Cisco Networks long-time CEO John Chambers will end two decades at the helm of the world’s largest networking company later this summer. At next week’s Cisco Live!, I expect to see a changing of the guard as Chambers passes the Cisco CEO baton into the able hands of senior vice president of worldwide field operations Chuck Robbins.
I experienced a similar moment three years ago at VMworld when, during the conference’s keynote, then VMware CEO Paul Maritz introduced the virtualization giant’s new CEO-to-be Pat Gelsinger. Right there on stage, Maritz turned over the reins of the company to the new guy. It was quite a moment not lost on the thousands of VMware geeks in Moscone Center that day.
I expect a similar scene to play out next week in the San Diego Convention Center when I, along with 20,000+ Cisco geeks, gather for Cisco Live!
Chambers will serve as Cisco’s executive chairman of the board after stepping down as CEO on July 26, but the timing of Cisco Live! will be a great opportunity to crown his successor.
So when do I think this will occur? I doubt they’ll wait until Steven Tyler and Aerosmith take the stage at San Diego’s Petco Park Thursday night during the Customer Appreciation event, though that would be mighty cool.
Instead I think they’re going to get it over with first thing next week – Monday during Cisco Live!’s Vision Keynote at 3:30 p.m. in Halls F-H (yeah it’s that big) in the San Diego Convention Center.
Both Chambers and Robbins are scheduled to speak, along with event host Karen Walker, Cisco’s senior vice president of corporate marketing. The Vision Keynote is a time that Chambers always takes early in the week at Cisco Live! to give all attendees a review of the company’s record over the past year and how far the company has come in its now 31 years. But true to its name, it’s also a sneak peek into what the company is working on for the coming year and beyond. With all the emerging technologies Cisco is involved in, the entire tech industry, as well as Wall Street, will take note of what Chambers and Robbins have to share.
A lot of companies cover their achievements and aspirations in these conference keynotes, but I feel this will truly be historic as Chambers and Robbins share the impact Cisco has had on the technology landscape for three decades and well into the future.
Earlier this year when Chambers announced he was stepping down as Cisco’s CEO, he wasted no time naming Robbins his CEO-designee. A North Carolina native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, Robbins has some significant shoes to fill. Chambers has run the San Francisco-based tech giant for 20 of its 31 years, growing the business from $1.2 billion in annual sales to $40 billion. Save me a front-row seat.
The Cisco Live! luminary keynote features technology futurist Dr. Peter Diamandis. One part visionary, innovator, author, physician, engineer and entrepreneur, Diamandis is cofounder and executive chairman of Singularity University. Author of 2012’s “Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think” and 2015’s “Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World,” Diamandis’ goal is to encourage and enable radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. As Diamandis sees it, “the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”
For their industry keynote, Cisco invited some of the tech world’s elite, including NetApp’s CTO of Customer Solutions Cynthia Stoddard, EMC’s CTO John Roese and Intel’s Data Center Group SVP Diane Bryant. Hosted by Cisco’s CIO Rebecca Jacoby and entitled “IoE and the IT Mindset Shift – The Evolution of the IT Career,” the keynote will cover what IT looks like today and how it will be vastly different from tomorrow, looking at how IT’s role will evolve and grow with the IT transformation underway.
Somebody’s Got to Do It
In year’s past, the Cisco Live! celebrity keynote has featured John Cleese, William Shatner, Richard Branson and the MythBusters. While not high on the geek factor, Mike Rowe the longtime host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” as well as spokesperson for Tylenol, Ford and Viva paper towels, will close out this year’s event. He got the invite because of his work to reverse the widening skills gap among the skilled trades via his mikeroweWORKS Foundation. An advocate of adding another “S” to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Skills), Rowe focuses on educating children and adults for jobs that actually exist. Rowe believes a strong skills foundation is critical to meeting the demands of our digital and technology-centric world.
If you’re attending Cisco Live, stop by to see us at Booth 2801 in the World of Solutions. We’re also going to be at Cisco’s Certification Testing Center. If you can’t make it, be sure to follow us at @GKonCisco for updates from Cisco Live 2015.