John Chambers, Chuck Robbins: Thanks for Opening Those Doors

I'm not personal friends with Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers or his soon-to-be successor, Chuck Robbins. But twice in my career they opened doors for me -- doors that other people didn't know existed. Doors that I would have otherwise overlooked myself.

Cisco CEO John Chambers (l.) will step down in July, succeeded by Chuck Robbins (r.).

Cisco CEO John Chambers (l.) will step down in July, succeeded by Chuck Robbins (r.).

The first door opened two decades ago  when Chambers succeeded John Morgridge as Cisco's CEO around 1995. I was an emerging journalist at InformationWeek, a leading IT magazine at the time (it's now a leading online community).

Remember 'Internetworking'?

When it came to cover stories, corporate giants (IBM, Oracle, etc.), the PC crowd (Microsoft, Intel, Compaq) and enterprise CIOs dominated InformationWeek's headlines. I covered the networking industry -- where hub, switch and router upstarts like Cisco Systems, Cabletron Systems and SynOptics Communications were emerging as the next $1 billion stars.

Trouble was, InformationWeek wasn't all that interested in the networking industry's early days. That changed when Chambers, Morgridge and the Cisco team granted me executive suite interviews. Suddenly, the term Internetworking was on the map. And so was my career.

Catching Up -- With Chuck

Lightning struck again more than a decade later -- around 2007. I was leading content for Microcast Communications, an IT media startup filled with close friends and mentors. Around the same time, Cisco was starting to dabble more in social media -- particularly blogs.

I reached out to Cisco for an update on their corporate strategy... and the conversation soon turned to my own social media activities. Yes, I was using a range of blog engines at the time.

Soon, we cut a deal: Chuck Robbins' handlers allowed me to follow him throughout Cisco Partner Summit 2007. I blogged freely about most of the meetings -- rumors, gossip and plenty more. That experience ultimately set the stage for The VAR Guy, which went on to become the IT channel's leading blog. (Amy Katz and I ultimately sold The VAR Guy and other brands to Penton in 2011). 

Looking ahead, Chambers will transition the CEO crown to Robbins on July 26, 2015. And After Nines Inc. is working on a few transitions of its own... ... ...

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