Cisco Reveals 'Next Generation' Leadership Team; Warrior, Overbeek To Depart

Incoming Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins Thursday unveiled his new "next generation" leadership team of 10 people, the next step in his strategy to propel the networking giant into the digital age. At the same time, the company disclosed that three key executives are heading for the door, including CTO Padmasree Warrior and Edzard Overbeek, the company's top services executive.

"With the leadership team I’m announcing today, I’m extremely confident we will move even faster, innovate like never before, and pull away from the competition," said Robbins in a statement.

Nine out of the 10 leaders are currently Cisco executives, with the only new face being Dr. Ruba Borno, who will become chief of staff and vice president of growth initiatives, a new position at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco. Borno was principal and leader in technology, media and telecommunications, and people and organization at Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm.

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The rest of the leaders include familiar faces with new titles, including Rebecca Jacoby, senior vice president of operations; Hilton Romanski, chief technology and strategy officer; Mark Chandler, senior vice president and general counsel; Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president of services; Karen Walker, chief marketing officer; Fran Katsoudas, chief people officer; and Chris Dedicoat, senior vice president of worldwide sales -- whose promotion was disclosed last week.

Executives appointed to the new leadership group who will keep their current titles are Pankaj Patel, executive vice president, chief development officer, and Kelly Kramer, executive vice president and CFO.

"This is an incredible team, with the right blend of experiences, expertise and backgrounds to advance us towards our objectives of accelerating our innovation and execution, simplifying how we do business, driving operational rigor in all we do, and inspiring our incredible employees to be the best that they can be," said Robbins.

Robbins unveiled the new team about seven weeks in advance of succeeding longtime leader John Chambers as CEO on July 26. Robbins also said this week that President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Moore and President, Development and Sales Rob Lloyd are both leaving Cisco on July 25. The bulk of the executives named to the leadership team previously reported to either Moore or Lloyd.

"This new team is a make-or-break move for them. I'm a little bit blown away, but also hopeful. Cisco doesn't make uncalculated moves," said Michael Girouard, executive vice president of sales at TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.- based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner. "These are definitely bold moves -- there's not many of their peers that would do this."

Cisco also Thursday said that Cisco top executives Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer; Overbeek, senior vice president for Cisco Services; and Wim Elfrink, executive vice president for Industry Solutions and chief globalization officer, will be departing the company.

Warrior will move into a strategic adviser role and stay with Cisco through September, thus confirming the rumor earlier this week that she was departing. Overbeek will also become an adviser at Cisco for one year, while Elfrink is retiring effective July 25. Lloyd, Moore, Warrior and Overbeek were all widely rumored to be candidates for the CEO post before Robbins got the nod.

"Padmasree is very intelligent, but I think there are a lot of people at Cisco who are also very intelligent as well," said Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based Cisco partner.

Chambers revealed on May 4 that Robbins won a unanimous vote by Cisco's board to take the helm of the networking giant. Although the announcement was only one month ago, partners don't believe Robbins' bullish leadership appointments were made hastily.

"I would suspect that this is something that they've been talking about for a while. This didn't happen in the past couple weeks," said Keblusek. "I expect they put this structure in place to really bring the company forward to build better practices, build better products, to keep up with the market and cloud operations out there. Chuck is not the same as John … I think you need to surround yourself with a team that's going to bring your vision forward. Hopefully they've done that."