Vikram Verma talks the value of engineering and leadership to society as the 2022 ECE Alumni Impact Award winner
Vikram “Vik” Verma (MSE EE ’89) was named the 2022 ECE Alumni Impact Award winner for his distinguished 30-year career with leading technology companies. Verma has served in executive roles at Savi Technology, Lockheed Martin, 8×8 Inc., and more.
“The education I got [at Michigan] was the foundation of pretty much everything I’ve ever been able to do in my life,” Verma said during his alumni award seminar, presented to students, faculty, and staff on October 28, 2022.
Verma earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology before he was recruited to Michigan by Prof. Emeritus Thomas B. A. Senior. Senior was renowned for his fundamental contributions to electromagnetic and acoustic scattering, as well as his excellence as an educator.
“When I first came to Michigan, I think this may have been a trick by Dr. Senior, he had me visit the campus around August time,” Verma said. “The sun was shining, birds were singing, not a single cloud in the sky. I looked at it said, ‘This is Florida without the hurricanes, this is awesome.’”
The education I got [at Michigan] was the foundation of pretty much everything I’ve ever been able to do in my life.
Verma was particularly impressed by the Radiation Laboratory (RadLab), which featured many renowned researchers, including Professors Linda Katehi, Fawwaz Ulbay, and Kamal Sarabandi, who have all been elected into the National Academy of Engineering, as well as Professor John Volakis, who is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Verma also worked directly with Research Scientist Emeritus Dr. Valdis Liepa, who was a member of the RadLab for nearly 50 years.
“When I went to Michigan – we’re talking 1988 time-frame – it was a simpler time,” Verma said. “We always, always, always beat Ohio State. . . There was no internet. There were no cell phones. And [the EECS building] was brand new.”
After Michigan, Verma went on to work on his doctorate in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University but left to join the startup Savi Technolgy. Over the next few years, Savi became the leader in radio frequency identification-based tracking and security solutions and a pioneer in the Internet of Things. Within five years, Verma was Savi’s Chief Operating Officer, and helped negotiate the acquisition of Savi by Texas Instruments. He then became President and CEO of Savi post acquisition. During the subsequent merger of Texas Instruments Systems Group with the Raytheon Company, Verma, in partnership with leading venture Capital firms from Silicon Valley and Asia, led the management buyout of Savi. Seven years later, Savi was acquired by Lockheed Martin for over 35 times its buyout price.
“An engineering education is the core, but you have to be open to luck,” Verma said about his career journey. “It really ends up being people along the journey that absolutely influence your life, and if you embrace that, that leads to a much richer experience.”
An engineering education is the core, but you have to be open to luck.
At Lockheed Martin, Verma served as the President of Strategic Venture Development. In that role, he was responsible for monetizing existing Lockheed Martin technologies and programs in new global commercial markets. He left Lockheed Martin after seven years and was appointed the CEO of the Silicon Valley-based cloud communications company, 8×8, Inc.
Under Verma’s leadership, 8×8 acquired eight companies, increased its annual recurring revenue from ~$100M to over $500M, and added more than $1.5B to its market capitalization. Verma retired from 8×8 in December of 2020.
“Engineering teaches you discipline, it teaches you collaboration, it teaches you how the sum is much greater than the individual, it teaches you that ideas are just the beginning,” Verma said. “If you surround yourself with the right people – meaning focus not on their accomplishments, not on their resume, but what’s in their head, what’s in their heart – and just go for it. . . you’ll have a rich and fulfilling life.”
Verma currently serves on the Board of Directors of Cambium Networks (NASDAQ: CMBM), the Board of Directors of Cyara, the Board of Directors of Zingtree, Chairman of the Board of Managers for Genesis Digital, LLC and the Advisory Board of Wiliot. In addition, he serves on the Board of Trustees of Florida Institute of Technology where he is a member of the Executive Committee and the Presidential Search Committee. He is a member of the University of Michigan ECE Alumni Advisory Council.
Verma has also served on the board of Ping Identity (NYSE: PING, Acquired by Thoma Bravo), RAE systems (acquired by Honeywell International), as well as Blackfire (Acquired by ROKU, Inc). He has been granted eight patents and honored with various accolades, including being named a Tau Beta Pi Williams Fellow and a “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is committed to lifelong learning and has completed executive management programs at the Harvard Business School, the Haas School of Business at University of California-Berkeley, the Stanford Law School Directors’ College, and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.