Nina Simosko: An Optimistic Leader, Giving a New Dimension to Leadership

Nina Simosko

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It has been witnessed that leadership and entrepreneurship goes hand in hand. But what exactly does this means? It is commonly said that it is the entrepreneur who starts the business and it is the leader who has the responsibility to run it.

Professor Howard Stevenson, often called as the godfather of entrepreneurship studies at HBS, defines entrepreneurship as, “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.”

Today, we see an entrepreneur being the game-changers and gate crashers who are boldly scaling new heights while transforming the world. Today’s entrepreneur’s are having the power of changing the world, just because they are having the ability to prove themselves as the best leaders, to have the characteristics of leadership and the ability to work as a leader while handling their entrepreneurship.

This is a world where we need a leader who is not afraid of thinking ‘differently’. A leader who knows it better that that he/she can change people’s mindset, a leader who has the power to make others believe in his/her mission. And a leader need to the one observes and who listens to the team members and then act upon it.

Nina Simosko, a catalytic leader in the technology industry is giving a new dimension to the definition of a leadership. President and CEO of NTT Innovation Institute Inc (NTT i³), Nina is a leader who puts her team first and considers everything other as secondary. For Nina, a quote from the best-selling author Stan Slap,“Be human first” is way more important. She is a leader who goes to work every day with a belief that ‘if you do what you love and have fun every day – the rest will follow’, this is what makes Nina a true leader to follow!

“Believe it. Achieve it”

Nina’s secret mantra which she follows is of CEO of SAP Bill McDermott, which is “Believe it. Achieve it”. It is her mantras which she follows daily that keeps her  motivated and guides her to achieve success. Nina says, “What influences me consistently is the belief that if you do what you love and find joy in what you’re doing every day – the rest will follow”.

With this belief in herself, Nina started her career from the ground level as she entered the tech industry. Her first jobs in Silicon Valley were managing global call centers, both at Oracle and Siebel. Working diligently and long hours, she transitioned her role from call center management to supervising and driving outside sales and successfully running increasingly larger P&Ls for various business units.

Soon after working for more than 15 years with high-tech companies selling to the enterprise industry, Nina decided to transite to the consumer side to broaden her experience and provide valuable perspective. Without having a prior intuition that this is going to be a turning point in her life story, Nina joined Nike in a senior IT role, leading the creation and execution of Nike Technology’s global strategy, planning and operations.

Nina asserts, “Without taking the bold step of transitioning to the client side at Nike, I would not be in the position I am in now, nor would I be able to fully understand and appreciate how to collaborate and support innovation initiatives for global companies.”

While talking about the lessons which helped her to succeed in her every step of life, Nina states, “My most important and valuable learnings have been focused on people, behavior, and culture – how I see and treat others, as well as the maxims I use to guide my own behavior.”

With a strong emphasis on fostering strategic innovation, Nina now leads the 40-person team at NTT i³, working with established enterprise companies looking to adopt new approaches to help them evolve into technology-first, digitally-driven businesses. Under her guidance, the company partners with early stage startups and other NTT operating companies to assist them in establishing product differentiation within their respective marketplaces.

NTT i3, One of the World’s Largest ICT Companies

NTT i3 is the Silicon Valley-based innovation center for NTT Group. Its full lifecycle approach to enterprise technology is driven by a commitment to discovering ambitious new ideas, developing them into robust technology platforms, and delivering them into the marketplace to be applied against significant and difficult industry, business, and human problems.

One of the world’s largest ICT companies, NTT i3 is focused on fostering strategic innovation. Accelerating the movement of innovation from initial idea to marketplace implementation, NTT i3 combines access to the significant global infrastructure resources, investment fund, research knowledge, and trusted long-standing customer relationships of NTT Global with its own software startup expertise and deep enterprise relationships.

