Cisco’s John Chambers’ feedback on Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Cisco CEO John Chambers has met with every single G8 leader except for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The two have had meetings scheduled over the past few years but have never met. The word on the street in Ottawa was that Harper initially did not want to meet Chambers for whatever reason.

I thought that was a big mistake. But I got to give credit to Chambers. He did not quit. Last year in mid-August Chambers had another meeting scheduled with Harper in Ottawa. That meeting also did not take place. Chambers later on travelled to Toronto to announce along with the Province of Ontario's Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello a combined investment of almost a half-billion dollars in research and development facilities. Chambers said at the press conference that it's only one of few such agreements Cisco has signed with governments in his 16 years at the helm of the company. “Canada's been very good to Cisco,” said Chambers, naming it the company's third-largest market. He called Ontario “an amazing location in the world in terms of an IT workforce.”

In January of this year Chambers finally got his opportunity to meet Harper in person at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

I had an opportunity while covering theCisco Partner Summit in San Diego to ask Chambers his thoughts about meeting Harper and what they discussed.

This is what Chambers said: “The No. 1 place to do business in; is Canada. They are seventh in math and 9th in science and regardless of the politics they want to partner with business and they want to tightly operate with business in a good environment and that’s why it's the best place to do business in. We have a big investment in Ontario and there is new technology in healthcare and education we talked about. I can tell you that the Prime Minister listens well and he is, in my opinion, not political. He wants to do the best for the country and that model is how Europe can change and we have already seen it in Asia and that's to attract the best and brightest for the country. So I thought it was very positive.”

Chambers later on referenced Harper again to a question about Telepresence saying that he clearly understands what video means to the benefit of healthcare.

I’m sure some of Harper’s critics would argue against Chambers’ description of the Prime Minister not being “political”. But to me they would be missing the point. Chambers has to do what's right for Cisco and that would include Cisco’s Canadian operation, all of its customers in Canada and the channel partners the company works with. Chambers has met with many, many political leaders and he does this in my mind to help the Cisco subsidiary in that region and its network of channel partners. I also see the meeting as a positive sign as well. There is nothing wrong with a business leader and a President or Prime Minister getting together to discuss country direction and company direction. To me its smart business and I’m glad Chambers did not give up nor get discouraged.
Five quick hits before I go. I looks as if the end of this week will be D-Day at HP Canada. Lets hope its not all that bad.
Long time IBM Canada Channel Chief Gary Isaacs has joined Cisco Canada to run its mid-market business unit.
Jennifer Anaya has left NetEnrich to go back to her roots at Ingram Micro. She will now be the North American Marketing chief.
A few thoughts about two journalists I admired who have passed on recently: Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and Bert Randolph Sugar of Boxing Illustrated and Ring Magazine. Growing up not knowing that I wanted to be a journalist I was attracted to both. Sugar was a great story teller. His reporting on top boxing matches was must read material if you were a fan of the sweet science. Sugar has a great ability to make the most mundane bout sound historic.
As for Mike Wallace he showed me that if you wanted to be a reporter that you can't be scared. And, you don't necessarily have to be liked by the person you are interviewing. He showed that what's important is the information and that news must be shared with the public. I will missed them both.

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