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Partners Push For VP Nirav Sheth As Next Cisco Channel Chief

Solution providers tell CRN it's likely that Cisco will look from within to replace outgoing channel chief Wendy Bahr.

Cisco Systems partners say the networking giant should hire from within to replace Channel Chief Wendy Bahr, and some solution providers have focused their attention on one of Bahr's most visible lieutenants.

Top executives at solution providers that work with Cisco say it's likely that the San Jose, Calif., company will hire from within its large in-house team. Partners contacted by CRN say Cisco Vice President Worldwide Sales and Systems Engineering Global Partner Organization Nirav Sheth should be a leading candidate for the global channel chief job being vacated by Bahr, who announced her resignation last week.

"The way Nirav does things, that guy's got the magic," said a high-ranking executive at a large solution provider that works extensively with Cisco. "He really has the pulse of the partner community. Partners are attached to Nirav. I think the partner ecosystem would do well, and I hope he gets the job. Cisco is a big company and is moving in the right direction. Sometimes change is good."

[RELATED: Partners On Three Critical Things Cisco's Next Channel Chief Needs To Bring To The Table]

A senior executive at another large solution provider that works with Cisco said that even as part of a strong team, Sheth stands out. "Cisco has a lot of good folks in the wings that the channel community would be comfortable with, like Nirav," the executive said. "The continuity of somebody coming from within would be top-of-mind for me, and Nirav is someone I would hope Cisco would consider. They've got a strong team, but if I was picking, Nirav would be top-of-mind."

"Nirav is simply one of the most dedicated channel leaders I know," said a senior executive at a large international solution provider that works with Cisco. "His first thought is always about how to advance the channel," he said, adding that it's not uncommon for Sheth to use his own personal time to help partners. "His knowledge of the partner community is unmatched," he said.

Boiling over with competitive zeal and enthusiasm for the channel, Sheth is a constant, high-energy presence at Cisco events. He's been with Cisco since 2000, and in his current role is the overall sales and technical go-to-market leader for Cisco's channel for nearly three years.

Sheth was unavailable to comment for this story, and a Cisco spokesperson declined to comment, saying Sheth's potential as the company's next global channel chief is "pure speculation at this point."

Whoever lands the global channel chief job assumes leadership of a channel organization responsible for about 85 percent of Cisco's revenue. Cisco's channel is playing a key role in the vendor's transition to a more recurring revenue and software subscription-based sales strategy.

About a third of Cisco's sales are now recurring revenue, and more than half of its software sales are now subscription-based, the company said in a recent quarterly earnings report. Even as that shift occurs, the channel continues to account for 85 percent of Cisco sales, the company said.

Bahr, an 18-year Cisco channel veteran, has been senior vice president of the company's Global Partner Organization since July 2015. She announced her resignation last week, and the company said she'll stay on until her replacement is named. Her replacement, the company said, is likely to be in place before Cisco's massive Partner Summit event in mid-November.

Bahr spent the bulk of her years at Cisco working with solution providers, and work closely for many years with Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins, who formerly headed the company's North America channel. When Robbins moved out of Cisco's channel organization to lead its U.S. commercial business in 2008, it was Bahr who succeeded him as channel chief for North America.

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