John Chambers has to be one of the most (and only) aggressive CEO’s I’ve ever indirectly poked. A few years ago I worked on a trade study for a large customer. It was for a video conferencing system. The project was personally one of the larger projects I proposed. The contract was about a $7M deal. The proposed solution included video conferencing endpoints and all of the infrastructure. The result of the trade study – Cisco equipment for network and video codec infrastructure. I selected a different vendor for the video endpoints. Cisco was getting the lion’s share of the contract. Cisco was not happy.
The Cisco sales team escalated up through my organization and within their internal alliance team. I quickly received the normal calls asking me to defend and re-evaluate my trade study criteria. What was frustrating from an engineer’s perspective but cool just from a name perspective is that John Chambers paid the organization’s CTO a personal visit. He showed the executive Cisco’s Telepresence platform that wasn’t even part of the trade study or requirements. He did a masterful job because the CTO put pressure on us to use Cisco’s endpoint.
I learned a couple of important business lessons. One, the best technology doesn’t always win, and two John Chambers doesn’t like to lose. One of the main reasons I’d never discount Cisco’s pseudo-SDN approach. Even if a company selected a competing product, they could expect a visit from the ultimate salesmen CEO.
Cheers Mr. Chambers!