Sonus Networks’ Jeffrey Snider works to improve efficiency, empower employees in new CAO role.
By Aly J. Yale
Though he is a lawyer by degree, Jeffrey Snider goes beyond providing counsel at Sonus Networks, a Massachusetts-based IP networking firm. Recently he added Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to his official title, which, he says, essentially means he gets to “drive efficiency across the company.”
It may sound like a broad and far-reaching job, but for Snider, whose resume boasts a variety of distinct positions in both the private and public sectors, it has been a long time in the making.
From Commercial Lawyer to CAO
Snider started his career as an attorney with a commercial law firm. He quickly rose through the ranks, taking on increased duties, eventually becoming partner. Snider soon found, however, that in the private law world, hard work was rewarded primarily with more work and longer hours.
“I later heard it described as: ‘It’s like a pie-eating contest where the winner gets more pie,’” Snider said.
Unsatisfied in his work role, Snider received an offer from up-and-coming search engine Lycos, and he jumped at the chance. He served as general counsel for the company during the dot-com boom, seeing it grow from a small, unheard-of business, to a huge, groundbreaking company. The position required Snider to take a significant pay cut, but he loved it nonetheless.
“I did it because it was a chance to contribute to something,” Snider said, “and to feel that I could really be satisfied with every day of work I put into it.”
At the height of the dot-com boom, Lycos was sold. Not long after, Snider joined Geac Computers in a similar general counsel role. But this time, instead of getting in on the ground floor during a boom, he was joining an older company in a dwindling market. It was an uphill battle.
“I wanted to prove to myself that [my success] wasn’t a fluke,” Snider said.
Snider took it as a personal challenge to get Geac turned around and, despite the hurdles the company faced, he helped accomplish just that. In the end, Geac tripled in value and was sold to a private equity firm.
After a brief stint with a private company, Snider joined Sonus as its general counsel in 2009. Now, just three years later, he has been asked to take on additional duties as the company’s CAO.
Self-dubbed as “someone who likes to get things done,” Snider said his new duties will allow him to have a bigger impact on the success of the company as a whole.
“Now, I’m not just involved in what we do,” Snider said, “but what we should be doing.”
Managing through Empowerment
In addition to overseeing the overall efficiency of Sonus, Snider also is in charge of managing the company’s legal team—a duty he is happy to take on.
“I’m still a roll-up-my-sleeves-and-do-it kind of guy, but I think that my strength is probably not as a technical lawyer,” Snider said. “It’s been in building teams and in fostering teamwork and in setting people up to be successful on their own.”
When building a team, Snider emphasizes the need to establish trust and respect. To accomplish this, he suggests empowering employees, giving them ownership of their duties and allowing them opportunities to learn, grow and contribute.
“The key to a team is that everyone feels they’re valued equally, that they’re contributing equally,” Snider said. “There’s nothing more destructive to a team than for some people to be perceived as the favorites, or some people to feel that they’re working harder than everyone else.”
Snider even works the idea of teamwork into his interview process, by finding out if candidates played team sports as a child.
“Someone who has grown up playing team sports probably has the right approach,” he said.
At the end of the day, Snider said, “success is much more fun if you can share it.”
Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer based in Forth Worth, Texas.