Cisco Systems on Dec. 19 announced that its chief development officer, Charlie Giancarlo, will step down to become a managing director in private equity firm Silver Lake.
Giancarlo, a 14-year veteran at Cisco, led Cisco's 20,000 engineers and was responsible for managing the strategy and execution of Cisco's technological development. He was also president of Cisco's $1 billion Linksys home networking unit.
Although he was considered by industry watchers to be the heir apparent to CEO John Chambers, that opportunity does not seem to have matched Giancarlo's aspirations. In a conference call, CEO John Chambers said such a decision would not be made for another three to five years.
"I'm 50 years old," Giancarlo said in the conference call on Dec. 19. "My decision-making process at 55 might be different than it is today. There will be the right generational change at Cisco when that day comes," he added.
To read more about Giancarlo's departure from Cisco, click here.
Cisco will not name a new chief development officer, but rather spread those responsibilities out across the new development council the company announced earlier in December. The council, made up of the leaders of multiple Cisco units, is charged with making the company more effective in delivering focused and integrated products.
"The entire development council will function as the CDO," Chambers said during the conference call. "Each leader on the council is amazingly talented. We believe the collaboration model [as used by the council] will be used for all businesses. This is the structure for the future."
Giancarlo at the start of the new year will become a partner and managing director at Silver Lake in Menlo Park, Calif. "I'll be working at high levels across multiple companies," he said.
Giancarlo joined Cisco in 1994 with its acquisition of LAN switching maker Kalpana. He became vice president of business development and was instrumental in Cisco's first 18 acquisitions. He went on to become senior vice president of global alliances, where he spearheaded the creation of strategic alliances with IBM, Microsoft, Sprint and Accenture.
As chief development officer, Giancarlo directed the development of technologies that included unified communications, digital video, wireless networking, routing, switching, security, storage networking and network management.
As for the next potential successor to Chambers, Cisco will likely look to its own strong bench of leaders when the time comes. "We never miss a transition of leadership. We're in very good shape internally. I would not rule out an outside person, but most likely we will have three to four candidates ready at the right time," Chambers said.
Industry analyst Dave Passmore of the Burton Group said he believes Giancarlo's departure will have little impact on Cisco customers. "He was a great spokesperson for the company and was knowledgeable in a lot of their technology areas, but there's such bench strength in Cisco's management, I don't think this will have much effect," Passmore said.
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