Cisco Asia Pacific

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.

Q. You’ve been in Asia Pacific since 2008. Given the diverse set of countries, cultures and languages –how can a company be successful and grow in the region?

This is my second stint in the region, having worked in Indonesia and Singapore back in 1995 and 1996, but for different companies. We call APJC the ‘mini globe’ because it combines some of the most advanced economies, with fast-developing countries that are touting the biggest economic growth opportunities.

To excel in this region, companies need to fundamentally understand the complex business environment and culture that defines Asia Pacific, Japan and China. Just as crucial is a strategy with enough differentiation for the various countries, combined with similar processes, platforms and tools to achieve consistency and scalability. And let’s not forget talent and people committed to the region for the long term.

Q.You’ve just made the jump into Marketing – which is exciting! Tell us three things you have learnt in your first 12 months in this role.

Opportunities are abound for marketing to play a much bigger role within Cisco. It’s currently considered a cost center, but I think it can be a profit center due to revenue marketing. We’re striving to turn marketing into a sales engine.

Secondly, Marketing helps Cisco get closer to the consumers via digital and social media marketing that we’re piloting and expanding very quickly.

The third thing I am learning about is that marketing has analytical elements as well. This delivers a wealth of information, including where opportunities are, changing customer behaviours and how to become relevant earlier in the conversation, so that we can adapt.

This can be summarized in what we called the ‘zero moment of truth’, which tells us that 60% of our sales are actually influenced way before Cisco engages customers.

Q. Data-driven marketing has been consistently named as of the big marketing trends. How do you see this trend changing the discipline of marketing?

Marketing is moving towards a revenue-generating discipline instead of a cost center. Data is at the core of that trend. We’re working hard on revenue and digital marketing to reach the right person at the right time with the right message and tool.

It is impossible to do so by going out with a broad, generic strategy. By creating what is known as “a segment of one”, we can pitch a highly customized and targeted message to each specific contact and company.

However, the biggest step forward is turning data into actionable intelligence. That is exactly what we’re trying to accelerate in Cisco. I believe this is the beginning of marketing transforming into a revenue-generating engine.

Q. What are 3 critical skills for a successful marketeer today and in the future? 

An analytical mindset. You need to be able to understand, consume and apply data into intelligence.

Secondly, rather than just relying on hard data, you need to have a fundamental understanding of the markets and customers – for example, identifying ongoing market transitions.

Third – you need to know how to capitalize on the insights in a focused and timely manner. All three skills will be in high demand for the next 10 years.


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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.

While we have been consistently recognized at Interop Tokyo over the years, for the first time we were selected for eight awards:

Yugo Yamautsuri and  Kazutoshi Wada accepting the award on behalf of the Cisco Meraki team.

Yugo Yamautsuri and
Kazutoshi Wada accepting the award on behalf of the Cisco Meraki team.

‘Best of Show Award’ Grand Prix

 ‘Best of Show Award’ Second Prize



‘Best of Show Award’ Special Jury Award

 Mobility, Cloud, Collaboration and Security are the areas where we’ve been making great efforts to help our customers digitize their businesses with greater efficiency. And these awards validate our efforts to capture market transitions and deliver solutions that have business merit and impact.

Cisco Meraki is definitely a great example of that. It includes a complete family of networking products, from wireless to routers to security and location and data analytics; all of which are managed and orchestrated through the Meraki cloud dashboard. Meraki is simple, yet robust, fast and provides for huge cost savings for our customers.

With mobile devices at the center of lives, location matters more than ever. How do we help enterprises capture the valuable customer information thoses devices can provide? Cisco Hyperlocation is the answer. Combined with Cisco Connected Mobile Experience (CMX), enterprises can determine the on-site location of customers and visitors to within as little as one meter from a single AP. This makes a significant difference in the quality and cost of location analytics, which helps businesses better understand their customers’ behavior in order to deliver greater customer experience.

Out of the award-winning solutions, Cisco Firepower 9300 deserves a special note. The reason being that security is one of the most relevant areas where companies are looking for the right solutions. Cyber-attacks have become a daily business that can easily bring down yours. And as such, to help our customers protect themselves, their data and their clients, we’ve been investing in cyber security solutions. Just recently, we’ve announced at Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego a new set of innovations around the network that promise to make security more robust for our customers. You can learn more about it by visiting my last blog post or watching this video.

