Cisco Losing Top Enterprise Engineering Leader As Exec Shake-Up Continues

Robert Soderbery

Robert Soderbery, Cisco Systems' enterprise engineering leader who helped spearhead the company’s Digital Network Architecture and Meraki acquisition, is leaving the company after a seven-year stint.

’After seven years, new callings beckon, new adventures to be sought,’ said Soderbery in a post on LinkedIn. ’It was an incredibly diverse set of challenges, from the incessant battle with the likes of HP and Huawei for market share, to creating new products, businesses and even markets.’

Soderbery, senior vice president of Enterprise Products and Solutions, was a key player in Cisco’s DNA strategy, which the company sees as the answer to enabling digital businesses and includes an open, software-driven, service-centric architecture containing automation, virtualization, analytics security, managed services and open APIs. Soderbery was also instrumental to Cisco's 2012 acquisition of Meraki -- which has been highly successful inside the company – and was one of the staples at Cisco events in recent years. Soderbery did not respond for comment by press time and did not specify his exact departure date.

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One executive from a solution provider and Cisco Gold partner said Soderbery’s departure fits with Cisco’s restructuring plan, which includes an overhaul of its engineering teams.

’They’re changing how they go to market and have sort of just swapped out their entire leadership teams, their engineering teams, and really how their engineering business is managed,’ said the executive, who declined to be named. ’Things are changing quickly at Cisco with [Chuck] Robbins [as CEO].’

In March, Robbins unveiled plans to reorganize Cisco’s engineering business, which included the ousting of Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president of Cisco's service provider business, followed by longtime veteran Nick Adamo, senior vice president of Cisco's global service provider practice, as well as its networking and data center visionary Pankaj Patel.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant also lost four of its top engineers in June who had led research and development of several of Cisco ’spin-ins.’

The massive shakeup currently under way at Cisco started May 2015 after it was revealed that Robbins would replace longtime leader John Chambers. A slew of top-level executives left the company in the following months while Robbins selected a new leadership team. Notable departures included President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Moore; President, Development and Sales Rob Lloyd; and CTO Padmasree Warrior.

Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development at Calgary, Alberta-based Long View Systems, a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 85 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500, said Cisco has a slew of capable leaders available ready to fill in any gap left by Soderbery.

’I trust that we will still continue to see Cisco’s and Chuck’s strategy take off around acquisitions and R&D that will still drive innovation,’ said MacDonald.

Soderbery led Cisco’s enterprise switching and routing businesses. The company’s routing business declined 6 percent year over year for its fourth fiscal quarter, while also dropping 5 percent in its third fiscal quarter. Cisco’s switching business grew 2 percent year over year during its fourth quarter, after two consecutive quarters of declines.

’Cisco has changed and is changing, especially around networking,’ said the executive Gold partner. ’Soderbery was on the front end of things like [DNA] and helping transition them towards software over the past couple years or so. ... He will be missed by the partners.’

Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions, will take over Soderbery's networking responsibilities, according to Cisco. In a statement, Cisco thanked Soderbery ’for his important role helping Cisco identify enterprise needs and address them with world-class networking products and solutions, and we wish him all the best for the future.’

Soderbery, who prior to Cisco held executive positions at Symantec, said the role of enterprise technology is changing.

’As I look forward … we are moving from technology as infrastructure to technology as product. We are moving from differentiation on how the stack is built, to differentiation on what the stack does. And we are moving from disruption as a tech sector phenomena to disruption as a global business phenomena,’ said Soderbery in his LinkedIn post. ’Thus it is a great time to be in the marketplace of ideas that is the valley, innovating against those ideas and contributing to the many changes in the world still ahead of us.’