Padmasree Warrior, the veteran chief technology officer for Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), the No. 1 provider of Internet equipment, will now also run the company's strategy office.
The additional role came about because long-time chief strategy officer Ned Hooper, 45, left the San Jose, Calif., company to form an independent management company that may work with Cisco.
Warrior, 51, long rumored to be head of one of the top technology companies in her own right, will now be one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley, where only a few companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Advent Software (Nasdaq: ADVT) have female CEOs. In New York, International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) has been headed by Virginia Rometty since Jan. 1.
The Indian-born Warrior had been chief technology officer for the old Motorola, before its semiconductor business was sold and became Freescale Semiconductor (NYSE: FSL) and the company split in half as Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI) and Motorola Mobility Holdings, the smartphone and consumer business. Last month, that unit was acquired by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
As the chief technology adviser to Cisco CEO John T. Chambers, 62, since 2007, she helped the company build up its Internet operations and manage the integration of many new acquisitions, whose purchase had been negotiated by Hooper.
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They include the purchase of Scientific-Atlanta, WebEx Communications, IronPort, Tandberg, Starent and NDS, which helped expand Cisco's reach into multimedia, audio-video chat, security and wireless networking.
In investor briefings and strategy sessions, CEO Chambers generally yields the floor to Warrior for her expertise. That could be strengthened if she now adds responsibility for mergers and acquisitions.
As well, it follows by only a day the appointment of the first female director at Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), the No. 1 social networking site, where Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was elected to sit with seven other men, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Sandberg is that company's only high-ranking female executive.
Warrior isn't a Cisco director. The company's 12-member board has two women, Carol Bartz, former CEO of Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO), the No. 3 search engine, and M. Michele Burns, former chairman of the Mercer unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. (NYSE: MMC).
Cisco's 13-member executive suite includes two other women: Senior VP Blair Christie and Senior VP and Chief Information Officer Rebecca Jacoby.
Cisco shares closed at $16.82, down 12 cents, in Tuesday trading. They've risen nearly 13 percent over the past 52 weeks.