Our confidence is strenghed by this great achievement at Interop Tokyo and we’re excited to see our innovations transforming our customers’ lives. Have they changed yours? We would appreciate hearing about your experience in the comments below.


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.

After 3 years running the Training business across a number of Asian markets, I had built up a team of about 80 people and the business was doing very well. I was looking for a new challenge when the opportunity came to join Cisco to help expand the Networking Academy program, which was then at an early stage of development.

Q. Why is human capital development, particularly in ICT education and entrepreneurship, vital for the community development and economic growth of this region?

ICT is a growth enabler. I saw this when I first moved to Asia. However, the real challenge is to recruit talent with the relevant skills to exploit this technology. Without the human capacity to exploit the capabilities of ICT, it won’t deliver on its transformative potential for the region, whether that is in improving Industry productivity or improving the delivery of citizen services.

For developing countries with large youth populations, such as Indonesia, there are insufficient jobs in many traditional employment sectors to absorb young people coming through the education systems. Entrepreneurship has the potential to create new companies and generate more employment opportunities. Collectively, ICT and entrepreneurship can have a transformative impact particularly on the emerging countries in this region, in bolstering economic growth and supporting social development.

Q. Cisco has been running its Networking Academy program in Asia Pacific since 1998. What are the major milestones from this program that mean the most to you?

An incredible milestone is the growing number of Asian women joining the Networking Academy program. When we started this initiative, we had only a very small percentage of young girls in technology. Today, I’m really pleased that Asia Pacific is now leading the world, with women averaging 30% of our students regionally. In fact, in some countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and India, female participation is shifting towards the 40% mark. Meanwhile, Myanmar is truly in a league of its own at around 90%. We’re starting to see tremendous traction with young girls and women getting excited about what ICT can offer them as a career choice.

Three or four years ago, we recognized that there was an opportunity to expand our work beyond the traditional Networking Academy program to address big social challenges in Asia Pacific. We began to leverage our Academy program platform to go beyond human capacity building and extend our efforts to support workforce development, employment and community enablement. I’m very pleased with the increased impact we have been able to make, going beyond just running the Networking Academy to the now a much larger agenda of social innovation, encapsulating these three focus areas.

Q. How can companies benefit by having their own social responsibility program? What can they also learn from Cisco in particular?

When I first joined Cisco, businesses were largely focused on corporate philanthropy, which is essentially about writing cheques for social good. Some years later Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) started to emerge, where companies became more engaged in addressing social issues by bringing their unique expertise to transform lives and give back to the community.

Fast forward to today, we are now in a new era of Corporate Shared Value (CSV), which gives equal focus to both the social and business outcomes. Social Innovation is now critical to our business strategy in the countries in this region in which we operate. Investing in building talent not only helps Cisco, our partners and customers grow their business, but it also provides employment and economic opportunity for individuals which in turn helps countries’ economic development.

As for what others could learn from Cisco: Determine where the intersection is between social challenges, your business challenges and your unique expertise as a company. By applying your expertise in this way you can sustainably multiply the impact on your business and society.

Q. If you could give three pieces of advice to younger self, what would they be?

For a start, to have self-confidence and believe in yourself, which might sound amusing to some people who know me now. But in my early career, that wasn’t always the case.

Secondly, speak up. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a room full of smart people, but the reality is nobody can actually read your mind.

The last piece of advice I would have given myself is about work-life balance. It is easy to fall into the habit of working all night or weekend when you are inside a global company. The work will never stop, there will always be another email to respond to. You need to draw the line on that and create some boundaries for your life outside of work. I try and block time in my calendar every week which is dedicated to exercise or other “non-work” activity and not accept requests for meetings during those slots. While it is always important to be flexible, ensuring you’ve another life outside whatever you do is equally vital, or it’s easy to burnout.


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Fast IT. Fast Mobility. Fast Innovation.

Our New Enterprise Networks Vision Goes Live at Cisco Live 2015, San Diego!

