Cisco Asia Pacific

Cisco APJC Leaders: Rajiv Menon, MD for Cisco Capital in APJC

Welcome to the Cisco Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China (APJC) leadership spotlight series, where Cisco executives share their expertise and vision, as well as hot topics in the APJC region.

Cisco Executive - Rajiv Menon (Aug 2015)In the wake of the global financial crisis, corporates are increasingly assuming the traditional role of a bank, offering financing to their customers. Cisco is no exception, having incorporated Cisco Capital globally as early as 1996, followed by Asia Pacific two years later. We speak to Rajiv Menon, Managing Director, Cisco Capital, APJC on the latest state of technology financing and the global financial system.

As head of Cisco Capital for the APJC region, Rajiv manages a team of experienced finance professionals across 12 countries. His strategic mandate is to bolster the uptake of Cisco solutions through flexible and tailored financing structures. He brings 20 years of experience in corporate lending, money market trading, vendor financing, wealth management and credit underwriting.

Q. 20 years in technology financing is a testimony of your passion for this industry. How did you get into this role?

I started my career in the financial services industry in the 90’s and by the mid-90’s, technology (tech) was hot like never before. So while I wasn’t an engineer by training, I wanted to get involved in the tech industry and somehow knew I would. That opportunity came in 1998 when I was hired by a specialized unit of a US bank that focused on tech financing. One of our largest clients was Cisco and I did business with many other tech companies such as Unisys, Nokia and Nortel.

I co-founded a tech financing company in Hong Kong, which had 87% institutional shareholders including major global Financial Institutions. We ran the firm for 6 years before selling it to the Multinational Dutch-Belgian bank, Fortis Bank.

In 2003, I got a call from Cisco which asked me to help establish and expand Cisco Capital in the APJC region. As Singapore was (and still is) the regional HQ, I relocated there with a business development role, setting up new entities in key markets from India to China, overseeing everything from market studies to hiring teams. I then transitioned to sales and eventually landed my current position.

Q: Based on your experience, what is a common challenge faced by companies across the APJC region in terms of IT spend and investments?

The real challenges are somewhat unique by industry and vertical, but I can think of a couple that cut across all our customers. The first is, simply understanding the impact technology has on their businesses. In today’s tech world, there are endless buzz words for companies to decipher and knowing what matters and to what degree is a challenge. Adding to this complexity is the fact that technology is constantly evolving in every shape and form.

But the only way to gain a continuous competitive advantage, whether in terms of reducing cost or increasing customer acquisition, is to always be on the cutting edge. So the CTO and CIO have to constantly assess the latest developments in technology, and more importantly, their overall significance to their business

These factors combined cut right to the heart of the challenge – in essence, figuring out where to spend, how much budget to allocate, and how, or even whether, to acquire technology assets at a given point in time. In my experience, how the CFO and CIO decide to acquire technology – purchasing outright, using an operational expenditure (OPEX) model, utilizing a managed service, or adopting via a private or public cloud is a decision that can have a real business impact from an ROI perspective.

In terms of segment specific challenges, for service providers for example, the impact of NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) is probably the biggest question facing them and one that most large telecommunications companies globally are still trying to wrap their heads around.

Q: From a financing perspective, why should businesses use Cisco Capital? 

Today, Cisco Capital offers the most flexible and cost-effective financing options available for technology investments. I can confidently say that no one else in the market can match what we provide, particularly with regards to financing Cisco technologies. In fact, utilizing Cisco Capital is better than our customers spending their own cash, even if those customers have a lot of “cash”.

One of Cisco Capital’s largest customer segments is the financial services industry (FSI) – banks, insurance companies and investment firms, which are supposedly the smartest with their money. And they frequently utilize our tech financing services which would tell you that Cisco Capital’s offers and structures are very compelling. There are many other non-FSI, but similarly cash-rich, large corporations in our client portfolio including our GET customers

We bring a deeper understanding of Cisco’s products and services roadmaps and customer business requirements, than banks and other third-party financial institutions. As a captive finance organization, Cisco Capital is uniquely positioned as a strategic finance partner offering an extensive range of financial products with expertise in Cisco solutions. With an intrinsic understanding of Cisco technologies, Cisco Capital is able to take more risks and provide more flexible structures and low TCO options to our customers.

In addition, Cisco Capital regularly develops financing offers that target specific technologies or market segments to support Cisco’s strategic objectives.

Q: Given the state of the global financial system, do you think the role of corporate entities providing financing, like Cisco, will become more prominent?

