made it their own. This is incredibly rewarding and satisfying!
What do you dislike most about your job and why?
I’m good with all the most challenging aspects – wearing multiple hats, team mentoring, always “being on”, collections, etc. What I dislike the most is actually something that I’m really good at – and that’s creating presentations. It’s not that I dislike presenting….but I swear I will procrastinate till the cows come home before I’ll buckle down and get that PowerPoint together! It’s always way too late – but more times than not I get high compliments.
What is your biggest concern or challenge as a CEO?
One of my biggest challenges is in recognizing at what times our organization must pace itself. When dealing with cutting-edge technologies it can be easy to get swept up with the momentum. My aggressive team recognizes that we are on the cusp of delivering significant disruption to the telecom industry. Not disruption for disruption’s sake – but leveraging a new approach to delivering quality, efficiency, security, and genuine cost-savings for enterprise bandwidth customers. Sounds like the perfect storm – right? But the reality is that being a small organization means that we have to be careful to make smart development, partnership, and fundraising decisions that ensure sound health for the company as it grows. Sometimes this means slowing down. Sometimes this means not pursuing every opportunity. I’m sure these are challenges that every CEO faces – and while I never want to disappoint my team – sometimes in the short term the answer is No.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months ahead (for your company and/or the industry at large)?
Blockchain – the framework for a network of trust.
Who do you look up to?
Working within the technology industry it’s hard not to look up to tech giants like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, etc. These days I find myself drawn to (from a tech business perspective) a less thought of individual – Barry Diller – the Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Inc. and creator of the Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting.
While the origins of InterActiveCorp begin within the Media and Broadcasting industry – the Internet strategy of IAC is what I find so impressive. With very little fanfare and in the midst of the “dot-com crash” – IAC acquired ownership of many diverse Internet companies. During a period when the market was exhausted with the spectacular failure and shut down of online shopping companies (Pets.com, Webvan, Boo.com) as well as communication companies (Worldcom, NorthPoint Communications and Global Crossing) – Barry Diller lead IAC through an acquisition strategy that included a process of streamlining the operational efficiencies of these Internet companies. While most people panicked and began to shy away from Internet companies – he jumped right into the fray and gobbled up not just companies, but the technology and talent that came along with these Internet assets. Anyone curious about this legacy need only to look at their amazingly diverse portfolio of Internet companies today which include many, but to highlight a few well-known ones: Vimeo, Tinder, The Daily Beast, Investopedia, Ask.com, Angie’s List, Match.com, Dictionary.com.
Perhaps Barry Diller is a surprising choice but for me it is a recognition that what makes an exceptional enterprise is not just exceptional technology, you need great leadership, vision, and an underlying business strategy that supports diverse opportunities for growth and innovation.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
Spending quality time with my beautiful wife and amazing daughters. We love to travel and learn new things about different people and cultures.
How do you want to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who lead by example, who was always open to learning and sharing what was learned with others.
If given the ability, what is the one thing you would change about the world?
I kind of like the world the way it is – in all its messiness.