In the context of a disruptive world where businesses are rapidly becoming digital, we are proud to see how we’ve been rising up to the challenge and fuelling business transformation across industries. More than ever, mobile devices are booming, customers are demanding personalization and new business models are emerging. With the network right at the centre of this market turmoil, our Enterprise Networks and Fast IT strategy have been evolving to facilitate our customers’ transition to the Digital Economy Era.

And now we just took another step forward by launching last week at Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego a new Enterprise Networks vision and the innovations that will help our customers advance their network, digitize and simplify their businesses – Fast.

Fast Innovation, Fast Mobility and Secure IT are the pillars of our Fast IT strategy and they work together to deliver a network that lives and breathes automation, scalability and agility without compromising security. Fast Innovation and Fast Mobility cannot run without Fast IT, which needs Secure IT to be sustainable. This is the essence of our vision that it’s moving us towards automated and open solutions. As we do so, our customers can simplify and streamline their operational and management processes like never before, right at the market’s fast pace.

Which innovations did we present and how do they drive business outcomes?

  • Fast Mobility

Fast IT is driven before anything by the massive use of mobile devices. They simply changed everything – the way we work, the way we live, interact and consume – and are massively demanding business transformation from organizations as a result. According to IDC Location Based Services: A Promising Customer-Centric Solution 2014, 56% of CxOs say that a mobility strategy is very or extremely important to their business.

Aligned with our customers’ goals, we continue to help them to get ready for the next wave of mobile and IoT devices. We do that by launching an end-to-end Fast Mobility solution: the first 802.11ac wave 2 access point, two new wireless controllers and an aggregated switch to help the access migrate from 1G to 10G. These network advancements are fundamental to improve companies’ workforce productivity as well as to enhance customer experience, together with our personalized solutions that encompass location and analytics in the cloud and/or premise.

  • Fast Innovation

While companies look at IT as a key business enabler, in many aspects it’s perceived as a painful and time consuming function delaying business outcomes instead. For example, according to a survey commissioned by Forrester, IT spends 88% of the time on operations and 55% of the companies think IT is not responding fast enough to time-sensitive projects.

We strive to change this and made things easier again with the launch of a new set of controller based solutions, extending our Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to the WAN and Access, whose purpose is to simplify IT and help our customers adopt Software Defined Networking (SDN) to solve complexities in delivering business agility. Among those applications leveraging Fast IT is the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller – Enterprise Module (APIC-EM) IWAN application, which simplifies deployment of DMVPN, Qos, PfR, amongst others, minimizing IT intervention. What it does is orchestrating and automating Plug and Play (PnP) that allows zero touch configurations of the routers and switchers that need to be deployed in remote locations.

  • Secure IT

Last but not the least, we can’t talk about Fast IT without talking about security. You’ll probably be surprised to know that hacking is worth globally $450B to $1T every year. Cybercrime has become a very profitable industry and will continue to grow and jeopardize businesses as mobile devices, social media or cloud become more and more part of our lives.

The thing with security, despite the awareness around it, is that it seems to be complex and an additional concern and expense to businesses. We’ve simplified things by embedding our security solutions into the extended network, making it automatic, immediate and efficient to detect and mitigate threats.

First, we unveiled the network as a security sensor, providing enhanced visibility, context and control over any user or device that connects to the network.

Then we released the network as a security enforcer that allows new policy enforcement based on the detected threats. It does so with a software-defined segmentation, designed to contain and minimize threats and to automatically reprogram policies that will make your security barrier even stronger.

These innovations represent our best efforts to help our customers transform themselves and align with the business demands. The network is a very powerful business ally.  We are recommending our customers to leverage it to become more agile and secure, while optimizing time spent on IT operations.

Tell us how you think our innovations in Fast IT can drive business transformation in the comments below! Also, visit our Cisco Live website to catch up on the highlights of this event in San Diego and get ready for the next edition in Las Vegas, happening in July 2016.


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Cisco APJC leaders: Stephen Dane, MD for Security 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 - Stephen DaneThe Internet of Everything (IoE), hybrid cloud and hyper connectivity are transforming the business environment, leading to a renewed emphasis on security.

