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Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins On His Rebuilt Exec Team, Resurgent Markets

‘The reality is the shifts we've been making and architectures we've been building are resonating with our customers,’ says Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.

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No Quarter

Just off another quarter of solid growth across the Cisco Systems portfolio, Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins is again clarifying his vision for customers and partners as he pushes the company further toward a future where Cisco stands alone as a vendor of complete, flexible, programmable software and unified systems rather than simply networking gear.

"The reality is the shifts we've been making and architectures we've been building are resonating with our customers," Robbins told CRN in an interview at the San Jose, Calif., company's Partner Summit event in Las Vegas last week. "The technologies we announced this week are not technologies you have to go help customers figure out how they fit into this vision we have. They're just the next pieces that go into what our customers are buying into today. That's why I said I feel like we're at the beginning of a multi-year transition. Customers know where they need to be, and it's going to be a multi-year shift."

To get Cisco to this point, Robbins, who's been CEO since 2015, has shaken up the company's executive ranks. The changes he's made were in full force at the Partner Summit event, with new faces like Channel Chief Oliver Tuszik, Global Sales Chief Gerri Elliott and Chief Customer Experience Officer Maria Martinez all taking center stage while Robbins watched from San Jose, where he was presiding over the company's first quarter earnings call.

"We're incredibly aligned on what we're trying to accomplish," Robbins said of the leadership team. "Any one of us could almost stand on stage, and without the deep subject matter expertise in the function we're in, but at a high level tell the story about what we're trying to accomplish. It's a high-energy team with a healthy level of impatience."

Security is perhaps the cornerstone of Cisco's new, unified strategy, and Robbins detailed the ways in which the company will provide security in a seamless fashion as it accelerates in high-growth areas like SD-WAN and intent-based networking.

What follows is an edited excerpt of Robbins' conversation with CRN.

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