Cisco Canada caps big 2018 with Bell Canada Partner of the Year win

Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada

Cisco Canada’s eventful 2018 reached a high point at last week’s Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas, as Bell Canada took home Americas Theater Partner of the Year at the event. That follows the Canadian subsidiary taking home massive kudos in the form of the Theatre of the Year award at this summer’s GSX, Cisco’s annual sales kickoff event.

“Canada has been an amazing highlight for Cisco this year,” said Cisco Canada president Rola Dagher. “It’s never been done before, where a Canadian partner has won partner of the year on the global stage. It’s an absolutely great time to be Canadian at Cisco.”

According to Mark Collins, vice president of Cisco Canada’s partner organization, called this year’s Partner Summit “a celebration of an amazing year,” one that’s been reflected in “all our routes to market,” with growth across the board. The Theatre of the Year award comes as a result of double digit growth across all of Cisco’s architectures, and across all regions and sectors, as Collins said “Canada is embracing digitization from top to bottom,” but was quick to hold up a couple of areas where the Canadian organization and partners have been particularly successful.

Mark Collins, vice president of the partner organization at Cisco Canada

Mark Collins, vice president of the partner organization at Cisco Canada

“Our Meraki portfolio has taken of like gangbusters — we’re adding new customers by the thousands,” Collins noted. “SMB and midmarket have completely embraced Cisco and its partners. We’re taking a lot of share in those segments.” 

The strength in SMB must be particularly heartening for Cisco Canada and partners, given that smaller businesses have traditionally been a challenging sector for the networking giant. Now, Collins said, the company is thinking of the space in terms of “how much faster we can go, how much share we can take.”

“They’ve accepted us, and they want more,” Collins said. “The full stack is something customers want — customers of all sizes.”

The company’s corporate-social responsibility efforts in Canada have also taken off this year, both the continuing expansion of its Connected North program that promotes connectivity in general and videoconferencing in particular in schools in Canada’s North, as well as new programs.

This year, Connected North expanded to reach more than 45 schools in the far north, with more than 10,000 students reached. Meanwhile, the company launched a new major project in concert with Deloitte and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) around mental health. In the first phase of the program, Cisco and CAMH are working together on deploying Cisco’s collaboration tools. Phase two of the program is slated to roll out early in the new year.

Dagher said that particularly in light of Cisco CEO’s Chuck Robbins’ quest to impact billions around the world, that doubling down on social engagement as a company “isn’t a responsibility, it’s a must.”

“It’s so important for us to recognize that we have a crisis, and that mental health is health,” Dagher said. “It’s so important for us to ensure that our employees, our customers, and our partners are in a position to make a difference through the technology we use.”

The company has also rolled out an effort with the Toronto Public Library to introduce free “guide to networking” courses, the first time it’s offered such general public-facing training, in an effort to get young people interested in, and started out on, a career that includes the network.

Dagher also credits the current government and academic environment in Canada as being open and easy to work with, particularly pointing to recent work with the federal government around building a knowledge-based economy, highlighted by a meeting last month between Robbins and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“There’s a huge appetite in Canada to work on aligning academia, business, and government to provide better services, with technology being the backing for everything,” Dagher said. “Canada has been an innovation hub, and every U.S. and worldwide [Cisco] leader has been through [the Innovation Centre at Cisco Canada’s Toronto headquarters.] Cisco globally has investing in Canada, and we’ve been investing in Canada, in our government, in our universities.”

It’s been a busy and results-filled year for Cisco in Canada, but Dagher strikes a tone or 2019 that is anything but the company resting on its laurels.

“We’re very proud Canadians, and very proud of our partner ecosystem. The main thing for us is that we’re going to make sure we go from strong to stronger,” Dagher said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.