Sunday, April 26, 2009

No.4 Cisco Networks

Industry: Networking
Employees: 4,600
Workplace Units: 7
Business units: 4
Unique roles: 72

CISCO PRIDES ITSELF ON ITS NETWORKING ABILITIES—HUMAN networking. So, one would expect the company to stress on HR practices that pamper employees. Surprisingly, HR boss Subhash AK Rao is remarkably blasé on what differentiates Cisco as a workplace. “By itself, we don’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary—rather it is the degree to which the attributes of a good workplace come together that makes us unique.” To top it all, this isn’t your usual MNC, where control rests outside India. With 20% of Cisco’s leadership based here, India calls the shots too. Rao explains: “India today leads 28 sectors for Cisco worldwide, up from just five earlier. This has opened up new opportunities.” Because a chunk of Cisco’s work is driven out of India, people here are exposed to a wider canvas.

In a day, a Cisco employee could be working for four different geographies, two technologies and three markets. Employees find this variety exhilarating, but admit its hard work. Long hours are common in Cisco, but employees have the flexibility to work according to their timelines. “If you want to take off early on Friday or get into office late on Monday, nobody will stop you. We are treated as mature adults—there’s no nagging,” says a young hire.

The opportunity to work across different technologies and diverse customer groups is another attraction at Cisco. This is possible, says Rao, because Cisco does not follow a single technology religion. “We started with routers, moved into switches and followed up with data, voice, video and now mobility. There are 20 technologies in which Cisco is either number one or number two globally. At Cisco, we cover the gamut of the hi-tech industry—not many organisations give you this opportunity,” adds Rao.

Although the size of the organisation is $40 billion with 60,000-plus employees on the rolls, Cisco works like a cluster of businesses (built around a particular echnology area). An old Cisco hand says each business unit runs like an independent company, and is responsible for its products and revenue stream. “Targets are set internally and people within the business unit are responsible for these targets. You are pretty much on your own, and that’s what keeps the spirit of innovation alive,” he adds.

At Cisco, innovation is not just about technology and engineering—it’s also about how to run the business. Explains Rao, “Our mantra is collaboration and teamwork. For example, formal reporting is a very insignifi cant part of what defines you—you are defined more by how many councils you are on, what you are leading and what initiatives you are a part of.” Also, as Cisco transitions from simply selling a product to sharing risk and revenues with customers, everyday brings with it new lessons.

Cisco’s tagline of ‘changing the way we live, work, play and learn’ may sound a little exaggerated to outsiders, but Rao says the company actually walks the talk. For example, the use of technology at the workplace enables employees to work anywhere and collaborate with anyone—whether it’s a video-conference at the touch of a button or a ‘virtual office’ router at home. Cisco does not believe in commute to compute— the rationale is that you should be able to compute from anywhere and commuting should be more around collaboration.

People inside Cisco use the phrase ‘worklife integration’ to describe the Cisco culture. “If you enjoy what you do and are able to do it at your convenience, I can’t think of a better alternative,” sums up Rao.

Source : outlook India

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