2020 FierceTelecom Rising Star — Equinix's Chiaren Cushing

The FierceTelecom editorial team is proud to announce our second annual Rising Stars series, in which we’re profiling up-and-coming executives in the telecom industry. We’ve selected a slate of executives whom we think are on the rise in 2020. We’ll be doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. And next week, we’ll post a Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in the FierceTelecom ecosystem. We hope you enjoy the series!

Chiaren Cushing never expected to be working at Equinix. For years she was a highly successful business development professional for wireless technologies. “The reason I landed on wireless is that I’m very, very passionate about democratization of information and access,” Cushing said. “I truly, truly believe that knowledge is power.” Cushing saw how mobile technology could deliver education and information to people worldwide who had never before had access, and she was proud to be part of that at Qualcomm. Then her boss from a former job called her about Equinix.

“He said ‘the world is going to change and you need to get over here,’” Cushing remembers. The data center business was new to her, but she welcomed the challenge. “One of the reasons I came to Equinix ... is their commitment to this idea that they’re bringing people together and they’re connecting entities around the world and they’re making things happen,” Cushing said. 

Cushing herself has made a lot happen for Equinix as director of global business development for mobile technologies and IoT. Equinix hired Cushing to run a mobile vertical, but within a few weeks the group’s focus shifted to IoT and the edge. More recently, the company’s IoT platform became part of its edge-focused business. “First we looked at mobile and IoT, but now we realize that the edge is pretty much where it’s at,” Cushing said. “Getting the plumbing right for the edge and for IoT was actually more important than just supporting individual use cases.”

That plumbing includes three components, Cushing said. The first is the direct physical interconnection between companies, the second is the mesh network to enable data centers to interconnect on an as-needed basis, and the third is bare metal automation, a capability that Equinix recently acquired through its purchase of Packet.

RELATED: Equinix buys bare metal data center company Packet

Cushing’s job is to leverage that infrastructure through alliances and market strategies. She believes her love of people is one big reason for her success, saying she falls a little bit in love with every project and the people who are part of it. “I have not accomplished anything at Equinix that didn’t involve a big group of totally brilliant people,” Cushing said. “Everything we’ve done is the result of teamwork between passionate, motivated, very kind people.” 

Cushing has made a big mark on Equinix over the past six years. She credits former mentor Lisa Hook with encouraging her to speak up for herself, a trait that has taken her a long way in her current role and helped her become highly visible at Equinix. She authors blog posts for the company on topics ranging from COVID-19 and AI to how technology can empower senior citizens, and she participates actively in networking groups like Equinix’s Inter-Asian Connect Leadership Council and the Equinix Women Leaders’ Network.

“I’m unusual being female, and then Asian, and then younger than most in this role when I joined,” Cushing said. She’s worked hard at Equinix, but she hasn’t had to work on toning down her outgoing personality or her strong opinions. “I feel pretty lucky to be able to be my quirky self at work,” she said.