I don’t believe we’ll see a flood of vendors setting up new financing divisions, we will definitely see some over the coming years. Importantly, those with established financing divisions (like Cisco, several Tech Peers, some in the Yellow & White Goods Industry), will play an increasingly important role and a continuous increase in uptake from their customers.

During the global financial crisis (GFC), some companies went bankrupt – not because their businesses were going bad – but due to banks cutting previously approved credit lines to them, leading to a liquidity crisis. This fundamentally changed CFO strategy and drove up reliance on vendor financing as a long term change.

If you look at the banking regulatory environment post-GFC, banking authorities globally have been putting restrictions on how banks can use their balance sheets. As a result, banks these days are focusing mostly on fee-based activities, but someone still has to lend money. This is precisely where vendors come in, fundamentally changing the landscape of tech financing.

Most businesses have also realized that corporates have a vested interest, unlike banks where the relationship ends with money lending. For Cisco Capital, our primary interest is in helping customers consume our technology, requiring us to maintain a genuine interest in our customer’s success.

Q: What are the three things you wish you had known when entering the workforce?

The first thing I would say is how much the first job can matter to the rest of your career. Had I known that, perhaps I might have made some different decisions along the way. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pleased with and greatly appreciate where I am today, but it is about being a bit more informed as you go down the journey versus looking back and saying “oh yeah that’s important.” Fundamentally, my career was built upon what I learned in my first job. Every role I took was a stepping stone for the next.

Secondly, how companies and hiring managers will tend to typecast you as a candidate. For more than 8 years, I’ve explicitly given our recruiters and managers this guidance when we’re hiring – attitude, aptitude and experience are critical in that order of importance.

Lastly, don’t restrict your own thinking or box yourself in because this limits your options. As part of your career development, make a conscious effort to explore different types of roles and experiences versus just going up a narrow stovepipe (specializing). Reflecting on my own career, I would be pretty boxed in if I had never set up my own company, branched into business development, or held other roles in corporate finance.

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What we can learn from our new CEO Chuck Robbins

The route to choosing Cisco’s new leader has been well-documented: a transparent process we are all very proud of, detailing how and why Chuck Robbins became our new CEO.

What we can learn from our new CEO Chuck Robbins

Like most companies, Cisco maintains lists of candidates who could, at a moment’s notice, step into the shoes of an executive should he or she be unavailable to continue in their current roles. But how do you make “the list”? In other words, how do you get into this mystical leadership pipeline?

The harsh reality is that only part of it has to do with your performance. But luck, timing and your network aside, here are some top leadership tips to excel, get noticed, and perhaps make “the list” in the future.

Own your development. Make your own individual development plan that potentially maps out where you want to go next. There is usually no time for this right? If you find yourself lacking time to do formal development programs, read and listen. There is no one program or book that can help you become a better leader; read as many as you can. I would recommend publications like Harvard Business Review, watching TED talks, iTunes Podcasts, to name a few. Also, listen to other people’s point of view and regularly ask for 360 degrees feedback.

If you are already a leader, broaden your expertise. Perhaps you’re an excellent marketing specialist, but can you handle the strain of building consensus with opposing sides? Give direction to a team of headstrong professionals? Are you aware of what’s top of mind in another business unit? Chuck, for example, has been in multiple roles in order to learn the segments, technologies and geographies.

Your brand and reputation is everything. A good brand and reputation leads the way to a bright future; bad ones may affect your chances to progress. These are your most precious assets. In order to find out what you brand and reputation is, ask your colleagues, direct reports, managers and leaders, as well as your external network what they perceive your brand to be. In this case, perception is reality and if the brand is not good, you will need to find a way to re-brand yourself. Chuck’s brand is strong, that is, he is known for his vision, strategy, customer-focus, down-to-earth style and excellent execution track record.

Know how you influence your company culture. A great study by Harvard Business School shows that it is actually the nice guys (and gals) who finish first. Leaders who project warmth and authenticity are more effective than those that lead with an iron fist. Leading high performing teams in an effective manner will ultimately lead to promotion – yours! John Chambers, our outgoing CEO, was recently quoted: ‘Chuck is a champion of the Cisco culture and has an incredible ability to inspire, energize, and connect with employees, partners, customers and global leaders.’

Be visible. While high performance is a must, visibility and exposure to the right audience is equally important to landing your next role. Although hard work pays off, there are a number of other factors that make up whether or not decision makers believe you are ready for that next step. Shamelessly sharing successes is a must. How else are they supposed to know you are doing a good job?

