New Cisco Channel Chief: Bahr Stepping Into Global Role As Klein Departs

Cisco Systems is shaking up its channel management team, tapping Wendy Bahr as its next global channel chief.

Bahr, a 15-year Cisco veteran who has spent the bulk of that time in leadership roles within the vendor's channel management team, will become the next senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization on July 27, Cisco confirmed. She replaces Bruce Klein, who has held the role for the past three years

"My job is going to be to ensuring a seamless transition between Bruce and myself, to continue to support the partners as we've done in the past who are a critical asset for Cisco because we can't do it without them," said Bahr in an interview with CRN. "When I think about the next evolution of Cisco, what I really think about is our ability to embrace change, to drive the transformation to our customers digitizing their companies and doing that along with our partners."

She will lead Cisco's global channel business with its more than 60,000 partners, accounting for more than 80 percent of Cisco's revenue.

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[Related: CRN Exclusive: New Cisco Channel Chief Says 'Change Is In Our Partners' Best Interest']

Bahr is a respected channel executive who worked closely with incoming Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins when he was part of the company's channel management team, solution providers said.

"She's a very strong personality in the room [and] commands a presence that is well deserved," said Matt Duncan, director of GDT Labs at General Datatech (GDT), a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 45 on CRN's 2015 Solution Provider 500. "When she speaks and says things, people stop and talk about it, especially in the partner community. She is well known and everyone respects her quite a bit."

Bahr will become the first female leader of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization.

An 11-year Cisco veteran, Klein emceed the 2015 Cisco Partner Summit in Montreal in April, where the company rolled out a number of new cloud- and software-focused partner initiatives just days before Robbins as named as John Chambers' successor.

Klein, a popular executive among solution providers, "has decided to pursue other opportunities outside of Cisco," the company said. He is the latest in a number of high-profile executives to leave the San Jose, Calif.-based company is it prepares for Robbins to take over as CEO on July 26.

"Cisco is in a massive whirlwind of transition right now," said a solution provider on CRN's 2015 Solution Provider 500 list who asked not to be identified. "There are some senior executives who are leaving that are going to leave a mark and Bruce Klein would be one of those … but I don't know if one person makes a huge difference at Cisco. I think [Robbins] is a brilliant guy and a great leader and everyone has faith in him."

Other notable leaders departing the company include Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer; President of Development and Sales Rob Lloyd; and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president for Cisco Services. Robbins unveiled his "next-generation" leadership team of 10 people, which includes replacements for Warrior and Overbeek, in June.

"Nothing at Cisco surprises me at this stage," said a top executive of another solution provider and Cisco Gold partner who declined to be identified. "I thought Bruce had done a pretty great job … but if he's not in that inner circle, I think he'd want to leave."

Bahr told CRN that she has been able to see both sides of the playing field by working at corporate headquarters as well as executing partner strategic plans with sales teams.

"So now I get to take those experiences to the [Worldwide Partner Organization] leadership role and figure out how we're going to continue to thrive together with our partners," she said.

Bahr has been a consistent recipient of several CRN honors over the years, most recently on the 2015 CRN Women of the Channel Power 100 list.

For the past three years, she has led the Americas Partner Organization with annual business exceeding $18 billion. Since joining Cisco in 2000, she has held numerous leadership roles including senior vice president of Cisco's Global and Strategic Partner Organization and senior vice president of U.S. and Canada Channels.

"We have a lot of work to do in front of us, but it's absolutely exciting times," said Bahr. "I'm honored to get this position and it's a real privilege."

Kevin McLaughlin contributed to this story.