Leadership3 min read

Mariam Sorond: Head and Heart

VMware Staff
  • Title: Chief Technology Officer, Service Provider & Edge Business Unit
  • Base of operations: Reston, Virginia
  • Start date at VMware: March 28, 2022

I try to lead with empathy. Great leaders lead from the heart and not just the head.

Mariam Sorond, Chief Technology Officer, Service Provider and Edge, VMware

Welcome to VMware! You have more than 27 years of experience in the telecommunications industry across mobile, wireless, fixed, satellite and cable technologies. What brought you to VMware?

I gained much of my experience while working on the operator side. I saw what it takes to run a network and understand what operators will need to deploy future networks. I want to focus the next part of my career on creating solutions for these future needs.

VMware sits at the crossroads of many emerging technologies that will shape the future of telecommunications. Multi-cloud, disaggregation, open interfaces, and automation, to name a few. We have an opportunity to create solutions that will evolve the way we build and operate networks, as well as evolve and grow how we communicate.

The telecommunications industry has not historically been known for its pace of innovation. Do you think this is changing?

It must change and it must change quickly as more agile competitors are moving in on new markets like private networks. Take hyperscalers for instance. They can innovate and implement new technology quickly because they are starting with a blank sheet of paper. And they are partnering with telcos to gain much-needed experience in how to build and operate networks. I think these are exciting times as this kind of competition will drive innovation.

While it may seem like telcos are at a disadvantage, I think they will rise to the challenge. The way we communicate is changing and they are more familiar with current and future users. It’s not just about connecting people but also about connecting things and entities that have different needs. A new type of network is needed that is agile and can grow in a modular fashion as user demands change. New use cases mean new market opportunity. Telcos know they must move fast to take advantage of new revenue streams.

In your estimation, how are 5G rollouts going?

When the industry first started talking about 5G, we focused on outcomes in three areas:

  1. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – how fast the network runs.
  2. Ultra-reliable and low-latency Communications (uRLLC) – supporting edge use cases like smart manufacturing and autonomous vehicles.
  3. Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) – connecting millions of smart devices to the network (e.g., Smart City).

We’ve seen progress in the first pillar. But to me, faster speeds is only unleashing a small subset of new use cases. The other two pillars – uRLLC and mMTC – will enable technologies that will change society as we know it today. These are harder to move forward faster as they require more investment from operators.

Also, when we mention 5G, we should couple it with other technological evolutions happening alongside it such as virtualization, Open RAN and edge compute-enabled architectures. We have seen new operators make strides in these areas with new networks. We have also seen existing operators make very aggressive and impressive announcements about their future plans. These investments will require a monetization plan; therefore, it’s important to identify things like the edge-native killer use case.

What is your experience as a woman in the telecommunications industry?

I consider myself fortunate to have worked at many amazing companies throughout my career. I’ve gained a variety of experience that spans many technologies. But rising as a woman in this industry is challenging.

It’s great to see companies focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) but there is a lot of work to be done. I can’t tell you how many LinkedIn messages I receive that start with “we want to talk with you because we need more women on our leadership team.” They are missing the point. I’m not interested in helping you improve a statistic. I am interested in bringing my unique experience and lens to a team. That’s the power of DEI – bringing together a group of people who represent diverse communities and perspectives.

My hope is that the work I am doing today and the challenges I have overcome will create a more inclusive workplace for my 7-year-old daughter. For most of my career, I’ve been the only woman in the room. By the time my daughter enters the workforce, I hope she is working with a much more representative group of colleagues than what I experienced.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I try to lead with empathy. Great leaders lead from the heart and not just the head. So, while much of my work must be from the head, I often remind myself I must lead from the heart. Believing in people and diversity. Mentoring and coaching others to bring their talents and value forward for their company’s and customers’ success – as well as for their own career accomplishments.

Describe yourself in three words.

Compassionate. Genuine. Collaborative.

Do you have a personal mantra?

Dream Big, then Stay Curious, Be Passionate. I’ve always loved “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”, but believe in addition to need and openness, you must also have passion and curiosity to make the most out of life.