CxO Downloads: Zhone's Mory Ejabat
10:00 AM -- Mory Ejabat, CEO of Zhone Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ZHNE), the broadband access equipment company, has been keeping a relatively low profile in recent years. The man who sold Ascend to Lucent in 1999 for a legendary US$24 billion was last interviewed by Light Reading in 2002 and says he hasn’t been to a trade show in five years. So it was nice to get him on the record again. (See Mory Ejabat.)
What was your biggest challenge leading Zhone in 2010?
Getting parts from suppliers. The lead times were stretched so far out as suppliers reduced their inventory because of the industry downturn.
What do you expect your biggest challenge in 2011 will be?
The key issue is: Will the economy stabilize? In addition, we’re a global company and we face some formidable competitors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, and ZTE. It’s critical for us to be able to react quickly to pricing changes, and to be able to offer competitive pricing, features, and functionality.
What will be the biggest regulatory issue for telecom in 2011?
Is the government ever going to spend the stimulus money? (See Zhone Says 'Buy American'.)
What’s the most important advice you can give someone who wants to be CEO of a telecom equipment company?
In the tech industry, you have to keep ahead of technology advancements and produce the product that is best on price and performance. Think ahead, and build for the future.
What was your biggest mistake as CEO?
We did lots of acquisitions. Some people see that as lots of mistakes. But they gave us the technology to go forward and be successful and survive the tough times between 2000 and 2005. For example, the Paradyne acquisition gave us the manufacturing capabilities in the US that are actually allowing us to compete and win against the Chinese. If you get a success rate of 60 percent in acquisitions you’ve done well. (See Zhone Stays Put in O-Town.)
Your biggest success?
Raising the first round of financing at Zhone and getting $500 million. They were good times  to raise money.
What will be your legacy at Zhone when you leave?
Managing the company through hard times and good times. We went through two economy blowups, the Internet bubble and a worldwide financial crisis. When I started Zhone there was 250 startups, now there are only a handful left.
What book are you currently reading?
"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. You can see the world through the eyes of a dog, he says. It makes you look at problems from every angle.
— Joe Braue, Group Director and SVP, Light Reading