We speak to Stephen Dane, Managing Director for Security in APJC for his insights on the dynamic threat environment and the critical need for security everywhere.Stephen brings more than 20 years of experience in the IT and Telecoms industries, working in Asia Pacific and the UK. Prior to Cisco, he was the Vice President in Europe, Middle East and Africa for cloud-based Web security company ScanSafe, which was acquired by Cisco in December 2009.


Q: 20 years in IT and Security – that’s a great track record! What keeps you going?

Two main reasons: First, the security environment is really exciting and fast-paced. Second, it is becoming essential, for both organizations and individuals, to stay ahead of attackers as much as possible to protect ourselves.

The threat landscape is transforming so rapidly that we are literally tackling a different security challenge every day. It’s this dynamism and relentless pace which constantly keeps everyone in our business on their toes.

We see ourselves as trying to defend our customers’ assets. That race has been ramped up significantly in the last couple of years, as attacks become high profile in terms of their effects. The impact on businesses is becoming so significant that it is now a hot topic for the boardroom with C-level executives.

Q: Is it true that the role of an information and security leader has evolved to become one of the most valuable roles in technology today?

Absolutely! Security breaches can have a tremendous impact and affects an organisation’s share price, profit and individual careers! There are multiple examples covered in the news where business profitability has plummeted due to a breach, marring the brand image significantly.

The Sony Pictures and JP Morgan Chase hacks are two new high-profile cases, which have had strong repercussions throughout the business and social landscapes. Such attacks have now become a boardroom issue as flagged in our 2015 annual security report, where Cisco is in a very strong position to lead the conversation not only at a security officer level, but also with C-suite like CIO, CTO and CEO.

While the board expects the information and security leaders to have this matter in hand, it is difficult to succeed without a clear security framework and coherent approach across the entire organization. So, it’s imperative for the two of them to work hand in hand, firstly to prioritize security as a key requisite from a business operations perspective. And secondly, have the boardroom be very clear about each employee’s responsibility in safeguarding company assets.

Q: With Internet and smartphone penetration rates surging, what are the new security challenges that organizations need to face up to?

These are precisely some of the key driving factors for the high-profile attacks I mentioned earlier. That is because the threat vector, which refers to entry points for an attacker to unlawfully access an organization’s assets, isnow wider than ever.

These days everybody is connected all the time and we seepersonal mobile devices are plugged into corporate networks – BYOD. Mobile malware is on the rise as a result, with Android being the most vulnerable. The weakest link is an employee. Anyone can click on a link in an email and connect to a website, unknowingly downloading malware that quickly spreads throughout an organization.

If we look at IoE, up to 50 billion connected devices will be connected by 2020. You can see that the problem is only going to worsen. That quantity of additional things trying to connect to your network is a significant challenge. Organisations need to know who wants access, what device they are using, how are they connecting, what time of day they are connecting and what apps they are accessing. Only then can businesses set a clear, manageable security policy around these requirements.

As cloud applications are so easy to purchase, set up and provide tangible productivity benefits, they are popular among line-of-business stakeholders. With the installation and implementation decision making process no longer undertaken by the IT department, it can lead to organizations losing control over the software they so depend on. This creates another threat vector for attackers to exploit.

Finally, threats themselves are certainly more widespread and targeted. Malware is always evolving, becoming increasingly dynamic and evasive. To defeat firewalls and intrusion prevention systems, a new wave of polymorphic malware can now disguise their destructive payload at different points in time. They’re extremely hard to stop, and are designed to evade detection, so it becomes very important to have visibility of suspicious activity across your IT infrastructure and reduce the time it takes to remediate.

Q. Security is critical to Cloud Computing and IoE – what are the three critical mistakes business make when planning their security strategy? What would you like to see change in this industry?

Firstly, organizations must have a coherent and widely communicated security framework, backed by the board with clear policies and awareness campaigns. This ensures that everyone in the organisation knows their role in protecting and defending the company’s assets. Every employee has a responsibility to access corporate IT systems and infrastructure safely and securely.

The second mistake is quite basic but strategically important, which is about getting systems patched and up-to-date. We’ve frequently come across outdated browsers, which make organizations vulnerable to exploits. Without clear visibility of what’re on the network or infrastructure, it is almost impossible to protect it.

