CIO Turns Down $120K Raise, Sticks With School And Cisco - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
9/7/2009
07:04 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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CIO Turns Down $120K Raise, Sticks With School And Cisco

Wichita State University CIO Ravi Pendse has attracted $10 million in research funding from Cisco for the school's Advanced Networking Research Center in the past five years. So when a huge school from the ACC tried to woo him with an eye-popping raise of $120,000, Pendse said thanks but no thanks.

Wichita State University CIO Ravi Pendse has attracted $10 million in research funding from Cisco for the school's Advanced Networking Research Center in the past five years. So when a huge school from the ACC tried to woo him with an eye-popping raise of $120,000, Pendse said thanks but no thanks.In these days of cut-throat business dealings, relentless layoffs, and declining commitments to R&D, it's a pretty sweet story: Pendse came to the U.S. from India, became a citizen 10 years ago, and seems enchanted with his students, his research work, and the good middle-American people of Wichita, according to a Wichita Eagle profile:

Provost Gary Miller says WSU is already a force in the networking world and will become much bigger. He said Pendse's Cisco research center will become to the information world what WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research has become for global aviation.

That Cisco link is a major reason why Pendse said no to North Carolina State University last year when it waved that huge salary increase at Pendse, the Eagle says:

Cisco's interest in Pendse began a little over a decade ago when top company officers including Joe Pinto began noticing that some of the bright young workers they were hiring came from electrical engineering classrooms at a university in a place some people knew little about: Wichita, Kansas.

One day, as Pendse tells it, Pinto - now a senior Cisco vice president - talked to Pendse on the phone, praised the quality of his students, and told him, like any polite person would, to drop in on Cisco sometime if Pendse was ever in town.

Pendse said this was years ago when he was a young teacher, a native of India not entirely familiar with American politeness or culture.

"I thought the guy from Cisco actually meant it," he said. "So I bought a plane ticket and went out there and showed up in Joe Pinto's lobby. And his secretary asked if I had an appointment. I said I didn't know I needed one, that Joe Pinto asked me to come see him.

"We've been close friends ever since," he said.

After reading the profile, I believe it; Pendse comes across as someone who truly sees life as an adventure, and wants those around him to share those thrills large and small. But it also can't hurt that Pendse and his team at the Advanced Networking Research Center, which includes the Cisco Technical Research Center, are cranking out some pretty important work in such fields as security, VoIP, SANs, and RFID.

And because there's a very nice lesson in it for all of us, let me share one more quick anecdote from the Eagle profile about this CIO who in today's brutal job market turned down a big fat raise simply because he likes what he's doing and feels a great commitment to his work, his school, and his students:

He made the whole WSU campus go wireless, something that bothered some faculty. Some faculty like students to work on Internet-connected laptops in classrooms; other teachers told him they worried whether students working on the Internet during class would fail to pay attention to lectures.

"Maybe this means you should study the interest level of your lectures and try to make them more interesting," he suggested.

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