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CxO Downloads: Calix's Carl Russo

12:00 PM -- Carl Russo, president and CEO of Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), has had one of the best track records as a telecom industry chief. After Calix’s successful IPO and its pending $171 million acquisition of Occam Networks, he talked about how he keeps the streak going in a conversation we had at the TelcoTV show in Vegas. (See Calix CEO Claims Occam for Its Ethernet.)

What is Calix’s key focus at TelcoTV?
I’m talking about how our unified access infrastructure is helping our customers build the high-capacity, low-latency broadband Internet of the future today. As for the Occam acquisition, we’re focusing on how we are bringing the teams together to accelerate our roadmap and accelerate our customers’ ability to build this new infrastructure. Occam gives us the industry’s most experienced development team in area of Ethernet access.

What has been your biggest challenge leading Calix in 2010?
Becoming a public company and understanding that even though you think you understand private and public markets, you still need to be prepared for the dynamics of the public market in terms of setting expectations and making sure you are clearly communicating to your new constituency. (See Calix Stock Leaps on NYSE Debut.)

What will be your biggest challenge in 2011?
The biggest challenge next year will be completing acquisition and ensuring all these talented people are focused on accelerating that unified access infrastructure program. Getting it right and getting it going has to be the biggest challenge.

What will be the biggest regulatory issue for telecom in 2011?
It’s what Jonathan Adelstein talked about yesterday.

With all the discussions about Universal Service reform and inter-carrier compensation, we need to make sure that as service providers shift their business models and deploy the next-gen broadband infrastructure, the regulators call it right and make sure carriers are incented to continue to make investments and can remain viable.

What’s the most important advice you can give someone who wants to be CEO of a telecom equipment company?
Start by knowing who you are. There’s nothing worse than working for an insecure leader.

What’s been your biggest mistake?
We built an Ethernet infrastructure product with a chipset that we thought was going to be backward compatible with existing standards. But it turned out that the backward compatibility didn’t really do the job, and we shot the whole project.

What has been your biggest success?
Hiring talented people, repeatedly, is the biggest success. You get that piece right, and the results will happen.

What do you think your legacy will be at Calix when you leave?
Who knows? To the extent there is a legacy, I hope it relates to the culture of the business. If you can communicate clearly about where you are going and get out of the way, good things happen.

If we had a poll of Light Reading editors, you’d get the nod as CEO with best sense of humor. Has that contributed to your success?
I really believe that you should never take yourself too seriously.

What book are you currently reading?
This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen Reinhart. At the end of the day, 99.9 percent of business is rehashing, and respinning things that already have occurred. One should tread lightly when you are thinking you are doing something really unprecedented.

— Joe Braue, Group Director and SVP, Light Reading

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