The third mistake has been historically to approach security from a point product technology perspective, adopting a so-called ’best of breed’ strategy. For example, purchasing a firewall from Brand A for the data center, only to use Brand B for the perimeter, Brand C to cover email security and Brand D to protect the end point. With potentially up to 50 or 60 products and vendors in a single environment, this creates a lot of complexities and silos with glaring gaps – that malicious hackers can take advantage of. At Cisco, we take the holistic solutions based approach so that our customers can have an integrated, connected and synced security platform.

What do we need to improve? I would like to see the defenders get ahead of the attackers! Right now, we’ve been playing a game of catch up with the perpetrators being very well funded and creative. To realize this vision, there are solutions which Cisco is pursuing that will bring about greater automation from better use of threat intelligence, allowing companies to be much better at detecting and stopping malware attacking their organisation.

Q. If you were able to go back in time and give three pieces of advice to yourself when you first started working, what would they be?

Considering the old adage that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, my first advice is to listen more than you speak. Customers nowadays are very well educated, way more than 20 years ago when I first started because they have access to information from everywhere. So they’re pretty knowledgeable and we need to hear what they need and provide a comprehensive solution to their business challenge.

The second advice is to see things through the eyes of the customers. Don’t just tell your own story, but listen and understand what they’re hoping to achieve. From a sales perspective, these two factors still make me stop in my tracks sometimes.

The final one is to take risks, particularly when you are starting out and building your career. Consider working abroad. Wherever you are, go and expand your horizons by immersing yourself in different cultures and environments. It is really important to be adaptable in today’s global, interconnected business world. For those in a large company, join a start-up, to do different things because it provides a lot more context as we go through life and develop a career. Rest assured these different kinds of experiences will be valuable subsequently.


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Celebrating our people on Labour Day

Posted on behalf of Annella Heytens, Vice President of Human Resources for Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China at Cisco.

As we prepare to celebrate Labour or International Worker’s Day in the Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China (APJC) region on Friday, 01 May 2015, I am drawn to remember the origins of this public holiday.

To me, Labour Day serves as a reminder of what collective strength has achieved for workers. It also highlights the role of employers like Cisco, and our focus on the well being of our people.

In fact Labour Day commemorates the victims of the Haymarket affair. Named after the Haymarket square in Chicago, where during a strike for the eight-hour workday in 1886, four protesters and seven police officers lost their lives. The event marks a significant change in the sentiment and nature of the fight for worker’s rights.

Even after 125 years, some workers are still limited in terms of pay, face hazardous conditions at the work place, or are not given benefits according to the law of their country.

I am proud that companies like Cisco demonstrate their understanding of this heritage, by putting health and happiness of their employees first, as illustrated in our People Deal manifesto:

We make a meaningful difference for our people, our customers and the world around us. We support each other and work together to create shared success that will benefit everyone.

The future of Cisco. The growth of our customers. The lives of people around the world. They’re all connected. Because the Internet of Everything is here. And everything starts with you.

And we put our money where our mouth is by offering award-winning opportunities for interns, graduates and leadership programmes, as well as exposure to diverse cross-functional teams around the world. We enjoy fueling your creativity with events such as Hackathons and DevNet and supporting you with the flexibility to combine a challenging career with time for your family.

Labour Day makes tomorrow an excellent opportunity to reflect, discuss and – of course – spend some quality time with family and friends.

Together, the APJC Cisco workforce represents a substantial part of the region’s total workforce. We can count ourselves lucky, in many ways, with our employer.

Let’s pay it forward.


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Cisco APJC leaders: Ruma Balasubramanian, VP for Partner Organization

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 Exec: Ruma BalasubramanianIn conjunction with the Cisco Partner Summit 2015, we’ve invited Ruma Balasubramanian, Vice President, Partner Organization, Asia Pacific and Japan to share her thoughts on technology being an enabler and the critical importance of developing a robust partner ecosystem.

Ruma is responsible for the growth strategy of Cisco’s APJ partner ecosystem, leading a team which collaborates with regional partners to drive growth and enablement for the partner community. As a member of Cisco’s APJ senior leadership team, she also works closely with the Worldwide Partner Organization to scale global channel models as well as building the future partnerships needed to deliver compelling value to customers.

