Name: Sachin Vasudeva

Sachin Vasudeva is a Vice President at Calix, responsible for Engineering and Product Line Leadership for AXOS Solutions. He has deep expertise in product strategy, lifecycle, market definition, and operations across a wide range of networking domains – access, data center, core, and edge. Sachin is focused on delivering new products to marketing, driving market disruption, and helping grow the top line for Calix.

Prior to Calix, Sachin worked at Juniper Networks and Nortel. He has an MBA from Cornell and a MS from the University of California, Irvine. He is also an active participant in the open source community, currently serving as an ONF Ambassador, and previously serving as the co-chair of the certifications committee in the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF).

Sachin has a wife and two young children.


What tools and tricks do you use to find work-life balance?

The primary tool that Sachin uses to manage work-life balance is the calendar. He blocks off time for work and then weaves in things that he does outside of work. “I have to block parts of my calendar so that if I have to go somewhere or be with the kids in the morning that I block off the time.”

He not only does this for his own time but shares calendars with his wife so that they can work together in managing their time outside of work. “I also end up sharing calendars with my wife and that way we can exchange notes on how we manage the kid’s school events and sort of push something on one another as we need to.”

I really like this. My wife and I do something similar in that we have visibility into each other’s calendars. We use this often when something comes up, we need some help or we need to schedule something for one or both of us.

How do you prioritize your work?

I love Sachin’s initial answer to this. “So the simplest answer is you start with what your boss asks for first.”

We then discussed the best way to prioritize and what you do when there is just too much to do.

“Customer always have to come first.”

“You know one thing you have to be careful about is to commit something you commit a timeline or a deadline.” You commit to deliverables that you then prioritize “and add to time in your calendar to accomplish.”

We ended by talking about urgent vs important.  “Start with urgent activities that have a time/date attached to them.” You have to get these done. Then look at those that are important, where “you committed to something that is important. These are likely to be the next things that will become urgent.”

Tell me about an example where you had to let someone go for underperforming.

Sachin is very focused on spending time with his team – leveraging situational leadership and clear communication of expectations to deal with performance.

One of the best tools that I’ve used in the past I learned from my previous company was” situational leadership.  “You do a situation assessment of where everybody is who is reporting to you. From that point of view, you go down this path of having that discussion with the person.” You make sure that you have “slotting them into the appropriate quadrant.”

“So managing performance becomes an art and science. You start by setting goals and then  making sure that you are measuring to the goal.”

“If somebody is not performing well you have to be able to clearly articulate why they are not performing. That’s the most important. What’s the yardstick or goal? If that’s not well articulated in your mind then you cannot explain that to the person.”

I like this. He is using situational leadership to determine how to best manage and goal members of his team. He then manages them to the goals that have been set – but again with the perspective of where they are within the quadrants of the situational leadership model.

If you had to give advice to someone setting up a team in another country, what would it be?

Sachin has a great perspective on how to set up a team in another country. Here are his comments.

“So first of all, it’s always good to understand which country. Because there are cultural differences from country to country. So I think I was lucky to get trained on this from a formal training point of view as there are a lot of things to know. Setting up a team involves first of all what is the engagement model that you look for. You have to have expectations set up upfront –  always.”

“An ownership model works really great in the long term. In the short run, it depends on the level of people that you hire, you have to handhold. Back to situational leadership, you might need to manage task by task. Define exactly what gets done. But eventually, it has to be an ownership-based model. People love autonomy and mastery. The visual aspects of making sure you’re not just giving them the right salary but implicit or explicit ownership. It gives them satisfaction on the job.”

He talked about the downside of not driving to clear ownership. “Now you’re facilitating conversations. You’re not doing an outcome-based job. You’re now doing a facilitation program management role.”.

What was the most difficult transition that you made in your career?

This was easy for Sachin, and his response will resonate with a lot of managers.

The most difficult transition was when he took on a new role but was required to continue in his old role until they found a replacement.  “It was an expansion and unless you have a good mentor leader who could help you. You get stuck doing two roles. You get stuck. You have to go back to the priority discussion. What do you do? What do you focus on.”

The big takeaway from this is – “The fast as a break the better.”

Do you have any book recommendations that you would like to share?

Sachin has two book recommendations.

“If you start a new job or a new role like you know I think ‘The First 90 Days’ is a really good book.”

“If you’re in an expanded role ‘The Leadership Pipeline’ is a great book to understanding how to set yourself up for success and how to set up others for their success.”

What are the one or two things that you want to tell me that I didn’t ask?

“I think one thing is always how do you motivate people. How do you inspire? Because we all inspire whether they are directly reporting under us or whether they are part of a larger organization. I’ve always led by example.”

“I think it’s always great to be mindful of the fact that you’re a leader and whether you’re managing two people or 10 or 100 –  your voice carries.”

I hope you enjoyed the summary of the interview with Sachin!

See Also

Greg Siu – Manager Turned Consultant

Gary O’Neall – Started as a Big Company Software Developer. Now Runs His Own Business

Situational Leadership Summary