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‘You can be a leader without being a manager,’ Cisco VP tells MBA students

By Kait Kisel, student writer

“Step in and lead where you see opportunities,” Cisco Vice President Colin Chummers (MBA ‘02) told Broad College of Business MBA students as the Pung Executive Speaker Series commenced for the Spring 2019 term recently.

Leadership, an overarching theme in Chummers’ discussion with students, is something the VP knows well as he has assumed various leadership roles in his 17-plus years of working with the company. “You can be a leader without being a manager” said Chummers.

Colin Chummers
Colin Chummers

Chummers encouraged students to, “actively look for cross strategic initiatives to participate in 80/20,” meaning spending 80 percent of their time doing their day job, and 20 percent looking for strategic initiatives within the company to engage in, or better yet, be a leader in.

“Own your career path and development. Be curious about other groups and roles. This will help you define your own career path,” said Chummers.

Growing your network was a concept reinforced throughout Chummers’ discussion. This has been vital in Chummers’ own career growth as he moved his way up within the company. He promoted students to help others in the work world succeed in their efforts, a key lesson he picked up over the years, as it is likely they will help you in return down the road.

“Ask for help when you need it; you don’t always need to be a hero” was another important lesson Chummers relayed to students.

Cisco as a company provides hardware, software, and service offerings to make information readily available for its customers. In the 2018 fiscal year, the company brought in $49 billion in revenue.

“We must always be at the forefront due to technology changing so fast,” said Chummers.

The company’s growth strategy for innovation includes:

  • Building the company (through internal research and development)
  • Buying (over 205 acquisitions)
  • Partnering (with over 300,000 companies, including Apple and Google)
  • Investing (in 120-plus companies)

One of Cisco’s main competitive advantages is that they are market leaders in nearly every area in which they compete in, including access routing, wireless LAN, and more. Having a one stop shop for their customers enables the company to charge a premium for their products.

Cisco runs completely from outsourcing, making their supply chain operations incredibly important.

“Global, complex, and diverse are three words to describe our supply chain operations,” said Chummers. “We enable success by delivering innovative and scalable supply chain services that optimize customers outcomes.”

The company’s supply chain transformations it undergoes drive innovation and new opportunities. Cisco has strong industry recognition, having made the Gartner Top 10 list for the past ten years. The four pillars that drive the company’s supply chain are:

  • Operational excellence (deliver on operational commitments)
  • Customers (provide a superior customer experience)
  • Digital supply chain (digital technologies transform SC)
  • People (empower + enable their team)

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