Q. You have a really impressive resume and it looks like you’ve been in the technology sector throughout your career. How did you get started and when did you get into the technology industry?

Like many people at Cisco, I did my undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering, and realised that while I liked the skills that I acquired in my engineering training, that I didn’t want to be an engineer. I chanced upon an amazing opportunity with IBM in sales and marketing and jumped at it. And it was funny because my entire family are engineers. My uncle, who has PhD in semiconductor physics, called me to congratulate me on my job with IBM. His parting words were, “at least it’s a good company” totally implying that sales isn’t a “real” job like engineering.

IBM gave me my first exposure to IT and business services and I subsequently moved to other IT services company like AT Kearney, EDS Corporation and HP. From there, I just ended up enjoying the IT services and business consulting space, which subsequently led me to Cisco a couple of years ago. Back in my days with these services firms, I always talked about technology being a real enabler so it’s exciting for me to be at Cisco, where we walk the talk.

Q. If you were able to give three pieces of advice to yourself when you first started working, what would they be?

Always sustain your passion for learning, which can be across so many different dimensions. It could be diving deeper into the field you selected or broadening your background in related areas. Also expand your knowledge around different cultures which we, living in this diverse Asia Pacific region, have a great opportunity to discover.

Building a great team is another one which resonates repeatedly for me. It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual contributor or a leader across a huge organization. I believe your team should include everyone who touches your business – the more the merrier – as long as they contribute to your overall goals.

Lastly, believe in yourself and the value you bring to the company. I think this is particularly important for women, but just as important for men. I’ve met many sales and partner professionals, especially here in Asia, who have a great ideas and should be encouraged to bring those to a broader discussion with Cisco colleagues.

Q. You have 24 years of multidisciplinary experience including consulting, sales and management, what is your driving force?

I really love to explore and learn new things. If you look at my background and past roles, it was always about filling gaps in areas which I’ve been curious about. After my MBA, I went into healthcare consulting. I worked on the strategy side of the business, developing healthcare products for insurance companies. Within 2 years, I learned that the key to success in healthcare management is a really strong IT infrastructure and analytics capability.

That was also the reason why I moved to EDS Corp., which ran one of the largest public healthcare technology practices in the US at that time. They had a great sense of using technology as an enabler to identifying everything from payment fraud to disease and wellness strategies. A key part of EDS’ strategy was partnering with some of the big technology players, including, Cisco. .

Similarly, one of the reasons I moved to Cisco was that, as a services leader, technology was never really the focus of our engagements. It was always about business strategy or operations with technology as a tangential part of the engagement. So, I was curious about how companies like Cisco work with customers to embed technology in their business practices and drive improved performance. We’re definitely moving in this direction, and I believe that partners will play a critical role in helping us to be a more customer outcomes focused company.

Q. Partners have always been a key component of the B2B buyer journey. Between the early years of your career and now, how has the B2B buyer’s journey evolved over the years?

Most of our customers today have shifted their mind-set from a single vendor approach to multi-vendor and best-of-breed approach. Customers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable, learning about technology from social media, conferences, and relationships via LinkedIn and other platforms. Word-of-mouth, given our networked world, allows someone to gain crucial information about an organization even before the salesperson walks into their office.

In view of this trend, we need to learn to collaborate effectively with other companies. Our customers might come to us proactively and ask us to partner with best-of-breed partners that bring complementary capabilities like solution integration or analytics. Personally, I think Cisco does that really well compared to most MNCs simply because partnering is very much in our DNA.

The line between customers and partners is also blurring. Many of our major partners, especially with the definition of service providers changing on a daily basis, are turning into customers. As more organizations end up in this managed or high value-added services space, we need to shift our thinking in terms of how we serve them.

Q. You work with more than 16,000 partners across the region, which is an enormous responsibility – what does success mean to you in this role?

One of the reasons I love what I do, is that there is enormous complexity in the partnering space. For me, when I’m thinking about success, I think of three major stakeholder groups – our customers, partners and the Cisco sales team.

