Leaders of Tomorrow 2010

Chances are you haven’t heard of them—yet—but these 12 executives are poised to play pivotal roles in shaping the future of business.

July 27 2010 by Dale Buss


Tumultuous times in business create the need for leadership—and opportunities for it to shine. The last few years clearly have shuffled the deck when it comes to both the global economy and just about every industry, with new leaders emerging near the top of the pack.

Chief Executive has selected a dozen Global Business Leaders of Tomorrow who have already amassed an impressive array of achievements and have positioned themselves to join the top echelons of the world’s business leaders in the years ahead. Obviously, such a roster defies objective criteria. But we’re confident that the list we’ve assembled represents the true cream of the crop. Nearly all are in their 40s, about equally divided between rising executives of multinational corporations and entrepreneurs who’ve rocketed to success. Technology is well represented, bespeaking its still-growing importance, but a banker and a brand marketer also number among the selections.

Most of these leaders have some connection with the United States. They work here, their companies are headquartered here, they went to school here, or they built their careers here. This America-centrism is representative of the fact that, despite the dramatic reordering of the global business picture, many roads to success still lead through this country.

Here are Chief Executive’s Global Business Leaders of Tomorrow for 2010:

Disrupting Designs
John Deng

Age: 41
Country: China
Company & Location:Vimicro, Beijing
Position: Founder, Chairman and CEO
Career Maker: Deng succeeded where few thought Vimicro could: designing a large-scale integrated camera chip that has become standard in many of the world’s PCs. “Many Chinese people feel proud that we have our own [chip] that is being used by many international brands,” he says.
Professional Trajectory: In 1999, the Nanking native and other Silicon Valley-educated Chinese returned to found the company and received startup funding from the Chinese government. Vimicro was the first major semiconductor company in China dedicated to chip design and not manufacturing as well. Now it’s got annual revenues of about $90 million and is listed on NASDAQ.
Big Brother Complex: Deng’s biggest goal now is for Vimicro to become a leader in “video intelligence” for a wide variety of purposes, from security to traffic control to environmental monitoring. Without a note of hesitation, he says he wants to “pave the way for a massive, pervasive network that would be able to see and judge and control everything—and also to help everything.”
Man of Letters: Deng has five advanced degrees in fields ranging from economics to electronics. Last year, he became the youngest-ever member of China’s National Academy of Engineering.
Biggest influences: Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. “As a kid I couldn’t really distinguish between a scientist and a technologist. I wanted to become an inventor, but first I needed to understand what was happening in the science.”

Cutting-Edge Strategist
Manisha Shah-Bugaj

Age: 33
Country: USA
Company & Location:Olympus, Southborough, Mass.
Position: Director of Marketing, Surgical Energy division of Gyrus ACMI, an Olympus company
Career Maker: Maker: She oversees strategy and business development in a sector that’s increasingly important to Olympus: products that administer energy for cutting and coagulating tissue during surgery such as laparoscopic hysterectomies. They often provide cost and quality benefits at a time when health-care costs are under the microscope. “From training surgeons to educating patients, my message is about minimally invasive applications, which means that I feel I can make a difference every day and enhance people’s lives,” Shah-Bugaj says. Health-care revenues actually are the biggest business for a brand better known for cameras.
Professional Trajectory: Shah- Bugaj went to Dartmouth for engineering and business degrees and, after getting her master’s, joined a management-consulting firm to satisfy her increasing interest in business strategy. Rising through ACMI gave her a chance to develop both interests while working with their gynecological products line. Olympus acquired the company in 2008.
Moonlighting with Metals: She learned soldering in college as an engineer and began tinkering in the campus jewelry studio. Shah-Bugaj still makes jewelry as gifts. “I haven’t turned it into a business yet,” she says, “but you never know.”
Biggest influences: Her parents, both of whom are professionals and Indian immigrants to the U.S. “I’m a first-generation American. My father was the first in his family to leave India, and they’ve always instilled in me that discipline and hard work are important values.”

