Madera grad goes from delivering flowers to battling Steve Balmer
For The Madera Tribune
Former Madera graduate Leslie Moore stands with her family outside her home in Northern California. After helping keep the Sacramento Kings in the state’s capital, Moore is Vice President of Juniper Networks in charge of Global Communications.
Madera High School graduate Leslie Moore has come a long way from James Madison Elementary School.
Currently, Moore is the Vice President of Juniper Networks in charge of Global Communications. In addition, Moore was named a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, in which nominees are evaluated on their influence in their industries, as well as their communities.
“I now manage executive communications, product communications, employee communications, executive briefing center, global events, financial earnings, mergers and acquisitions, the website, customer references and social and digital media,” Moore said. “I have a large global team. I always thought I was a one-person team. In all the jobs I had, I was focused on one goal. I never saw myself settling down, having teams, being a mentor and being in charge of other peoples’ growth path. Man, was I wrong. This is my calling. I have a team of over 65 people. All of these different functions report to me. I work hand-in-hand with our CEO of all of our media. It’s just been really great.”
Juniper Networks is what Moore calls, “the keeper of the Internet.”
“If Juniper goes down, probably a large percentage of things would be down,” she said. “We have large router stacks you would see and software for the cloud. We have large customers. We run the networks for many areas. None of these work without a network and our network is what runs the world.”
Moore graduated from Madera High School in 1989 and found her way into sports and the technological world, although she graduated from Fresno State as a civil engineering major.
“I was heavily into sports,” she said. “My parents divorced when I was 8. My mother re-married and she got two boys. My middle brother (Mike Bumatay) got drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went to Clovis High and was an all-star pitcher there. He played in the Majors with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.
“For me to be heard at the dinner table, I had to have something interesting that involved sports. We also lived and breathed sports at my mom’s house because of my brother. I’ve always loved sports and been drawn to sports. When I was a cheerleader (at MHS), we cheered for every sport. We cheered for track and field. I dated a wrestler in high school and college. I actually had to like sports.”
She also delivered flowers for Madera Flower Shop.
“Those took a ton of my time,” she said.
While Moore was at Madera High, she couldn’t wait to leave the house. Now, she wonders what she is doing wrong because her own kids don’t want to leave the house.
“I could not wait to leave my parent’s house and Madera,” she said. “It had nothing to do with Madera. I knew there was more out there. My husband and I look at each other and wonder what we’re doing wrong because our kids love being home. They are 19 and 27. My daughter is going to Arizona Sate University and she can’t believe she’s going back to school. I couldn’t believe she came home for the summer. We’re doing something wrong when our kids want to stay home with us.”
When the weather was right, Moore and her friends would hurry home and head to Bass Lake for an afternoon on the lake.
“We would disappear and go to Bass Lake every chance we got,” she said. “We got out at school at 2:45, drive as fast we could to get the boat. We would get it out of the barn, hitch it up, zoom up to Bass Lake and ski until 7. We would have the boat back in the barn before dark. We couldn’t even stay around home after school.”
Out of Fresno State, Moore began work at Plantronics, a wearable technology company based in Santa Cruz.
“Plantronics was the headset Neil Armstrong used on the moon,” she said. “When I started there, it was still owned by the person who started it. He was the CEO. All of his contracts were with NASA or the government. He died while I was there. They promoted me to head of sales. Sales has a mindset that says more is more. They started a marketing department and said we need to promote our products and do all we can. I was hired to be a sales analyst. I knew every product. I knew the name of every product we made. By default, I got that job to be in public relations.”
Moore set out to change what Plantronics was, and to get the product into celebrities’ hands.
“I watched television at night and saw people using headsets on the shows, and none were Plantronics headsets,” she said. “I wondered how they got into the show? I literally started to cold call movie sets to ask if they could use headsets in their film or TV shows. I found out they were paying exorbitant prices, and then having to send them back. I made friends with the set people at Fox, Warner Bros., Disney and CBS, and I would just show up for a few weeks to film the scene with the headsets. They wanted subject matter experts on hand so they could use it right. I’ve been on the set of the “Office.” I got into that and got into product placement. I was on the set of “24.” I started doing product placement in awards shows, so I’ve been to the Oscars, the Emmys and the Grammys. Just having that one-one-one with people, and it was my job to educate them so they can talk about the product. I wouldn’t just hand John Mayer a headset. I showed him how it works and how it pairs with his phone. I really built out the product placement and celebrity endorsements at Plantronics like the Jonas Brothers and Jon Bon Jovi. I went to Sundance and met people and gave them all headsets. My Rolodex has a lot of famous people in my phone. I built these relationships with these people by trust. I never used the numbers. They would only contact me.”
