Meet the 7 Cisco executives backing CEO Chuck Robbins as the tech giant navigates the COVID-19 crisis and the rise of the cloud (CSCO)
Cisco has reeled from the effects of the economic downturn, although it has also benefitted from stronger demand for networking and videoconferencing technology due to the sudden rise of the remote workforce. The Silicon Valley giant is also adapting to new enterprise trends, led by the cloud and software-defined networking. Cisco has recently reorganized its top leadership, building a team backing CEO Chuck Robbins that is also "changing the narrative around Cisco," IDC President Crawford Del Prete told Business Insider. Here are 7 top Cisco executives helping Robbins navigate the current crisis and the broader industry changes. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Like most tech companies, Cisco is navigating the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis and the economic downturn. But the crisis has also turned the spotlight on Cisco's strengths as a tech powerhouse. Cisco has benefitted from the sharp pivot to remote work, which led to stronger demand for its networking products and its Webex telecommunications platform. "Overall, Cisco should be a relative 'winner' in the pivot to work from home and the emergence of a new normal," IDC President Crawford Del Prete told Business Insider. Cisco is adjusting to a new normal even as the tech giant, under CEO Chuck Robbins, adapts to broader enterprise tech trends, led by the rapid growth of the cloud. The cloud lets businesses set up networks on web-based platforms, allowing them to scale back or even abandon private data centers. Cisco is also embracing the shift toward software-defined networking, in which businesses rely less heavily on hardware by using software to operate their networks and data centers. Cisco has been reorganizing to take on these challenges, naming executives to help Robbins in "remaking the company into more of a software-defined cloud company over time," Del Prete said. The company also stands out in Silicon Valley for the diversity of its executive leadership team. Nearly half of of Cisco's top leadership are women, and nearly 40% are minorities. "I see this team as changing the narrative around Cisco," he said. "Cisco connected the world 20 years ago, now this team will not only keep the world connected, but build a strategy to make it better managed, secure, and agile. It's a cool transformation." Here are the 7 top executives, each of whom reports to Robbins, who are playing key roles in this transformation:Irving Tan is Cisco's chief operating officer
Title: Chief Operating Officer Irving Tan is in charge of Cisco's operating strategy, which has become a more challenging job during the coronavirus crisis and the economic downturn. A big part of Tan's role has been to lead the the tech behemoth in the sharp pivot to remote work, making sure its 75,000 employees globally have what they need to make the transition. "How do we make our networks, our connectivity more robust, more resilient. How do we scale up much more effectively," Tan recently told Business Insider. "There's a lot of learning and it's still somewhat early days." A veteran tech executive, Tan has been with Cisco for more than a decade, taking on leadership roles in the company's operations in the Asia Pacific and Japan. Jonathan Davidson is in charge of Cisco's mass-scale infrastructure group
Title: Senior Vice President for mass-scale infrastructure Jonathan Davidson leads the team that develops that key components for building a robust network, including chips, optics, hardware and software. He also plays an important role in expanding Cisco's reach in the telecommunications market where it competes with the likes of Ericcson, Huawei and Samsung especially in the battle for dominance in 5G, the next-generation networking technology that's expected to lead to faster wireless Internet connections, "I think the service provider side of the business that Jonathan leads offers tremendous growth upside for the company," Will Townsend, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, told Business Insider. "They're going out to your service provider with 5G, and helping operators become more agile with disaggregated hardware," Townsend said. He described Davidson as "a very pragmatic leader and he brings great experience to the job." Anuj Kapur is Cisco's chief strategy officer
Title: Chief Strategy Officer Anuj Kapur is Cisco's point man in defining and fine-tuning the tech giant's overall strategy, a role that has kept him busy given the dramatic changes over the past few months. The pandemic lockdown and the sudden pivot to remote work have accelerated the growth of the cloud. This has been good news for Cisco for the shift also led to stronger demand for robust networks and videoconferencing tools like its WebEx. There has been "a shift in the demand curve in ways that has been without precedent," he told Business Insider in a recent interview. Kapur is "very focused on looking at practical application of technology, not just looking, a few years out but looking several years out," Will Townsend, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, told Business Insider. "And that's very difficult to do. I think you know he's been responsible for a lot of the company's successes." Fran Katsoudas is Cisco's chief people officer
Title: Chief People Officer Fran Katsoudas joined Cisco as a tech support employee in 1996, making her one of the longest-serving executive leaders at the tech giant. She has also taken on different roles at different parts of the business over the past 24 years, which has given her important insights into her current position as head of Cisco's human resources organization. It's a critical role in a time of crisis when Cisco's 75,000 employees have had to work remotely. She recently led an initiative that gave Cisco's employees a day off to recharge. Katsoudas once played a key role in making sure that the employees of companies Cisco has acquired were properly integrated into the Cisco organization. In fact, she helped determine if a potential acquisition target would be a culture fit for the company. "It's really important to us," she told Business Insider recently. "We have walked away from companies, where we have really been enamored by the technology, but had this realization that it wasn't going to be the right culture fit." Gerri Elliott is Cisco's chief sales and marketing officer
Title: Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Gerri Elliott was named Cisco's chief sales and marketing officer in 2018, after a long career with other tech giants, including Juniper Networks, Microsoft and IBM. She's well known for her deep experience in international markets, particularly in Asia. She led the unveiling of new branding campaign that turns the spotlight on Cisco's role as a leading enterprise tech provider while "weaving compassion and humanitarianism into the campaign," Will Townsend, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said. "She brings a level of marketing acumen that the company hasn't had in the past," he added. Todd Nightingale is senior vice president for enterprise networking and cloud
Title: Senior Vice President for enterprise networking and cloud Todd Nightingale leads the team focused on Cisco's core networking products. He joined Cisco in 2012 after the company acquired Meraki, the cloud-based networking company. Nightingale led Meraki as general manager until March when he took on a bigger role. Will Townsend of Moor Insights & Strategy praised his "very practical approach to technology." For Nightingale, "it's not about offering 10 or 12 features. It's about figuring out what are the one or two most important features that customers need and do them right," he told Business Insider. Nightingale himself stressed the importance of simplicity and ease of use in building products. "The religion of Cisco is there is no technology religion," he told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. "I guess my religion is 'it could be simpler.' It could always be simpler for our customers." Maria Martinez is Cisco's chief customer experience officer
Title: Chief Customer Experience Officer Maria Martinez joined Cisco only in 2018, after eight years as a top sales and customer relations executive at Salesforce, the cloud software powerhouse. Martinez leads Cisco's services and customer relations organization. It's a critical role at a time when the tech giant now offers more options for customers to access its products, including paying a subscription for services, instead of buying entire systems. Cisco has also embraced software-defined networking, which allows businesses to rely less heavily on networking hardware, using software systems used to run data centers. Martinez's vast experience with Salesforce, the pioneer of the software-as-a-service trend, is one of her key strengths in her role, Will Townsend of Moor Insights & Strategy said. "She cut her teeth at Salesforce, a very impressive pedigree," he told Business Insider.
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