Mecca Maker
Mohamed El-Fatatry

Age: 25
Country: Finland
Company & Location:Muxlim, Helsinki
Position: Founder and CEO
Career Maker: The Egyptian born entrepreneur established what has become the largest online lifestyle hub for Muslims worldwide, already reaching a total of 10 million people a year, about one-quarter in the U.S. Content about food and finance dominate, and El-Fatatry is expanding heavily into a third major content element: fun. He’s also making English-language Muxlim the major source of Muslim- market data for marketers. And, of course, El-Fatatry is battling terrorist stereotypes. “The majority of Muslims around the world are just regular folks who have iPhones and watch America’s Got Talent,” he says.
Professional Trajectory: A technogeek who grew up in the United Arab Emirates, El-Fatatry was teaching web development to 40-year-old businesspeople when he was just 16. Then he visited Finland and, inspired by the success of Nokia, moved there.
Sage and Soothsayer: El-Fatatry learned “at a very young age the fact that technology can really empower individuals.” He did it by surfing the web at the office of his newspaper-editor father, learning the results of World Wrestling Federation matches in the U.S., and then betting his schoolmates on the matches, which were televised locally a season later.
In the Steps of the Maestro: A fan of classical music and ballet, last year El-Fatatry went to Austria to shadow Mozart. “I actually attended the concert hall where he and his father and brother spent most of their evenings.”

Marketing Maven
Melanie Healey

Age: 49
Country: USA
Company & Location:Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati
Position: Group President, North America
Career Maker: Maker: Before her promotion last year by new CEO Bob McDonald, Healey rocked as group president of global feminine and health care, delivering six years of double-digit annual growth, and record volume, sales and profit. No wonder Fortune selected her for the third straight year as one of its Most Powerful Women in Business; last year, Healey came in at No. 15.
Professional Trajectory: Healey joined S.C. Johnson out of college and then jumped to P&G, where she has spent 20 years of her 27-year career, rising through positions that included stints marketing Pampers in Brazil and fabric softeners in Mexico. Now, she aims to spread P&G brands more broadly through North American households, most of which don’t purchase even half the company’s diverse lineup of products. “One thing we’re doing is better positioning our portfolio to go after more consumers across different economic levels,” she says.
United Nations of Healey: She was born and raised in Brazil to an English father and a Chilean mother and attended Brazilian, British and American schools. “I grew up understanding what living in a multicultural world was like,” Healey says. “I wanted to become the general manager of a multinational company someday.”
Sedentary Passion: Healey is a lifelong bridge maven.
Biggest influences: She has learned from observing leaders at P&G and also outsiders, including Patricia Woertz, CEO of ArcherDaniels Midland, and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay.

Entrepreneurial Executive
Krishnakumar Natarajan

Age: 53
Country: Indian
Company & Location:MindTree, Mumbai
Position: Co-Founder, CEO and Managing Director
Career Maker: The industry veteran launched MindTree as an omnibus global IT-services provider in 1999, but it had posted only $16 million in annual sales by 2003. “Then we wanted to achieve ten-times growth in a five-year period, and we did,” he reports. Now a nearly $300 million player, offering not only IT services but also product-development consulting, Natarajan believes that MindTree is poised to reach $1 billion in revenues by 2014 through organic growth, with some acquisitions.
Professional Trajectory: Instead of enrolling at the University of Illinois on a solar-engineering scholarship, Natarajan went to school in India and then became part of the burgeoning IT culture there by joining Wipro in 1982. He quadrupled the number of employees in its software-services business and, later, launched Wipro’s e-commerce division. The first task he took on for MindTree was starting its U.S. operation.
Dual Personality: Having been a successful corporate executive as well as an entrepreneur, Natarajan believes he’s better at the latter. “Sometimes I think I should have gone into entrepreneurial mode earlier,” he says, “but the opportunities and experiences I got with Wipro prepared me substantively to become a better entrepreneur.”
Five-Year Plan: Outside of work, Natarajan said he likes to “try to pick up something new” and “reinvent myself” about every five years. He was a competitive table-tennis player; he started golf several years ago; and, lately, he’s taken up photography.