Moore was at Plantronics during the Bluetooth headset boom and when it became mandatory to wear headsets to talk on the phone while driving, her company took off.
“It was another opportunity to re-imagine ourselves and I was a part of that,” she said. “Plantronics went off the charts. They were almost a dying breed with the desk headsets.”
During this re-evolution of Plantronics, Moore, as a favor for a friend, interviewed for a public relations position with TIBCO Software, a real-time computing system, although she really didn’t want the job.
“I had a friend that worked for a gentleman who was a CEO of a company in Palo Alto,” Moore said. “She was having lunch with a friend of mine. She was complaining to my friend that she was having trouble hiring somebody to head PR. Every time they come in, the CEO meets them and tells them to leave. This has happened 25 times. He would ask them three questions and then, says, ‘Thank you.’ My friend asked what was going on. He (the CEO) wants someone who is good and creative in PR for tech, but also who knows sports.
“My girlfriend said she knew who this person is — her friend Leslie. She asked me if I would be interested in interviewing for this role at TIBCO. I said, ‘Absolutely not. I have my role here at Plantronics and we’re being big. We’re making a name for ourselves.’ She asked if I would do it for her. The company was giving away $250 gift certificates for Outback for any referral. I told her I would do it for her so she could get the certificate. I don’t want to do the interview because I don’t want to get humiliated by this jerk. I didn’t need this job and I didn’t want to work there. I arrived TIBCCO and got immediately led to the CEO’s office.”
While waiting for the interview she didn’t want, Moore found out that she wasn’t meeting with a supervisor, but the CEO of TIBCO, Vivek Ranadivé.
“Door opens and it’s a big conference room where people are at the end of the room,” she said. “Vivek stands up and put his hand out. To his left, I saw another man stand up with Vivek. This is what Vivek said I did, but I don’t remember. I hit Vivek’s hand out of my way and put my hand out to the other man and asked, ‘Why is Roger Craig in the room?’ Roger Craig’s face lights up and he hugs me,” Vivek said. “‘You’re hired.’
“This was the test. You have Roger Craig sitting in the room for everyone coming in, and if you didn’t know it was Roger Craig, you didn’t get a second chance. Roger Craig actually works at TIBCO as VP of Business Development. This was how smart Vivek was. Roger didn’t do anything but fly around to the final sales meetings to show up to seal the deal. Who wouldn’t say okay if Roger Craig was there asking you to buy his product? He is the nicest man on the planet.”
Moore, Craig and Ranadivé talked for three hours. Moore ended up taking the job with TIBCO and became Ranadivé’s right-hand person.
“At the time, Vivek was a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors,” Moore said. “That’s why he wanted someone to do PR for TIBCO, but also help him out with media around the Warriors. Because he was the minority owner, he didn’t get the PR support of the Warriors.
“While I was there with Vivek, we went to the World Economic Forum four times in Switzerland. One time the ex-prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, gave me a flat tire crossing the street. It hurt so bad that I shoved him. He said he was sorry. We get to the other side and Vivek said, ‘You just pushed Tony Blair.’ I said, ‘Whatever, he gave me a flat tire.’ Vivek said I had blinders on when it came to working for him. He’s one of my best friends and mentor. “
While working with Ranadivé, Moore expanded her Rolodex, including meeting Steve Jobs.
“I met Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Jobs was in the office near TIBCO,” she said. “There was a path between the two buildings. When Steve Jobs was ill, he would show up in the lobby. When someone asked for Vivek, they would call me and I would meet them in the lobby. A few times I went down and Steve would be there in his gray sweats with his fanny pack and a turtleneck. He would be there to see Vivek. All he wanted to do was sit with Vivek in his office and eat blueberries. It opened my eyes to see people put on faces for different things.”
It was while working with Ranadive that Moore went face-to-face with Steve Balmer. There was a time when the Sacramento Kings was bought by Balmer and he was going to move the team to Seattle.
Then-Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson talked to Craig about keeping the team in Sacramento. Craig, in turn, talked to Ranadivé about buying the Kings.
“Vivek sat there for about a day. The next day, he asked if he should buy the Sacramento Kings,” Moore said.