Our customers are constantly looking for the right partners to achieve measurable business outcomes. This can be in terms of innovative technologies and specialized skills, value-added services, and our partners’ ability along with Cisco to mitigate business risks.

With more than 16,000 partners, we pretty much run the gamut from resellers to sophisticated partners. The challenge and definition of success for the former is to ensure we’ve the right programs to enable and empower them to drive value from Cisco. As for the latter, it is essentially about evolving our business model to create greater value to them. Partner satisfaction is one of the key indicators we use to measure the effectiveness of our programs and how we serve our partners.

At Cisco, success means that our partners remain integral part of the sales motion for every team within Cisco, including the enterprise, public sector, commercial and Service Provider segments. While there are other, more specific metrics, this is the overarching framework which I use to measure success.

Speaking of partners, I’m extremely excited about the upcoming Cisco Partner Summit in Montreal, Canada, from 27 – 30 April 2015. The event theme, “Be Bold”, is truly appropriate, given where we are as a company and the evolution of our partner relationships. We’ll have some great announcements that will solidify our direction in Cloud, Software and Solutions. From Asia Pacific, I’m excited to welcome a fantastic line-up of presenters from our APJ Leadership team, including Irving, Scott and Bastiaan. I think it is going to be great event for our partners and Cisco.

Follow the conversations at the Cisco Partner Summit in Montreal, Canada at @CiscoPartner and by following the hashtag: #ciscops15

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Cisco APJC leaders: Annella Heytens, VP for HR

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.

In this first installment, we speak to Annella Heytens, Vice President of Human Resources (HR) in APJC on her career journey, mistakes job seekers make and diversity at workplace.

A veteran of the HR field, Annella has held various leadership positions since joining Cisco in 2007, playing an instrumental role in fostering local talent and leadership in APJC. Prior to Cisco, she was a Director at Towers Watson, helming the Beijing, Jakarta, Manila and San Francisco offices.

Q. You hold a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, how did you get into HR?

It happened completely by chance. My mother was a nutritionist. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was going to the university, so I followed her footsteps. But I absolutely hated it and decided to make a career change, getting myself a Master’s Degree in hospitality management.

After that, I worked in real estate doing finance and business development for a healthcare informatics company. My family was about to move to China and I had a job opportunity with then Watson Wyatt (now known as Towers Watson) to start their HR consulting firm in Beijing.

I found myself in China unable to converse in Mandarin and not knowing anything. But despite the odds, I managed the consulting practice for 3 years, growing the business from a one-man office to many employees, and the amazing thing is that we were profitable from the first year onwards!

Q. With 17 years of HR experience, what do you see as the top 3 mistakes job seekers make?

For starters, not having a plan of any sort and taking a reactive approach to job hunting. You don’t leave your career to chance, relying on just online postings or job openings, but proactively network and involve others like recruiters who can help. These days, you have to invest time and take a holistic approach to secure a job.

Another reality is most HR people spend less than 10 seconds scanning through each resume. Instead of making a CV voluminous with flowery language, what you really need to do is to ensure the content stands out. Like most recruiters, I only picked candidates who could provide the information I wanted.

Lastly, you have to be authentic and show off your capabilities, demonstrate plenty of self-confidence and be able to articulate concisely. It is equally important to display a keen interest in the job, like asking the right questions, backed by a strong understanding of the hiring company.

Q. Women still constitute a modest percentage of the overall workforce in the APJC region. What can be done to improve female participation in the workforce?

For Cisco, we are able to attract women in their early career, when they are still single or fresh out of the university. However, once their life situation changes (they get married, have childcare or eldercare difficulties), we face the challenge of retaining them. Cisco aside, few companies have figured out what women need at different points in time.

We have a holistic and multifaceted approach to tackle this problem, flexibly mapping the needs of our female employees with what we can offer, as well as an amazingly supportive management. The latter includes female role models, who can understand the aspirations of women to nurture them throughout their careers, so that they will stay within the organization.

Q. What can other companies learn from Cisco on embracing diversity at the leadership level and what is your counsel to women who are trying to step up?