Take on projects that hold the potential for visibility. In meetings and events, speak up and ask meaningful questions. When you introduce yourself, do you just state your name and job title? Add something personal to make sure people remember you. Chuck likes to joke around quite a bit when he meets you and it becomes a memorable encounter.

Take action when inspiration strikes. A blog by Cisco’s own Rehana Rehman describes the 5 second rule. The idea behind this is to trust your instincts, impulses and curiosity. If you have an inspirational thought, take action within 5 seconds, otherwise your brain will stop you. John describes Chuck as having the unique ability to translate vision and strategy into world-class execution – don’t hesitate to do the same.

Consider your next career move in advance. During the course of their careers, most executives (Chuck included) stayed in jobs 18 months to 3 years, before moving on. It is a must to have that “where am I going” conversation with your manager a year or so into your current position.

A final note: never lose focus. After making it to “the list”, your next challenge will to be to make sure you stay on it!

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The Time is NOW! For a Whole New Threat-Centric Security Approach

In my last blog post, I talked about something hot in Bangkok, but rather than the spicy food and hot weather, it was the hottest topic in town – Security. Last week, the heat was brought to Singapore, where the annual RSA Conference Asia Pacific and Japan 2015 was held. The RSA Conference is one of the largest and most important security events in the industry. Connecting thousands of security experts with their extensive experience and valuable insights, this regional event aims to have the attendees feel inspired and become engaged and empowered to stay ahead of security threats.

20150730 Blog Post 2 (RSA)As our Executive Chairman and Chairman of Cisco’s Board John Chambers has said, there are two types of companies. The first type is those which have been hacked, and the second type is those which don’t yet know they have been hacked. Hence, you can see it’s not a matter of “if” cyber attacks will happen, but a question of “when” and “how”. I guess that is why this year’s RSA Conference was so fully attended in Singapore. Security is no longer just a technology issue. Security concerns everyone in a business environment, and is now a persistent business risk.

Having said that, although security is the talk of the town, how many organizations are fully aware of how to embrace today’s security challenges, and how to protect their networks? Many companies may believe that they are doing well in defending themselves. However, according to our latest Cisco 2015 Annual Security Report, there is actually a widening gap between the perception and the reality of cybersecurity readiness. 75% of the Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) surveyed see their security tools as very, or extremely, effective. However, less than 50% of them use standard tools and ensure that they are running the latest versions. That’s a strong indicator that security teams are not patching.

In fact, at the RSA Conference, through conversation with industry experts and businesses, we understand that many companies are still underserved by point product solutions that lack continuous advanced threat protection. It is not unusual to find organizations with 40 or more different security solutions that don’t and can’t work together, and attackers are taking advantage of the gaps in visibility and protection. This is exactly where the problem lies. Point products are no longer sufficient. Not only does security need to evolve to meet new demands, but a new approach to security is also required. And Cisco can deliver integrated threat defence across the entire attack continuum: before – boost protection before an attack, during – respond faster during an attack, and after – contain and remediate after an attack, to protect our customers’ assets and businesses.

By taking a threat-centric and operational approach to security, companies can reduce complexity and fragmentation, while gaining superior visibility, continuous control and advanced threat protection across the extended network and throughout the entire attack continuum. I want to emphasis one point here though: Security shouldn’t be embedded solely in the heart of the intelligent network infrastructure, but throughout the extended network – from the data center out to endpoints (including mobile and virtual), branch offices, the cloud and to wherever employees and data are. Security must be “Everywhere”! By integrating security everywhere, organizations are able to gain the ability to deliver the threat-centric security requirements demanded by today’s dynamic threat landscape and capture emerging business opportunities created by the rise of the Digital Economy and the Internet of Everything (IoE).

With the threat-centric security model plus a complete security portfolio to address attacks across the extended network, what more do we need to better protect our network? How about a strong threat intelligence research group to provide you with global threat intelligence? This is how Cisco’s Talos comes into the picture. Talos is the industry-leading threat intelligence research group dedicated to providing protection before, during and after security threats. The elite cybersecurity experts in Talos work to proactively discover, assess and respond to the latest trends in hacking activities, intrusion attempts, malware and vulnerabilities with new detection and prevention content for all of Cisco’s security products to better protect our customers’ networks. The mission is simple: “Defend Your Network”!