However, the main problem was how you outbid Steve Balmer.
“We started working with Kevin Johnson and the people of Sacramento,” she said. “To this day, they are some of my biggest fans and I am their biggest fan. The way that city came together to support that team was crazy. Vivek and other investors put in a plan to take a counter offer to (NBA Commissioner) David Stern within two weeks. It had to come quickly. The Maloofs (former owner of the Kings) had signed on the dotted line, but it still had to approved by the NBA Board of Governors. We had to come up with a proposal. Kevin had to talk to city hall to put something on the ballot because he might have to use city funds. We had to at least match the price and say what other things we had to do. We had to go to New York a few times to present to the board of the NBA. One of the things Stern said was we had a run-down old arena. The arena leaks. Steve Balmer would build a new arena or re-do Key Arena (in Seattle). We didn’t have an arena for our team. We had to go back and Kevin fought hard with the city. We met with the governor. We had to put things on the ballot to get Sacramento to give some parking revenue to the arena and give some tax dollars to the arena. It went to a vote and they approved it. They have revitalized downtown Sacramento. It was an area where people were getting needed help, but the businesses were hurting because people didn’t want to go there. We couldn’t displace people. They call it old Sacramento for a reason. We went to Dallas and the NBA voted 10-2 for Vivek and all of his minority investors. It’s been a crazy ride since then. That’s the story of going head-to-head with Steve Balmer. Then, he bought the Clippers for $1 billion. If that was the offer for Sacramento, we would never have had a chance.”
Ranadivé became an advisor for the UC System and left TIBCO to be more invested in Sacramento.
‘He could not give the attention he wanted to the shareholders at TIBCO,” Moore said. “He took it private and everyone got their money and promoted his CFO to CEO. Vivek left TIBCO. When he left TIBCO, he got a place in Sacramento.”
Ranadivé asked Moore to join him in Sacramento, but she and her husband had just bought a home in Willow Glenn in San Jose and really didn’t want to uproot and move.
“He (Vivek) told me if I wanted to keep doing this, I needed to move to Sacramento,” she said. “This was eight years ago. We had just bought a home. There were crazy bidding wars for houses. My husband and looked at each other and decided we couldn’t move, couldn’t uproot our daughter.”
So, Moore left Ranadivé and TIBCO and got a job as the director of public relations at Juniper. Three years ago, she was named the Vice President of Global Communications.
After working for other people, now Moore relishes the role of being a mentor. Ranadivé gave Moore a piece of advice she will always cherish — “Don’t be right, be successful.”
“Vivek taught me so much,” Moore said. “He came into my office one day at TIBCO and I was beating on my keyboard. I was so mad. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was telling the person why he’s wrong and why he should do it this way.
“Vivek looked at me and said, ‘Don’t be right, be successful.’ I said, ‘yeah, yeah,’ and kept typing. He told me to stop what I was doing and repeat what he had said. I sighed and repeated it back to him. He said there is no success in being right. The only thing done was proving yourself right. Have you contributed to the success of the problem you are trying to solve? Have you contributed to the success of others? Are you contributing to the success of TIBCO and my revenue? So, in everything you say and everything you do, don’t be right, be successful. That has changed my life. It is something I tell people. I do mentor groups with people at work and am on the board of a group that mentors women. I tell people that story, and I get emails from people. It doesn’t ever harm not to be right. That is my mantra. Vivek wrote it on a Post-It so I wouldn’t forget. I have that framed.”
Moore gives talks to groups all the time and she tells them that you’ve been invited to sit at the table, don’t be afraid to speak. You’ve earned your seat at the table, so do what you’re supposed to do at the table.
“I get that don’t be right, be successful is very hard to pivot.” she said. “You are graded on being right until you are not. If you are taking a test, you are graded on your answers. You are programed to be right. Un-programming yourself to not be right and to be successful is a big pivot. If you are able to think of it that way, it will make a difference.”
In the end, Moore is proud of what she has been able to accomplish since she left Madera.
“I don’t reflect often on where I’ve been,” she said. “I have this really tight friend group in Madera. The town I thought I wanted to leave, my friends have deep, deep roots in Madera. There’s no other way to feel about Madera, but it being home. I feel content and at peace when I come home. The people that I still love and call my best friends are actually the heart of Madera. I don’t feel like I’ve left Madera and become successful. I feel like I’m from Madera and that I’m successful.”