Advancing Africa
Nik Nesbitt

Age: 47
Country: Kenya
Company & Location:KenCall, Nairobi
Position: Founder and CEO
Career Maker: He moved back to Kenya five years ago from the U.S. with an idea for jump-starting socio-economic development in his homeland. KenCall is an outsourced call center serving companies in North America and elsewhere, trying to one-up the Indian model with Kenya’s closer language and cultural similarities to the West. Now it’s the largest employer of college graduates in East Africa. “It’s so rare that Kenya can compete on the world stage,” Nesbitt says. “But it’s not just reserved for our athletes.”
Professional Trajectory: Raised in privilege in Kenya as the son of a physician, Nesbitt earned an MBA at Stanford and rose to become vice president of indirect- channel distribution for Qwest. New bosses severed him. “I had a strong patriotic sense that I wanted to go back to Kenya,” he notes.
Brand Ambitions: Nesbitt won’t be satisfied with simply taking call-center market share and opening satellites around Africa. He wants KenCall to become a name. “Suddenly we have the ability to sell our own KenCall brand credit cards and insurance,” Nesbitt explains. “Why can’t we vertically integrate our services and go direct to consumers ourselves in some areas?”
Biggest influences: Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great, under whom Nesbitt sat at Stanford. “When I told him I wanted to be head of a Fortune 100 company, he said, ‘You need to get fired first, or you’ve sold yourself out to a conspiracy of mediocrity.’”

Delivering Growth
Griselda Hernandez

Age: 44
Country: Mexico
Company & Location:United Parcel Service, Mexico City
Position: General Manager, Mexico
Career Maker: Last April, Hernandez had to react within hours to news of a swine-flu epidemic in Mexico City. “We had to lead the pack in terms of making sure everyone coming in or going out from Mexico, especially our pilots, was secured,” she recalls. “We needed a lot of communication and proactiveness.”
Professional Trajectory: She joined the company in 1991 as an industrial-engineering supervisor, rose to Dominican Republic general manager by 2002 and was promoted to her current job in 2006.
Fast Company: Last fall, Hernandez was named the year’s Best Executive in Latin America by the Stevie Awards for women in business, for leading a tripling of UPS’s stations in Mexico over three years and expanding the services it offers.
Early Signs: As a little girl,Hernandez imagined herself as a supermarket manager with her dolls as her employees. “Since I was very little, I knew I wanted to work in a big corporation.”
Biggest influences: Margaret Thatcher. “If she was able to lead a country like she was leading England, anyone could do anything.”

Extreme Execution
Darrell Wade

Age: 48
Country: Australia
Company & Location:Intrepid Travel; Melbourne
Position: Co-founder and CEO
Career Maker:Incorrigible globetrotter Wade and a buddy decided to launch a company in 1989 to lead treks for travelers off the beaten path. Fusing creativity with execution, Wade and partner Geoff Manchester built a global leader in adventure trips. Double-digit annual growth continues, in part with the addition of retail stores a la Apple, where Intrepid staffers lecture on exotic destinations and demonstrate native cuisines. “We’re certainly not running out of opportunities,” he says.
Professional Trajectory: After graduation from college,Wade decided he would hold a dead-end job for a year then take a year off to backpack.
Early Gamble: Intrepid has taken some chances. One was in 1992 when Wade picked up buzz that Vietnam was about to lift travel restrictions. “We put together a program real quickly and got it out there, and it just went crazy with customers,” he says.
Best Itinerary: Going up the Congo River amid bats on boats,monkeys swinging around and live African music. “Ninety-nine out of 100 people might just hate it,”Wade said. “But I’d like to do it again.”
Blood Lines: While Wade’s family pegged him as “the corporate type,” instead he followed the family legacy of entrepreneurship—his father,mother and older brother all have launched and run businesses.

Software Strategist
Renee James

Age: 46
Country: USA
Company & Location:Intel, Santa Clara, Calif.
Position: Senior Vice President and General Manager, Software and Services Group
Career Maker: She heads Intel’s accelerating strategic expansion into providing proprietary software for fast-growing applications in consumer electronics, such as smart phones. James has engineered acquisitions that allow the subsidiaries significant independence. “We’ve expanded Intel’s capabilities without destroying shareholder value,” she said.
Professional Trajectory: Straight out of college, James threw in with a local startup acquired by Intel in 1988. She rose to COO of online services and vice president of developer programs before promotion to her current post in January.
Lesson Learned: James leverages her experience as an employee of Intel’s first acquisition, Bell Technologies. “The first day is all about the people and their personal concerns about retirement, benefits and so on,” she explained. “You need to be able to tell them exactly what is going on.”
Speed Demon: A scholarship sprinter at the University of Oregon, James now prefers half-marathons. “But I can still beat my kids in the 100 meters.”
Biggest influences: Retired Intel CEO Andy Grove. She was his technical assistant for four years. “He was extraordinarily clear and direct,” James recalls. “That gave people a sense of knowing where they were going and what the boundaries were for success or failure.”

