[singlepic id=73 w=350 float=left]SANTA ROSA -- Ron Nersesian, CEO of the new Keysight Technologies, loves to tear up the roadway in his stick-shift sporty Mercedes. It’s not his favorite or fastest car, but not so flashy to drive to work as the racecar Audi he had.
Mr. Nersesian once clocked way over the speed limit in the open expanses of the Nevada desert, but shhhhh, don’t tell the CHP about his proclivity for speed. What happens in the Nevada desert stays in the Nevada desert.
“I like to drive,” Mr. Nersesian said. I asked him if he knew the speed limit in Nevada (75). “No comment,” he said, chuckling. “I haven’t had a ticket in 14 years.”
That urge to accelerate -- and compulsion for ultimate technology -- serves him well in his role driving one of the North Bay’s biggest technology companies, with nearly $3 billion in worldwide revenue from electronic measurement instruments. The company, spun off from Agilent Technologies on Aug. 1, has some 1,200 employees in its Santa Rosa headquarters and nearly 9,500 globally.
With its roots in Hewlett-Packard, Keysight Technologies has a long tradition as a best place to work, where managers tend to shun hierarchy in favor of a flat organizational structure with project teams. Mr. Nersesian, as with previous leaders in the company, combines accessibility with obvious acumen in the high-tech details of the business.
Mr. Nersesian has another hobby that provides an intriguing glimpse into his leadership style: He is an accomplished photographer with a keen grasp of the latest in digital cameras and related gadgets, loves the Nikon D800 camera, 36.3 megapixels, and the Leica M240, with “a lot of lenses. I really like the quality of the Leica products. I like the shooting experience, the results. I have a suite of Leica,” he said.
A golf buff with a handicap of 10, he has photographed Tiger Woods.
“It’s right brain and left brain,” he said of photography.
Long before Mr. Nersesian became CEO of Keysight, Agilent had a tradition of encouraging employees who enjoy photography to show off their best work on the walls of the company offices. These are not left-brain-only engineers; many are highly expressive artists. Remarkable images adorn walls of nearly every room, including the cafeteria. One large room full of cubicles for workers serving aerospace defense customers has a startling image of two baby birds, their vermillion crops agape and awaiting nourishment from mama bird. Michelle Leong, a company employee in Penang, Malaysia, took the shot, entitled, “Baby bird nest in my garden,” the winning entry in the Aug. 2004 monthly photo contest.
The sprawling, landscaped campus on the Fountaingrove hill overlooking Santa Rosa resembles that of UC Berkeley, and nourishes bright, enterprising workers. It has nearly 1 million square feet of work space. Some employees spend breaks in a burgeoning employee garden, tending vegetables. Giant sunflowers arch toward the sky, unaffected by electronic measurement. Squash and other veggies supply the cafeteria.
Other employees play Ping-Pong or work out in the onsite gym. It’s a cheerful climate, supportive by design of talent and innovation. The company appreciates and cultivates balanced human beings.
Mr. Nersesian’s career with HP goes back to 1984, when he started a 12-year stint on the East Coast, followed by a six-year break. In 2002, he came back as VP of Hewlett-Packard’s oscilloscope and logic analyzers division in Colorado Springs. Thereafter, he worked his way up to run the company’s wireless business unit, became head of Agilent’s electronic measurement group, COO of the whole company then president and CEO of Keysight.