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Senior Manager of IT
Cisco, San Jose, CA
In the tech world, some people “speak geek, others speak business,” says Steven Sterns, MBA 91, a man fluent in both.
That talent has taken Sterns’ career from a marketing job with a
local salami maker to a high-level IT position with networking giant
Cisco. “I think of myself as a translator,” Sterns says.
Sterns never aspired to the role of information technology
manager; he majored in English and economics as a UC Berkeley
His transformation from marketer to technologist began while working at a consulting firm that was struggling to computerize its operations in the late 1980s. “Before I knew it, I was pulling cable and writing printer strings (software instructions),” he recalls.
The hands-on exposure to technology was rewarding, but Sterns still opted to earn an MBA from Haas, realizing he needed a better grounding in business. He landed a job as marketing manager for Columbus Salame in Hayward, Calif., where he designed the company’s distinctive logo featuring, who else, Christopher Columbus. Sterns quickly donned a second hat, managing Columbus’ IT and Web operations.
Since then, Sterns has amassed more than 20 years experience managing IT operations at such companies as Advent Software and Pure Digital, maker of the popular Flip video camera. As director of IT, Sterns reported directly to Pure Digital’s CFO to help prepare for the company’s sale to Cisco last year. After the sale, Cisco tapped Sterns this year for another challenge: creating the infrastructure for Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing unit.
Sterns credits his MBA with giving him a distinct advantage as an IT manager: “I couldn’t talk to a finance guy about the software and systems he needs if I didn’t understand finance.” And, he adds, the rigor of a graduate education “taught me to process huge amounts of data—in my brain, that is.”