Blogging from Silicon Valley: Human networks

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Organizers of the Telfer EMBA trip to Silicon Valley saved the best of briefings for the last day.

(Stock image)

Today, we visited two companies best known for their networks. While technology was certainly part of the discussion, human networking – and the value of people, customers, reputations and business relationships – dominated the discussions.

The day started at Aruba Networks and a meeting with president and CEO Dominic Orr. Aruba focuses on mission-critical wireless applications, with a vision of becoming the “biggest small company” within Silicon Valley. That means being large enough to undertake world-class R&D while remaining nimble enough to retain personal relationships with customers.

Mr. Orr said he believes people want to work where they can have an impact on the organization while having fun and being recognized for their work. Aruba believes that trust is the basis for a partnership, and that people buy from people. While Aruba is passionate about technology, it is clear that its focus is all about their customers.

Following our stay Aruba we ventured to Cisco Systems. It was here that the often mentioned, but little understood, “Internet of things” was explained to us by Tony Shakib, the company’s vice-president of business solutions.

When we fully realized that concept – used to describe the network of an ever-increasing number of objects physical objects accessed through the Internet – we quickly concluded that a world where everything is connected to everything else will open up incredible global opportunities. Next on the speaking agenda was Inder Sidhu, Cisco’s senior vice-president of strategy, who spoke about the choice many companies face – to innovate or to sustain – and argues that one can find ways to do both within a company.

Cisco may be a large company, but it places a premium on leading-edge innovation by acquiring companies with disruptive technology or investing within these technologies using a concept it calls “spin-in.”

Cisco actively evaluates the impact on culture when considering potential acquisitions, according to Rob Lloyd, the company’s president of development and sales. He stressed that Cisco often resists the temptation to “Ciscoise” a company after an acquisition and intentionally leaves the original culture intact to retain its secret sauce.

–By Ron MacEachern

This article is the fifth in a series on the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management Executive MBA class trip to the Silicon Valley. The trip is part of the EMBA curriculum on "Innovation and Entrepreneurship."

Organizations: Cisco Systems, Aruba Networks, University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management Executive MBA

Geographic location: Silicon Valley

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