by CIO Staff

Laid Off from Cisco, Reader Speaks Out

Dec 01, 20017 mins
Business IT Alignment

Let Sales Be Your Ears

In response to your article [“What Went Wrong at Cisco,” Aug. 1, 2001], I was recently laid off from Cisco. I believe the reason for Cisco’s failure was upper management’s failure to connect with the department that feeds leads to the sales department. Of course any salesperson is going to lead management down a rosy path where he either exaggerates numbers or assures management about sales figures until a given review time. To get real feedback about how a company is doing, talk to the department that feeds leads to the salespeople. They have no reason to lie?their job or salary will not be affected either way. Find out from them what they are hearing from the field. This is a failure I have seen in many organizations. It’s the sales development department that is the ears of any business and the front line that directly communicates with your customer.

I worked in a department called field sales development. It was my responsibility to make more than 60 calls a day to potential customers in a region. Last December, I knew that business was going down the tubes because every manager in a company’s tech department told me directly that they did not have a budget set aside for hardware purchases this year. They said, “We just went through an upgrade a year and a half ago.” If Cisco management had done something as simplistic as talking to the front line that fed leads to the sales department?which always exaggerates numbers?they would have known what lay ahead.

So simplistic, so easy, so inexpensive to know what is happening with your business. I’ll bet CEO John Chambers doesn’t even know Cisco has a field sales department! Now I know how poorly run a giant corporation can be.


Raleigh, N.C.

One of the problems with Cisco is that its arrogance (the account executives’) has turned off many people. No one company has a lock on talent anymore, and based on some of the attitudes that the account executives have, they are bound to lose more.

It is quite obvious after reading this article that it was neither a fast-changing economy nor flawed systems. It is a simple conclusion that it is the arrogant attitude of Cisco and its blinder-wearing management. It appears that no one in the management of this company was willing to acknowledge what was going on in the marketplace. They either thought they were above any kind of downturn or somebody didn’t speak loudly enough.

Even after all of its problems, Cisco still wants to put the blame on uncontrollable forces. I say it is basic mismanagement that caused its problems.

Gene McVey


McVey & Associates

Greensboro, N.C.

I can almost guarantee that the first person at Cisco who questioned the forecast as being too optimistic was characterized as negative and committed vocational suicide in the process.

John A. DeGroat

Landenberg, Pa.

Not Sold

I was disheartened to read your article written from the perspective of one who seems to have been a witness to only sales amateurs [“The Selling Game,” Sept. 1, 2001]. These amateurs often accept positions from troubled organizations that establish unreasonable quotas, set do-or-die performance requirements, maintain counterproductive sales management and partake in poor training programs. As a result, these sales amateurs elicit many of the behaviors you described and encourage a somewhat combative setting.

I hope that in the future you will complement this article by writing about the conduct and habits of a true technology sales professional. Although sales professionals are unfortunately far outnumbered by amateurs who make their jobs far more difficult (along with biased authors), their behaviors are highly effective yet far from what your article described. The sales professional earns a living through reputation, positive referrals, valued relationships, integrity and efficient mutual qualification. The goal is not to forcefully close a sale but to tactfully open a relationship. These relationships cannot be maintained by “over-selling and under-delivering” but by establishing a consultative position with sincere, consistent follow-through. Keep in mind that the defensive CIO you wrote about has probably been approached by amateurs?those who are managed only by numbers and not behaviors. Yet, ironically these CIOs must rely on the performance of sales professionals to extend their relatively short life span. I hope one day you experience an interaction with a true sales professional and feel compelled to write about it to offset the negative stereotype you have reinforced.

Eric A. King

The Modeling Agency

The Woodlands, Texas

I.T. Hates Women?

I read with interest “Why IT Hates Women,” [Sept. 15, 2001]. The article reads, in part: “Women CIOs remain a small fraction of those who populate the executive suite.” And: “If IT were a meritocracy, we would have seen higher representation of women by now.” Statements are made about gender bias, glass ceilings and stereotypes. Sounds like the old white boys are to blame so far. Then we read this about Karen Hogan: “She has no desire to get to the next level. The money wouldn’t be much better and she is not willing to take the hit on her personal time.” She said, “My current position fits well with my life style.” So what’s the problem?

Then Rebecca Rhoads tells us she’s willing to put her family life on the back burner and work 20-hour days. She’s willing. No one is making her do this. So two out of the three women are getting exactly what they want, but there’s a problem with women in IT? Maybe I don’t get it. I’m an IT manager for a small company (employs 100). I’ve seen my share of marathon days. I’ll admit it, sometimes I move to a dark corner and cry (or at least whine a little) about how things are. But that’s just the job. If I don’t do it, it simply doesn’t get done.

What I’m saying is I don’t see how it’s different for any gender in IT. Personally, I have not seen bias. In fact, my experience has been that IT is very friendly to women. So much so that I don’t make a distinction as to whom I’m working with?if they know their stuff I don’t care if they’re an android. I never think about it.

Tom Henricks

Data Processing Manager

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Leaders in I.T.

Thank you for the in-depth article on the success of Indian tribes in IT [“Outsourced in America,” Oct. 1, 2001]. Too often, you read of poverty, despair, chaos, and lack of leadership and business opportunities in Indian country. Too often, American Indians suffer from the stereotypical image that life on the reservation does not permit a lifestyle that takes advantage of the opportunities of e-commerce and IT.

I thank you for doing a great job of writing about these success stories and dispelling some negative images of Indian tribes. It is good to hear of Indian leaders who are pursuing business opportunities instead of conflict and court battles.

To tell some of my contacts in Indian country about the efforts of CIO, I have e-mailed many Indian people who are leaders in efforts with e-commerce and the digital divide. I asked them to view your article and link to it from their news websites.

Ben Jacobs

Economic Development Director

Lumbee Regional Development Association

Pembroke, N.C.