New Adventures: Hello Cisco

I’ve left the startup world and gone back to the corporate world.  Tomorrow is my first day at Cisco where I will be a Consulting Systems Engineer! My role will be customer facing and speaking with customers in the state, local government, and higher education sectors and showing them the benefits of the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).

I’ve already met with many on the team and it turns out the Cisco office is walking distance from my house (about 2 football fields away!)  I had no idea it was even there and I’ve been in this house for 6 years!  I’m looking forward to less travel and becoming more acquainted with people in my own backyard.  In the last 5 years, none of my customers have been in the state, so meeting the good neighbors here in Oregon is definitely something I’m looking forward to.

As far as my old company Sumavi, I can’t express enough how great it was.  The business was going very well.  We were making money and we were providing good services for our customers.  The people I worked with were great too.  They were eager to grow and had good work ethic and I am thankful for the chance they took on me to start a new venture.  The company will still go on without me.  I’m not sure what the strategy is going forward, but I could certainly direct you to the right person if you are interested.

So why would I leave all that?  Well there are a few reasons:

1.  I was focusing too much of my efforts on services.  Perhaps we could have limited the scope of our support contracts and gone for something a little different, but it was good to provide services and I think we really helped our customers.  Writing software is more of a passion to me than doing services, even though I really do enjoy making things work for customers.  But spending so much time with customers gave me no time for development.

2.  I wasn’t focused enough.  Automated IT services has a ton of different fronts:  Image catalogue management, making a VMware plugin, making a Puppet like rules engine for xCAT? doing something with KVM, exploring integration of xCAT and OpenStack…  Our main objective was to create a usable GUI for xCAT.  That we accomplished.  But xCAT itself suffers from the same problem I had:  Lack of focus and being pulled in too many directions.  I don’t think most people know how great the xCAT VMware support is.  The xCAT KVM support is equally as awesome and Jarrod has done a ton of great work on it.  But anyway, focus is the key and I don’t think xCAT has that, nor did I.   We made VMware solutions, KVM solutions yet most of our customers wanted bare metal solutions…

3.  Cisco just made me a great offer and is a great opportunity.  The IDC data just came out and Cisco has 9.4% market share in Blade Servers and is only growing.  The people that I met who work at Cisco love it and have said all kinds of things as to why it is such a great company.  I didn’t really go looking for the opportunity, it just kind of happened and I’m thankful for it.  I’m also very excited to see how it goes!  Learning more about UCS and VMware solutions sounds pretty cool to me.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to work at a startup and have the experience.  It was fantastic and I can’t help but think someday I’ll go back to it.  Here are two lessons from this startup to add to the millions of other startup advice:

1.  The team is the most important thing.  Know who you are going to work with and understand what everyone brings to the table.  Make sure you understand exactly what people will be doing and have it well defined at first.  In addition if something happens to the business and you don’t understand it, don’t brush it off, have straight talks and figure it out so that it doesn’t eat you up for months afterwards.  Better to get that stuff out ASAP!

2.  Conviction in your strategy, focus on the strategy and execution of the strategy.  Get the conviction first, then follow with everything else.  Even if you’re wrong it seems that conviction will get you farther than if you don’t stick with the plan.

As a kid I used to start up rock bands of all kinds of things:  Funk, Country, Alternative, etc.  As an adult, I can see myself doing the same thing:  Launching startups like they are rock bands.  Well, for now, I’m content with Cisco and maybe I will just launch another rock band.

  • Frank DAgostino

    I was directed to your blog by a former colleague George Lamb. u00a0George and I both worked for Cisco Systems and if you are headed to Lake Oswego, I assembled the DC lab gear, including UCS. u00a0Greg Semler and Brad Jackson are awesome people at Cisco as are many in that office. u00a0Congratulations and tell the people there I said hello. u00a0Frank D’Agostino

    • Vallard Benincosa

      Wow! u00a0Thanks Frank! u00a0They all still talk very highly of you here. u00a0I try to get in here several few times a week. u00a0So far I’m very happy here and I’ve met both Greg and Brad. u00a0I’ve been messing around with the UCS you set up in here quite a bit. u00a0Lot’s of fun! u00a0I was checking out your new company. u00a0Looks very exciting!

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