I guess by now you must have a better understanding of our competitive superiority in security. Indeed, we are very serious about security and, all along the way, we have resolutely invested heavily in the security business. With our own continued security technology innovations together with our strategic acquisitions in security – IronPort in 2007, ScanSafe in 2009, Meraki in 2012, Sourcefire in 2013, ThreatGRID in 2014, Neohapsis in 2015 and most recently our intent to acquire OpenDNS – we are transforming to create the industry’s broadest security solution portfolio covering the broadest set of attack vectors in the market, to better protect the important assets of our customers.

Indeed, we are being recognized as an industry leader in security by the market: Cisco excels as a leader in the Frost & Sullivan’s Industry Quotient with a leading 21.9% market share in Asia Pacific; we are also recognized by Gartner as the Magic Quadrant Leader in Network Access Control, Intrusion Prevention Systems and Secure Email Gateways; and IDC has stated that Cisco is serious about security services, and competitors should duly take note. All these are proof that we are working towards our goal of becoming the #1 security advisor to customers and partners!

After all, what other security company would you choose if not Cisco? Together we can make a difference – the time is NOW!

IT keeping up with business – Three customer examples

Cloud and mobility are the hot technology transitions of the moment; they have changed the business landscape and there is no turning back. We know they are challenging enterprises to adjust and drive some form of transformation, but mostly they are empowering businesses to boost their profitable growth – with customer analytics, workforce flexibility and productivity, faster go-to-market and greater costs savings. What companies need is the right technology to capture all the growth potential.

This is exactly what we are doing to support our customers, by turning complex IT operations into simpler tasks, on top of allowing IT teams to keep up with the businesses’ requirements and innovation. IT plays an important role in helping enterprises deliver better customer service and sustained competitive advantage. So instead of running behind the business, like we often see, IT must walk side-by-side, as a strategic partner with the capabilities, speed and agility to translate business demands into business outcomes.

In my last blog post I shared our success at Interop Tokyo, where we received eight prizes, two of which the Grand Prix Award: Cisco Meraki in the category of Cloud Service and Cisco Hyperlocation Module in the category of Mobile & Wireless. The capabilities that these solutions deliver are amazing and their recognition well-deserved. Today I want to share proof of it.

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Cisco APJC Leaders: Rajiv Niles, Director, IoE Solutions

Welcome to the Cisco Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China (APJC) leadership spotlight series, where Cisco executives share their expertise and vision, as well as their take on hot topics in the APJC region.

Cisco Executive - Rajiv Niles (July 2015)By the year 2020, an estimated 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, touting sensors to usher in a new era of smart living. This is the future of Internet of Everything (IoE) and the transition is well underway today. Rajiv Niles, Director of IoE Solutions at Cisco weighs in on the transformative nature of this emerging technology and what it takes to excel in this field.

Rajiv is responsible for the strategy, development and go-to-market plan of IoE solutions. He has played a pivotal role in establishing Cisco’s centers of innovation and new paradigms for innovating at the edge. A technologist and an IT veteran, his value to the business is evident in the Cisco offerings for IoE and the successful foray into vertical industries.

Q. Tell us about your multi-country  and multi-disciplinary experiences that got you where you are today.

I grew up in Australia and studied electronic engineering at the University of Western Australia. Having said that, I didn’t work a single day as an electronic engineer and moved into IT as soon as I graduated.

My career started in the mining, oil and gas industry, bringing networking and communications to remote mines and oil rigs.

I’ve always wanted to move to a country like Singapore, which has a strong regional influence where I can get more diverse experience. Cisco was also a natural choice for me, since I had been working with the company as a vendor. Being very familiar what Cisco did, I believed in its vision. So I applied and was flown up to the island state, landing myself a new job after 7 grueling interviews lasting 3 hours.

I began as systems engineer and accumulated a great deal of technical knowledge. Approximately 10 years ago, I transited into consulting engineering roles and business development, and currently hold sales leadership role for IoE. It is a natural progression. I realized that to be truly successful, we need to appreciate the big picture. As a technologist, we tend to be very specialized. In comparison, a business leader is a lot more all rounded. (more…)

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The Time is NOW! Security is the Talk of the Town

What do you associate ‘hot’ with in Bangkok? The summer heat? Spicy Thai food? You’d be right of course. However, we at Cisco have a brand new definition of ‘hot’ in the city and it’s ‘Security’ – the hottest topic and the talk of the town!

