Profile: Hassan M. Ahmed

CEO of $2 billion value Sonus Networks

Hassan M. Ahmed has been Chief Executive Officer and a member of board of directors of Sonus Networks since November 1998 and Chairman of the board of directors since April 2004. From November 1998 to April 2004, he was also President. Sonus provides voice infrastructure products which enable customers to deploy an integrated packet-based network carrying both voice and data traffic. The company employs 900 workers and has a market value of around $2 billion.

Hassan M. Ahmed, CEO of Sonus Networks.

Ahmed, 49, was born in Pakistan, but his family moved to Canada when he was 4. His father was a physicist and Ahmed soon found a passion for engineering. After high school, Ahmed earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa, close to his parents, before moving to California and earning his doctorate at Stanford University. Ahmed later landed a job at Cascade Communications, where he became chief technology officer.

But after Cascade was sold to Ascend Communications Inc. in 1998, Ahmed agreed to run Sonus, then a one-year-old startup with just 30 people.

Though it took Sonus years to start selling products, it has since signed up marquee customers such as AT&T Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG and Verizon Communications Inc. And VOIP is becoming a household term. “This market is really starting to take off,” Ahmed says.

But Ahmed has also faced challenges. Like many telecom equipment makers, Sonus was hit hard by the tech crash in late 2000. Sonus’ revenue plunged from $129 million in 2001 to $93 million in 2003. Ahmed called it “telecom nuclear winter.” Many competitors disappeared.

To survive, Sonus had to eliminate more than 300 jobs. To avoid further cuts, executives gave up half their salary and other employees took a 10 percent pay cut.

“The company went through a difficult period where we really had to strengthen our financial controls,’’ Ahmed says. But he adds: “The Sonus business was never in doubt. This was really about applying very complicated accounting rules.”


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