Proud But Never Satisfied
Shindler is the executive chairman of NII Holdings, Inc., a provider of fully-integrated mobile communication services in Latin America. From 2000 to 2008, he served as CEO of Nextel International, Inc., which later became NII.He joined Nextel Communications, Inc. in 1996 as executive vice president and chief financial officer, a position that enabled him to lead on an international stage and learn the intricacies of South American markets and culture. He also serves as chairman of Worldfund, a nonprofit focused on fighting poverty in Latin America through education.
“My international interest was sparked by both an undergraduate semester overseas and from Nextel buying wireless licenses in Latin America,” Shindler said. “I took a keen interest in this part of our business right from the beginning.”
In keeping with his passion for education — and his interest in increasing international connectivity — Shindler and his wife, Mary Kay Kosnik, MBA ’88, have established the Steven Shindler and Mary Kay Kosnik Graduate Fellowship, through gifts of $187,500 payable over five years, with preference given to international students. The gift utilizes the Tang Scholarship Challenge, named for Cornell Trustee Martin Tang ’70, who will match all donations for international post-graduate students on a $1 for $3 basis.
“In a lot of ways, Johnson was truly a launching pad for me,” Shindler said. “My wife and I want Johnson to continue to attract the best and the brightest.”
As CEO of NII Holdings — first launched as the international business unit of Nextel Communications, Inc. — Shindler led the company into its initial public offering. NII’s path to going public was beset by numerous obstacles, however. The collapse of the capital markets in March 2001 made the company’s initial plans for an IPO financially infeasible. Facing a broken balance sheet, and forced to restructure through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company was facing major job cuts in Latin America — an outcome that Shindler worked to avoid at all costs. He focused the company on retaining talent and enduring the difficult financial decisions.
“We had a great and talented group of employees in Latin America, a solid wireless network, a valuable customer base and a tremendous level of determination,” Shindler said. ”We persevered and ended up becoming a public company traded on the NASDAQ.”
Shindler’s involvement in Latin America extends beyond business. As chair of Worldfund, he works to transform Latin America through education. His involvement at Worldfund began due to the overlapping interests with Nextel International, but he has since invested much of his passion, time, and energy in the nonprofit organization.
“I envision Worldfund ultimately setting the standard for high-quality education throughout the Latin American region by continuing to build on the now highly successful programs for teacher training, principal training, and math and science programs,” Shindler said. “The key is to scale these programs from reaching hundreds of thousands of students today to millions of students tomorrow so we can actually transform an entire region out of poverty one student at a time.”
In all his endeavors, Shindler leads by setting high standards and inspiring his team to constantly strive for improvement. He imbues organizational cultures with his personal motto: “Be proud, but never satisfied.”
“This means I want each person to come to work every day feeling great about what they did the day before, but recognizing the real opportunity is still in front of us and we can’t dwell on what we’ve accomplished; instead, we must drive even harder to get to the next level,” Shindler says.
Brendan Doyle ’12, student intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson 2011-2012, now works for Tata in Mumbai, India.