Cisco Canada chief: Robbins will drive execution

Incoming Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins

Incoming Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins

In her various roles at Cisco, Bernadette Wightman has had the chance to work with both current CEO John Chambers, and incoming CEO Chuck Robbins. She offers a very succinct assessment of what to expect under a Robbins-led Cisco.

“We’ll move quicker. I know you will. You will see the pace accelerating at Cisco,” she told reporters at the recent Cisco Connect event in Toronto.

The reason? As much as Chambers has led the networking giant with vision, she said she believes that Robbins is “an execution engine,” and an executive that “has the hearts and minds of the sales force.”

Wightman said she has considerable experience working with both executives. Chambers himself was the senior executive sponsor for Cisco’s operations in Russia, which Wightman headed up before coming to Canada. And of Robbins, she told Cisco Connect attendees that he’s “been an absolute supporter through the whole of my career,” and described him as “passion about inclusion and diversity” and “about the intersection of technology and the great things that happen in the world.”

“He places a real value on diverse teams, with different ages, genders, ethnicities, and all kinds of different thoughts,” Wightman told attendees. “People are often accused of hiring people like them, but Chuck isn’t like that.”

Cisco announced at the beginning of this month, just days after the company’s annual worldwide Partner Summit was held on Canadian turf in Montreal, that Robbins would take over for Chambers in July, with Chambers moving into a role as executive chairman.

The executive change was perhaps signaled in Montreal, with Robbins taking the role as Chambers’ right-hand man in many of the places we’ve seen former Cisco Canada chief and current president of development and sales Rob Lloyd in recent years.

The topic of accelerating change was also a major topic at Partner Summit, although in the context of businesses and governments going digital at an increasing pace, not necessarily the context of leadership at Cisco. But the overall message from Cisco seems to be, whether it’s in the business models of partners, or the needs of business and government leaders from technology, or the leadership of the company, solution providers (and everyone else) need to be ready for change at a much faster pace than that which we’ve seen to date.

“This is going to be the roller coaster ride of our lives,” Wightman said of the digitization move in her comments at Cisco Connect. “You need to be ready, I need to be ready, our companies need to be ready, and our country needs to be ready. I think we can be.”