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As the leader of Ciena’s strategy and corporate development team, Mary Yang is laser-focused on identifying new growth opportunities.
She takes pride in her role as executive sponsor for the company’s Black and African Heritage Employee Resource Group and says she believes that enabling diverse perspectives is critical to business success.
“You need to stand in someone else’s shoes so you can build from their knowledge and experience,” says Ciena’s Chief Strategy Officer. “The best ideas often arise when different perspectives come together.”
Strategy, Mary says, is a cross-functional journey. Her team brings an “outside-in perspective” to their partners in R&D, Product Line Management, the Chief Technology Office, and Sales.
“We work together closely to find market transitions that open up unique opportunities for Ciena to create value for our customers,” she says. “As a market leader, it’s critical that Ciena identifies early market signals.”
She describes Ciena’s people-first culture, “built upon talent, broad collaboration and openness to new ideas,” as the ideal environment for innovation and growth. “Ciena is incredibly well-positioned in today’s market. We have the innovation to out-execute the competition.”
Mary recalls a favorite quote from an early mentor: ‘Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.’
“To me, that says it all,” she says. “We should dream big as we identify the tremendous growth opportunities ahead for the company. But it’s critical to balance that vision with a pragmatic approach to implementation.”
Mary began her career in strategy consulting and private equity. Later she led teams in everything from business development to global operations for multiple companies, including autonomous electric vehicle innovator NIO, Cisco, and Nortel. She joined the Ciena leadership team in 2020.
Her wide-ranging experience cemented her belief in cross-functional collaboration.
“I deeply appreciate the importance of each team’s perspective and input.” Mary says her leadership style is “all about empowering the team to turn diverse ideas and perspectives into new initiatives, and bringing people together along the journey.”
When hiring, she seeks out people who are naturally curious, open to new perspectives, and will help the company continue to evolve and grow.
At Stanford University, Mary earned multiple degrees, including a bachelor’s in quantitative economics, a master’s in engineering economic systems, an MBA, and a Juris Doctorate.
She was raised in Atlanta and Boston and now lives in Los Altos, Calif., with her husband, three children, and two Siberian cats. On weekends, Mary enjoys hiking, old movies, experimenting with new recipes, and cheering on her kids at their many sports activities.
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