We now have a female CFO, CHRO, CTO, CIO and CMO, who are all exceptionally strong female leaders at the executive level. I think this is the first crucial step in encouraging diversity. These women role models will help to filter the trend downwards, proving to their peers there is no glass ceiling.

Personally, I think women need to step up and take more risk. It is really about empowering them to be on par with their male colleagues. For example, being vocal and assertive without – I hate to say this – being branded as bossy or arrogant.

Q. If you were speaking to women early in their career, what are the three things you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Firstly, always follow your passion and do what you are really good at. At the end of the day, if you are not driven and motivated, you will never excel and succeed in your field of work.

Secondly, focus on learning as a life-long journey instead of a destination, and try to learn as much as possible when you are young and blessed with a fertile mind. Moreover, learn how to apply this knowledge across multiple industries and functions, and don’t be afraid of exploring different things.

Finally, I wish I started traveling sooner to see the world and learn from the different cultures. Thanks to technology, the world has gotten a lot smaller and noticeably more accessible than before. That said, it is also harder to travel when we have a family and kids – thus, the younger we embark on it, the better it is!

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Smart, connected and secure Songkran in Thailand

Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Did you know: Songkran is derived from the Sanskrit word saṅkrānti and refers to astrological passage into the first zodiac sign and therefore, the start of the New Year.

Celebrated around the warm presence of family and friends, some of the traditions surrounding this festival include temple visits, paying respects to the elders, spring cleaning the home and poring a bowl of water on family members to symbolically wash off all misfortunes in the past year, thus welcoming the New Year with a fresh new start.

As Songkran takes on a more festive mood, the humble bowl has become a bucket, water guns, and even garden hoses! And where there are merry memories, there are selfies. Songkran celebrations now include selfies, hashtags, video clips of joyful moment, video calls with loved ones in distant lands (who are suddenly not too far away) – all thanks to the Internet.

With the proliferation of smartphones and other internet-ready devices, people are able to connect in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago. Now that the constraints of space and distance are eliminated by technology, the celebrations of Songkran can be extended to just about everyone.

In Thailand, connected devices and video have been bringing joy and warmth during holidays. Most Thai peSongkran selfieople head to their hometowns to get blessings from their parents and elder relatives. For others who do not have the luxury of making the trip home during Songkran, Internet video – whether posted online or live video calls – are bridging the gap, so that they do not miss out on this special occasion with their families and communities.

While we enjoy and embrace this connectivity, there is a need for caution. As we share the selfies and panorama and vine videos, please check that you are on a trusted network as criminals are disguising malware as everyday apps, although they are designed to infect and hide in plain sight on smart devices. Utilizing Web browser add-ons to distribute malware, this strategy is proving to be successful because non tech-savvy users inherently view them as harmless. Thailand currently ranks third in the world for having the highest number of location based attacks and most online breaches were ultimately traced back to user-installed malware.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates that 2.4 million tourists will arrive in the month of April to join in the merriment of Songkran and to keep the everyone connected, there is a need to boost the modernization of infrastructure in Thailand. This is why it is important to build out the next-generation broadband and video support for the country wide network – not just for the increasing number of tourists, but also to embrace the inter-regional connectivity enabled by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 at the end of the year.

Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Image courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The Internet and connecting the previously unconnected is changing every aspect of how people live and communicate in Thailand, creating deeper connections despite being separated over great physical distances.

With the rise of more versatile smart and connected devices, the idea of festivities away from your family is slowly fading as these smart devices will allow us to connect and interact with our loved ones no matter the distance.

Happy New Year and here’s to our connected and secure future!


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Technology, Sharing and a World of Solutions: Cisco Live 2015, Melbourne

Great vibe at Cisco Live!Cisco Live 2015 - Audience 
What an amazing event we’ve had in Melbourne at Cisco Live 2015! Five exciting days filled with Cisco technologies and the energy of participants and speakers from around the world – subject matter experts, partners, IT professionals, students and customers across industries. They all came to Cisco Live 2015 in Melbourne to be part of the great things we’re doing.

As the Chief Technology Officer and managing director of Enterprise Networks for Asia Pacific and Japan, I speak and attend many events. But not many like this. The excitement around our innovations and the positive vibe from our partners and customers couldn’t have been more palpable! (more…)

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