17 Cisco Rising Stars You Need To Know

Chambers: 'We Attract Talent Like A Magnet'

When the topic of John Chambers' eventual retirement comes up, there tends to be two names uttered most frequently for potential successors: Cisco President of Development and Sales Rob Lloyd and Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations Chuck Robbins.

That's why, in a recent interview with the 19-year Cisco CEO, CRN asked Chambers who he views as some of the more under-the-radar, but top-notch, players within Cisco. He mentioned 17 names with no hesitation.

Not all of the executives listed by Chambers work totally behind the scenes; many of them are already well known by the channel and, in some cases, probably even the industry at large. The difference is that they might not be as visible or get as much stage time at events like Cisco Live that leaders like Lloyd and Robbins do.

Still, in Chambers' eyes, the following 17 executives are definitely worth watching.

Pankaj Patel

As Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Cisco, Patel leads the development and engineering teams behind the networking giant's $36.3 billion technology portfolio. Patel, according to Chambers, is a "franchise player" who's always willing to "get his hands dirty" with Cisco technology.

"He really works the issues, he makes the tough decisions, he brings his team with him and he recruits extremely well," Chambers said of Patel.

Chambers said Patel and the rest of the Cisco engineering team is the "strongest I've ever had, period, by the biggest magnitude."

Patel joined Cisco through the company's acquisition of Stratacom in 1996.

Rowan Trollope

Chambers described Rowan Trollope, general manager and senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration technology group, as "unbelievably good" at what he does.

In the past six months alone, Trollope and his team have churned out a new line of products that are revitalizing, if not redefining, the Cisco collaboration story. At Cisco's Partner Summit in March, Trollope unveiled the new Cisco SX10, an all-in-one unit that can be paired with any flat-panel display to video-enable even the smallest of conference rooms.

Apart from marrying enterprise-grade quality with a sleek, almost Apple-like design, the SX10, more importantly, demonstrated Cisco's commitment to a market where some partners feared the company was retreating (at least in collaboration): SMB.

"We're not going to rest until every single room in every single business all over the world has extraordinary video conferencing and collaboration equipment. That's our mission," Trollope, who joined Cisco in 2012, said at a press conference in March.

Chris Young

Security has been a major focus for Cisco over the past year -- Chambers himself told CRN the company is gunning to become the "No. 1 security player globally" -- and driving that effort is Senior Vice President of Cisco's Security Business Group Chris Young.

Young is responsible for Cisco's end-to-end security business, including its network security, content security and access and threat defense products. Cisco also strengthened and broadened its security portfolio through its high-profile, $2.7 billion acquisition of Sourcefire with Young on board.

"He's really, really good [at] what he's doing," Chambers said of Young.

Before joining Cisco in 2011, Young spent a year heading up VMware's end user computing group and, before that, spent six years as Senior Vice President of Products at RSA.

Yvette Kanouff

Chambers mentioned Yvette Kanouff, head of Cisco's service provider video software and solutions organization, as somebody who "knows this industry cold."

"She is a superstar within it," he said.

In her role, Kanouff is responsible for Cisco's end-to-end Videoscape software and solutions business, including content protection and cloud video services. Kanouff joined Cisco in May 2014 from Cablevision Systems, where she most recently served as executive vice president of corporate engineering and technology.

Kanouff this year won the National Cable Telecommunications Association's 2014 Vanguard Award for Leadership in Science and Technology.

David Ward

Chambers gave a shout-out to Cisco Development CTO and Chief Architect David Ward, who is responsible for leading research and development of new Cisco technologies.

Recognized in the industry for his expertise in routing, systems software and network design, Ward was also one of the chief architects of Cisco's IOS-XR software. Ward first joined Cisco in 1999, but left for Juniper Networks in 2009. After two years as the CTO and Chief Architect of Juniper's platform systems division, Ward headed back to Cisco in 2011.

Chris Dedicoat

Chambers tipped his hat to several members of the Cisco sales organization, one of which was Chris Dedicoat, president of Cisco's EMEAR business.

In his role, Dedicoat oversees sales, operations, growth initiatives and strategic alliances in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dedicoat joined Cisco in 1995 and held various roles in Cisco's Europe sales unit before becoming president of EMEAR in 2011.

Alison Gleeson

Another stand-out Cisco executive in sales, Chambers said, is Alison Gleeson, who has headed up the networking leader's U.S. commercial sales unit since 2009.

In addition to overseeing all U.S. commercial field sales, engineering, marketing and support programs, Gleeson is a member of Cisco's Women Action Network (WAN) and of the Cisco Healthcare Strategy Board.

Gary Alexander, owner of Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based Cisco Gold partner, told CRN in a recent interview that Gleeson stands out at Cisco as somebody who is particularly "driven," with "great experience" on the commercial sales front.

"She's a superstar," Alexander said.

Nick Adamo

Nick Adamo, senior vice president of the Americas, was another Cisco sales executive called out by Chambers.

In his role, Adamo is responsible for leading Cisco's largest geographic region, which generates more than $25 billion in annual sales. Cisco's business in the U.S., specifically, was a bright spot for the company in its third fiscal quarter, with its U.S. enterprise and commercial businesses each growing more than 10 percent.

Before leading the Americas business, Adamo was SVP of Cisco's Global Segments and Architecture team. He joined Cisco in 1995.

Irving Tan

Irving Tan, president of Asia Pacific and Japan, is another key sales executive worth watching at Cisco, Chambers said.

