During her 25-year career in the computer networking industry, Jayshree Ullal (B.S., '81) has held numerous executive leadership positions including five vice president titles within Cisco Systems. She's mentored successful start-ups and made Newsweek's list of the Top 20 Most Powerful Women to Watch (2001) followed by Network World's 50 Most Powerful People in Networking (2005), alongside such luminaries as Larry Ellison and Bill Gates.
When Ullal enrolled at SF State in 1977, she wasn't planning on a career as a high-tech executive. Her interest in math and science led her to major in electrical engineering. "I had many influential teachers and gained valuable experience in the applied sciences," she says. Although she remembers Professor Sergio Franco as her most challenging ("I came out wiser and with better grades"), a visit to campus by the pioneer Adam Osbourne, and his demonstration of one of the first portable computers, helped ignite Ullal's interest in the burgeoning computer industry. After graduation, Ullal worked as a chip designer in Silicon Valley and discovered that she enjoyed working with customers and welcomed the challenge of solving their problems. "I liked people and communication, which I consider to be anti-engineering traits," she says half-jokingly. She made the switch to business and never looked back.
Now vice president of Cisco System's Data Center, Switching and Security Technologies Group, Ullal oversees a division that represents one-third of the company's $25 billion in annual revenue and employs thousands of people worldwide.
She has stayed in close contact with her alma mater. In recent years, when budget cuts threatened the future of the engineering program, Ullal was among the alumni who wrote impassioned letters to keep the program alive. She has also shared career advice at the department's annual graduation ceremony.
"In spite of her outstanding achievements and prestigious position, Jayshree has retained the innate modesty and humility that she displayed when sitting in our classrooms," Professor Franco says. "She is an exceptionally warm and sensitive human being. She is a role model to all young generations â¦ tangible proof of what one can achieve through determination and hard work."