Beyond the Boardroom

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Ron Nersesian

Author: Alexandra Russell
March, 2016 Issue

 

In 1984, Ron Nersesian started with the Hewlett-Packard Company in its test and measurement organization. “I worked at HP for 12 years in a variety of management roles, then left for a personal growth opportunity with a company transitioning through an initial public offering. In 2002, I returned to work at Agilent Technologies—after it spun off from HP—as a division vice president and general manager.”
 
In the years since, his leadership roles at Agilent included wireless business unit vice president, electronic measurement group president, chief operating officer and, eventually, president of Agilent. When Agilent announced in 2013 that it would spin-off the company’s electronic measurement business, Nersesian was named CEO of the company now known as Keysight Technologies.
 
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born in New York and grew up in the city of Livingston, New Jersey, with my mother, father and siblings, John and Lisa. I attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. I also have an MBA from New York University (NYU).  
 
What did you do professionally before joining Hewlett Packard?
After finishing college, I was hired as a systems engineer at Computer Sciences Corporation, where I worked for two years before joining HP.
 
How many countries have you been to?
Too many to count. While Santa Rosa is corporate headquarters for Keysight, 90 percent of our employees and 99 percent of our customers are outside Sonoma County; two-thirds of our business is outside the United States. We have customers in more than 100 countries, and I’ve visited many of them. Recently I’ve been meeting with Wall Street investors and industry analysts, mostly in various U.S. locations. Over the past two months, I’ve met with more than 80 investors and analysts.
 
Do you have a big family?
I have a close immediate and extended family. My wife, Maria, and I recently celebrated our 29th anniversary. Our son, Matthew, recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in chemical biology, and our daughter, Sonia, is a junior at Loyola Marymount University studying communications and dance.
 
What do you love to do outside of work?
I really enjoy spending time with family. I love golf, photography and learning about the latest tech gadgets. My latest gadgets are an iPhone 6s and a drone that I recently bought at an Apple store. The drone has a camera, and I plan to fly it around and look at the roof of my house to see if the shingles need replacing without having to climb up there.
 
What’s your dream car?
I love to drive and take road trips, and since my job is very busy, much of my “free” time is spent commuting. Currently, I have a sports car and a small electric vehicle, but my dream car would be a high-performance electric sports car.
 
Share a favorite childhood memory.
One of my favorite memories was when I earned my Eagle Scout award as a teenager. I enjoyed scouting because it gave me an opportunity to learn new skills, and I liked camping and hiking. It served as a good leadership foundation for me—it makes a difference when you’re thinking about how to lead when you’re 11 years old.
 
And I’ll never forget when the San Diego Chargers beat the Miami Dolphins in the NFL playoffs January 2, 1982. I’m a big Chargers fan, which shows my loyalty, because we’re zero for 34 in winning the Super Bowl since I became a fan. I never give up on the dream.
 
What’s one fashion trend you hope never comes back?
Leisure suits—powder blue leisure suits, to be specific.
 
What’s something people do in traffic that really bothers you?
Using their handheld devices, because it means they’re driving with half their brains.
 
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “adventure”?
Because my life as a CEO is so structured and programmed, adventure to me means any free time to explore in the moment. I could take an adventure anywhere, including while I’m travelling or sightseeing.
 
Do you say “good-bye” quickly, slowly or not at all?
In the Armenian culture, it takes an hour to say “good-bye” when leaving a relative’s home. I try to speed that up.

 

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