Among his other responsibilities, Tan helps lead Cisco's business in India, a market that's become a strategic focus for the company. As part of its "India Innovation" initiative, Cisco in June said its venture capital arm is allocating $40 million to fund start-ups in India that are focusing on cloud and industry vertical solutions.

Bruce Klein

Chambers stressed that Cisco's partner-centric model is rooted deeply in its DNA. As such, key members of Cisco's channel organization, like Bruce Klein, senior vice president of the Cisco Worldwide Partner Organization, are crucial to the overall success of the Cisco sales machine.

Klein, who joined Cisco in 2004, is responsible for supporting Cisco's roughly 68,000 partners worldwide, which account for a whopping 80 percent of Cisco's total revenue. Klein and his team are the chief architects behind Cisco partner support and incentive programs like VIP. This year, Klein also helped craft a revamped Cisco Partner Program that encourages partners to move at a faster clip toward cloud and managed services.

Klein's previous roles at Cisco include leading the U.S. Public Sector and Federal organization. Prior to joining Cisco, he was vice president of federal at Hewlett-Packard.

Wendy Bahr

Another Cisco channel executive singled out by Chambers was Senior Vice President of the Americas Partner Organization Wendy Bahr.

Bahr has headed up Cisco's Americas partner organization since 2012, a role in which she's responsible for partner enablement, partner profitability and product and service sales growth for Cisco solution providers in the United States, Canada and Latin America. A recent initiative for Bahr has been helping partners sell to lines of business and other new buyers outside of IT.

"As technology transforms, it's really starting to unleash the power of the network -- and not just features and functionality, and not just speeds and feeds -- but how the technology can really accelerate a customer's business outcome," Bahr told CRN in March.

Since joining Cisco in 2000, Bahr has been a staple on CRN's annual Top Women of the Channel list. In addition, she is a member of the Women's Action Network at Cisco and is a coach and mentor for Cisco's Women Unlimited program.

Edison Peres

Edison Peres, Cisco's long-time channel chief and, more recently, head of the company's new cloud and managed services organization, was also mentioned by Chambers as a star Cisco player.

Peres for more than a decade served as Cisco's senior vice president of Worldwide Channels, a role in which Cisco partners credited Peres for building and executing one of the industry's most loyal and profitable channel programs. He joined Cisco in 2002.

In a blockbuster move earlier this year, Cisco tapped Peres to lead its newly created cloud and managed services organization and to drive partner enablement efforts around its new Intercloud strategy. It was a move that, for many partners, signaled Cisco's commitment to making Intercloud a channel-friendly play.

Frank Calderoni

Within Cisco's finance organization, Chambers specifically called out Chief Financial Officer Frank Calderoni.

A 10-year Cisco vet, Calderoni is responsible for managing the end-to-end financial strategy and operations at Cisco, which reported over $48 billion in sales in 2013. Calderoni has been Cisco's CFO since 2008. Prior to that, he was Cisco’s Senior Vice President, Customer Solutions Finance.

According to his executive bio on the Cisco website, Calderoni was recognized in 2013 as the Bay Area CFO of the year. He is also an active volunteer, sitting on the board of the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, Calif.

Kelly Kramer

Chambers also called out Kelly Kramer, senior vice president of corporate finance, as a top-notch member of the Cisco executive team.

Kramer joined Cisco in 2012 after spending more than two decades with General Electric. She is responsible for corporate financial planning and analysis, mergers and acquisitions finance and portfolio management in her role at Cisco.

Rebecca Jacoby

As one of the world's largest and most influential technology companies, a solid IT strategy of its own is, no doubt, a top priority for Cisco. And the person driving Cisco's internal IT operations is CIO Rebecca Jacoby.

Chambers called out Jacoby, who's been with Cisco since 1995, as another executive worth watching. Jacoby's mission, according to her executive bio on Cisco's web site, is to help advance Cisco's business through the use of Cisco technology. Cisco recently deployed its new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) software-defined networking platform within its own IT department, a move Jacoby said at the Interop event in April is expected to drive significant improvements in network provisioning, operations and management, according to a report from Network Computing.

Jacoby has been Cisco's CIO since 2006. In 2012, Chambers told CIO Journal that Jacoby "is one of the most talented leaders in the company."

Gee Rittenhouse

A newer member of the Cisco executive team, but one that was recognized by Chambers nonetheless, is Gee Rittenhouse, vice president and general manager of Cisco's cloud and virtualization group.

Since joining the company in December 2013, Rittenhouse has been tasked with what's arguably one of the most important (and perhaps even toughest) gigs within Cisco: shaping its new Intercloud strategy. In addition, Rittenhouse is leading Cisco efforts around network functions virtualization (NFV), OpenStack, Open Daylight and cloud orchestration, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Before joining Cisco, Rittenhouse was president of Bell Labs, the research and development arm of Alcatel-Lucent.

John Manville

Lastly, Chambers gave a shout out to John Manville, senior vice president of the IT global infrastructure services team at Cisco.

Like Jacoby, Manville plays a key role in shaping the strategy and direction of Cisco's internal IT infrastructure. Last year, Manville said in an interview with Computer Weekly that one of his primary responsibilities is to deploy Cisco products in testing labs, give them a spin and then provide feedback to the product development teams on how to make those products better. Manville's team also helps communicate the business value of Cisco products, based on Cisco's own experience using them, to external customers.

Manville, who joined Cisco in 2007, says in his executive bio on the Cisco web site that he takes to heart the philosophy that "Cisco is its first and best customer."