NTT i3 accelerate the movement of innovation from an initial idea in the lab to impact in the marketplace through its unique access to NTT’s global infrastructure and investment resources, a significant network of research labs, long and trusted relationships with customers, and an engaged global community of collaborators in both established enterprise companies and the startup community. To grow and support that global community, the company provides ongoing opportunities for learning and idea exchange at its Customer Experience Center (CXC), as well as an Innovation Lab program where its researchers, engineers, and data scientists are given the time, resources, and freedom to explore and develop their own ideas.

Innovation is the Core of everything at NTT i³

At NTT i³, what is created, shared and learned from each other is founded on the principles of open innovation. This is a core premise of the Silicon Valley-based company’s innovation practice – the belief that the best ideas come from and are developed by a well-curated and engaged global ecosystem of technologists and business experts.

Nina gives huge credit to her team and the people involved in NTT i³’s daily business and says, “We are fortunate to have an amazing group of individuals with which to engage – from NTT‘s own operating companies, to the startup community of technologists and investors, to NTT’s global customers, to industry partners, and to our own executive advisory board.”

Over the next year, NTT i³ is doubling down on innovation partnerships, investigations, and proof of concept development with its colleagues at NTT’s operating companies around the world. These collaborations will not only enable the company to address real industry problems, but also create best practices which NTT i³ can share with others.

In the near future, NTT i³ will continue to evolve as one of the premier innovation centers in the world. Recently, the company launched CLOUDWAN in a globally collaborative effort with NTT Group operating company partners: Internet Solutions (IS), the leading pan-African telecoms services provider, and NTT PC Communications (NTTPC), a network service and communication solution provider in Japan.

CLOUDWAN is a powerful networking solution for the next generation businesses, connecting legacy systems with powerful, centralized visibility and control. It delivers an enhanced user experience, powerful flexibility and extraordinary agility to NTT’s enterprise customers. With CLOUDWAN, NTT i³ is supporting organizations to grow and respond to changing business needs.

Leadership Redefined

Leading from the front, Nina is redefining leadership with her excellence and experience in the business. After doing great at Nike, while leading the creation and execution of Nike Technology strategy, planning and operations world-wide, Nina turned to SAP.

She was a Senior Vice President of SAP’s Global Premier Customer Network (PCN). At SAP, Nina led both the PCN Center of Excellence and SAP’s Global Executive Advisory Board. During her eight-year tenure, she was a part of SAP’s Global Ecosystem & Partner Group, which was charged with continuing to build and enable an open ecosystem of software, service and technology partners together with SAP’s communities of innovation. Additionally, she served as the Global Chief Operating Officer for the worldwide Customer Education organization, responsible for driving more than half a billion euros in global education software and services revenue.

Currently, Nina serves on the advisory boards of two early-to-mid stage technology companies: Reflektion and AppOrchid.

“To drive success in any organization,” Nina says, “You need to hire people who are better than you, specifically in areas where you do not profess to be the best. This means truthfully acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses within the team. Leaders need to know how to ―find the better person rather than always needing to ―be the better person in their organization.”

Nina’s Leadership Perspectives

There is no single path to progress. Many different and circuitous routes can lead to the same success outcome. Time and time again, studies have shown that teams that harness individuals’ strengths and that are clearly empowered by management to find their own way – are more productive and committed. While this is one of the key tenants of innovation culture, it’s tough for many leaders to embrace as they still see power through the zero-sum game lenses of the 1980s. To give power to others to follow their own approach to problem solving doesn’t mean you lose power as a leader. It means that your power is found in the role of facilitator of the team’s vision, and not as dictator of the process. A facilitator is comfortable with other people making mistakes and learning; a dictator is not.

Being an optimistic leader is about being more than a mindless cheerleader or a doe-eyed fool. It’s about coming to work each day and being positive about yourself, your company, your mission, and your team – but making certain that you are backed by the facts. Optimism drives performance. If you are going to strive for the extraordinary, optimism is an essential ingredient. If you hope to shape the future, optimism is what shapes your belief in the future.

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