Themed “The Time is NOW”, we hosted the Cisco APJC Security CONNECTION 2015 partner event from June 23 to 25 in Bangkok. This served as an excellent platform not only to share the latest developments in the security industry with our most-valued partners, but also for all of us to engage, collaborate and explore the most recent innovative solutions from the Security Business Group, and discuss how we can help customers best address today’s dynamic threat landscape. (more…)

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The 4 rules of intercultural feedback – Cisco Style

Cisco relies on culturally diverse teams: from our sales teams to our engineers, to our HR-managers. Moreover, diversity and inclusion is Cisco’s recipe for our success. We work, play, celebrate, double-down and tough it out together, profiting from our diverse backgrounds to get the job done and even go beyond our job description. Yet there is one area in which cultural diversity can be tricky: when it is time to give each other feedback. (more…)

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Cisco APJC Leaders: Bastiaan Toeset, MD for Commercial and Marketing in APJ

Cisco executive - Bastiaan ToesetIn  this installment of the Cisco Asia Pacific Japan and China (APJC) leadership spotlight series, we speak to Bastiaan Toeset, Managing Director of Cisco’s Commercial segment and Marketing in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) as he shares insights on diversity in Asia Pacific and the new frontier of marketing.

For Cisco’s regional commercial projects, he leads the teams to deliver innovative business outcomes, empowering customers to take advantage of rapidly changing market conditions. As the leader for APJ Marketing he focuses on accelerating revenue growth as well as engaging clients and partners through digital and other pioneering marketing strategies.

Q. You’ve been at Cisco since 1998 – that’s a wonderful testament to the company in terms of career progression and growth. What can other companies learn from Cisco?

In my 17 years with Cisco, I’ve done many different things within the company, which has been exciting.  I started out in customer service which is related to my hotel management background. I was very new to IT initially, then moved on to sales and relocated to Asia.

Cisco has offered varied opportunities throughout my career. At every stage of my development I’ve been able to chart my course and articulate what would be good for my career advancement, the company and our customers. (more…)

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Best Interop Tokyo ever with eight award-winning solutions

Teruaki Hirano, Tomomi Maehara and Toshiya Ando receive the award on behalf of the company for the Cisco Hyperlocation Module

Teruaki Hirano, Tomomi Maehara and Toshiya Ando receive the award on behalf of the company for the Cisco Hyperlocation Module

Congratulations to the Cisco team in Japan! We are so thrilled and honored to see Cisco shine like it did at the latest edition of Interop Tokyo 2015, by scoring a record of two Grand Prix Awards and six other Best of Show Awards. Cisco Meraki was the best in the category of Cloud Service and Cisco Hyperlocation Module won the category of Mobile & Wireless – both awarded with a Grand Prix Award. This type of achievement acknowledges our innovation efforts to help our customers fulfill their business goals through our technologies.

Interop Tokyo is an yearly event and one of the largest in the IT industry in the APJ region. This year, 400 companies showcased their latest solutions and innovations to a vaste audience of 130,000 people over 3 days. (more…)

Cisco APJC leaders: Sandy Walsh, Director, Social Innovation Group in Asia Pacific

Welcome to the Cisco Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China (APJC) leadership spotlight series, where Cisco executives share their expertise and vision, as well as hot topics in APJC.

Cisco Executive - Sandy WalshOrganizations are increasingly paying more attention to two areas that are critical to business success and sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and human capital development. In this edition of the spotlight, Sandy Walsh, Director of the Social Innovation Group in Asia Pacific, shares her perspective on how taking a “Shared Value” approach can help to accelerate social impact whilst supporting business goals.

Sandy helms the Social Innovation Group, which leverages Cisco’s technology and expertise to develop innovative solutions to address social challenges throughout Asia Pacific. She has 25 years of multidisciplinary experience across human resources, professional training, sales, business consultancy and general management under her belt.

Q: Your career has spanned a gamut of roles from HR to consultancy to business leadership. Tell us about your journey.

I started my career in Melbourne, Australia. I studied public relations, but my first job was with an HR consultancy firm, in a sales and business development role, which gave me the opportunity to develop skills that have been useful throughout my career. I then moved into the training division of the company which was primarily focused on the emerging area of technology skills development. Many of the software programs have since been relegated to museums, nonetheless, I was intrigued by how technology was transforming the way people work.

Eventually, I had the opportunity to move to Singapore. I’d never been to the island state before, but I believe that when a “door” opens, it’s worth taking the opportunity to see where it may lead. So off I went with only a suitcase and an open-mind, tasked with expanding the business across Asia Pacific. Coincidentally, networking was emerging as a critical technology skill set at that time and so for the first time, it brought me into contact with my future employer (Cisco) as we expanded our training services to include Cisco networking courses. (more…)

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