The Swap Artist
Andreas Koenig

Age: 45
Country: Germany
Company & Location:Network Appliance, Munich
Position: Senior Vice President and General Manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa
Career Maker: Koenig sells computer storage, but he may do it uniquely. For example, he flip-flopped his managers of direct and indirect sales channels, who were rivals, to create mutual empathy between them—and then switched them back. “It completely changed our game,” Koenig said, helping achieve his goal of boosting in-channel business from almost nothing to near 90 percent. Overall, Koenig quickly moved NetApp’s market share in Europe to No. 2 from No. 5, and his aim is overtaking leader EMC within two years.
Professional Trajectory: The native of Austria started in Munich as a technical consultant, then joined Silicon Graphics to establish its Austrian sales. He moved to NetApp as its first European sales rep in 1996 and built it to a $1.5-billion brand there. He was promoted to his current post in 2007.
Wheeler: Koenig got Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp to sponsor a European bike-racing team after a “long fight with corporate.” The fit may not be obvious. But “we have lots of customers—CIOs, CEOs— who are into biking,” he says, “and we get lots of press.” Koenig’s goal is to enter the NetApp team in the Tour de France in 2012.
Weekend Warrior: few years ago, Koenig began racing sports cars on weekends—”the first year, I crashed models at every race”—and soon finished high in the Shell Cup completion for amateur drivers in the European Ferrari Challenge circuit.

Trend Spotter
Michael Kirban

Age: 35
Country: USA
Company & Location: Vita-Coco; New York
Position: Founder and CEO
Career Maker: Kirban sampled coconut water at a bar in New York and saw its potential as America’s next big healthy-drink phenomenon. He built a factory in Brazil and pursued two huge audiences back home: upscale early adopters, and immigrants who’d grown up on the stuff. “We have two consumer bases that no other beverage has,” he says.
Professional Trajectory: The college dropout started a business providing property-management software at age 20, which he still operates—though increasingly on the side. That’s because VitaCoco more than doubled revenues last year, to $20million, and is growing at triple digits. Now the company is valued at $125million.
Hard to Get: While Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have acquired or bought stakes in coconut-water competitors, Kirban remains coy about takeover talk. “There are very few success stories of getting in bed with bigger brands when we’re this young,” he said. “I haven’t seen a deal that makes sense to us.”
Whipper-Snapper: At age seven this budding entrepreneur picked tomatoes from the family garden and sold them at his grandmother’s card games for $1 apiece. At 13, he was selling baseball cards at shows.
Biggest influences: Frederick de Mevius, VitaCoco’s first investor and a scion of Interbrew, and Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, because he “lives his brand.”

Share Builder
Hassan Abdalla

Age: 49
Country: Egypt
Company & Location:Arab African International Bank; Cairo
Position: Vice Chairman and Managing Director
Career Maker:Abdalla helped the bank gain a 5-percent market share in Egypt versus just 0.5 percent five years ago, and a return on equity of more than 30 percent compared with 5 percent. He also acquired or started mortgage, asset-management and brokerage operations.
Professional Trajectory: He received early training in stints on Wall Street, with Drexel and PaineWebber, and in London. Abdalla started out in Egyptian banking as a dealmaker. “I liked getting results on the spot,” he remembered. “If you’re right, you’re right, and the same if you’re wrong. You don’t have to wait years to find out.”
Regional View: Abdalla’s long term charge is to make Arab African International Bank a player throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. “Before the global financial crisis it was almost prohibitive to think of an acquisition in the region because prices were crazy-high,” he said. “But now the situation is different.” Arab African already has been expanding its operations in the United Arab Emirates.
The Road Not Taken: If not for banking, Abdalla might be running a music and video store, as he considered early in his banking career. He still enjoys listening to music more than any other pastime.