Cisco's New CEO Chuck Robbins Is An Insider

by CXOtoday News Desk    May 05, 2015


After a 20-year run of John Chambers, also regarded by many as a tech icon, Cisco Systems appointed Chuck Robbins as its next CEO. Robbins will take over effective July 26, said Cisco in a statement. As for Chambers, who joined Cisco in 1991, helping the networking giant boost its revenue from $1.2 billion when he became CEO in 1995 to $47 billion as of Cisco’s 2014 fiscal year, will continue to serve as the executive chairman.

In a blog post, board members Roderick McGeary and Francine Katsoudas said the search to replace John Chambers took 16 months. In a statement, Chambers cited Robbins’ familiarity with “every Cisco segment, technology area, and geography” as one reason why he’s suited to the job. “We’ve selected a very strong leader at a time when Cisco is in a very strong position,” said Chambers in the statement, in which he added that the personality factor, had been a key factor in the board’s decision to select Robbins over other internal and external candidates.

Robbins joined Cisco in 1997, starting as an account manager and rising steadily through the sales ranks. The 49 years old sales pro also worked closely with resellers who account for more than 80% of Cisco’s sales, and is credited with executing the company’s partner program and establishing a strategy for its commercial business segment, which now represents 25% of Cisco’s business. He was also a sponsor for Cisco’s acquisition of Sourcefire and Meraki. Robbins most recently served as Cisco’s vice president of worldwide operations. 

Read more: Finding the Right CEO for Your Company

“The opportunity that lies ahead for Cisco is enormous, and the ability to lead this next chapter is deeply humbling and incredibly exhilarating,” said Robbins, who attended the University of North Carolina, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a computer-science concentration. While there, he played junior varsity basketball, scrimmaging against Michael Jordan when the latter played for the Tar Heels, according to a WSJ report.

Robbins is seen as a “very respected” tech leader with a strong understanding of the cloud, says FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives. “Cisco as well as many of their traditional IT tech stalwart peers are facing challenges in their move to the cloud and need visionary leaders to be in the CEO helm for this all-important growth period,” he says. “I believe hugely in our culture at Cisco,” Mr. Robbins said. “I believe it is a significant differentiator.”

Chambers who enjoyed one of the longest tenures as a CEO in the Silicon Valley stated that he will devote his time to “supporting Robbins and engaging closely with customers and governments around the world, with a focus on leading Cisco’s role in country digitization,” Cisco said. In September 2014, Fortune published a story about Chambers’ impact on the industry.