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John Chambers was diagnosed with dyslexia at a very tender age. That neither ruffled his confidence – supported by his doctor parents and aided by a therapist, Chambers coped with it – nor it prove to be an impediment in his normal development as a kid, which could have been the case. And, then he overcame many other adversities to come to a position in life from where he can easily be called as one of the beacons of successful entrepreneurship. He has done it all the hard way. Learning the nuances of the trade at the couple of pioneering organizations he got to work with and, then, when he assumed responsibility of steering one of the technology giants, CISCO, through the so-called ‘Technology Collapse,’ he did it so wonderfully well. In fact, under his leadership, the company has not only withstood the tides of some of the rough times the technology world had to face but also managed to increase the company’s top-line manifold (an astounding 4000% in just  over a decade-and-half!!) – all this expressly manifest in the record earnings and record revenues for eight quarters in a row (upto March 2013). His leadership, vision and strategy are working which have not only accelerated the growth and expansion of the company but has also won him awards from the people –CEOs- who know how difficult it is to do what Chambers has done and continues to do.

A Challenging Childhood

John Chambers was born (1949) in Cleveland, Ohio, to a doctor couple. His father, John Tuner, was an obstetrician while mother, June Chambers, was a psychiatrist. A few years later, when the family moved to live in Kanawha, WV, young John all just only 9 years old was diagnosed with dyslexia. Instead of sulking and crying over ill-luck, John’s parents were --made of sterner stuff as they were-- ever so determined to help their son cope with the disability, in any which way possible. This they did wonderfully well with the help of an able therapist. All this meant that the child had as little trouble from the condition as possible and, free from any stigma whatsoever of the same. The healthy and positive surroundings and the determination of his parents imbued in John a never-say-die attitude that he was would put to use to great effect in much of his later life.

The child thus emboldened by the difficult times he went through, eventually grew to be a very good student. He went on to complete his Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Arts degree in business and a law degree from West Virginia University and followed it with an MBA degree in finance and management from Indiana University. He had also attended the School of Engineering at Duke University from 1967 to 1968.

The Spark

It can be said without any shred of doubt that the kid had some inexplicable spark in him that propelled him to excel in academics. The winning streak continued and lead him to the field of technology which he thought was the right platform to give wings to his latent talent.

So, right after completing his MBA in 1976, Chambers joined the technology sales team of the pioneering company, IBM. After more than half-a-decade of service at IBM, Chambers moved to another pioneering and leading research firm of the time - Wang Laboratories, in 1982.

He showed enough promise as well as delivery at Wang where he would go on to assumes a position of leadership for the first time in his life. This happened in 1987 when he was elevated to the post of Vice President of U.S. operations. After proving his quality in the next 4 years in that position at Wang, he made the ultimate jump of his professional career.

In 1991, he joined CISCO as Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Operations in which position he would remain for the next 4 years i.e. up until his rise through to the post of the CEO.

CISCO under John Chambers

When John Chambers joined CISCO way back in 1991, the company’s revenues stood at mere $70 million. It was not a bad progress card for the company. The only problem was there were other larger players lurking around to leap-frog CISCO. By the time he became the CEO and President of the company in 1995, the revenues had risen by about 70% to $1.2 billion. That on its own wasn’t bad either, one would say.

But others were growing at a break-neck speed and if something wasn’t done to be upto speed, then CISCO would be left behind in the race. Chambers had the right leadership credentials – knowledge, wisdom, vision, and strategy. So, when it was time to take the decision, the CISCO board did not hesitate to hand over the responsibility of the company to Chambers. Why would they? They knew very well that his pedigree, education, and rich experience at two of the world’s innovative companies would stand the company in good stead. Importantly, it will perhaps trigger the growth envisioned by the board and the investors alike.

His astute leadership and vision - that saw the internet revolution coming and ruling the lives of millions of people across the globe- have greatly helped in making CISCO the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet.

And his work and contribution to the company’s impressive growth and success hasn’t gone unnoticed. So far, during his tenure as the CEO, it has been named to Fortune's "America's Most Admired Company" list since 1999 ranking number one in the Network Communications category eight times, Business Week’s "Top 50 Performers" list six times, Forbes’ "Leading Companies in the World," and is one of the top 10 places to work in the United States, China, Germany, France, India, UK, Australia, Singapore, and several other countries.

The list could go one, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that the CISCO-Chambers association was a scripted one. His extraordinary achievements in business and his leadership in the fields of education, public service and philanthropy continue to inspire hundreds of students and contemporaries even. No small feat for a person for whom not even a handful of optimists would have given a chance to grow and achieve what he has, much less excel in that.

Other Associations

Chambers has served two American presidents, most recently as Vice Chairman of the President George W. Bush National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), where he provided industry experience and leadership to help protect the United States' critical infrastructure. He has also served on President George W. Bush's Transition Team and Education Committee, as well as on President Bill Clinton's Trade Policy Committee.


Given Chambers’ background, it was only natural that the man would put his heart into contributing to the happiness of the world which has given him so much, in any which way possible. Thus we see that he takes an active role in corporate social responsibility initiatives worldwide. Some of the most notable ones being the recent partnerships that include working with the Palestinian ICT sector that resulted in it growing ICT from .8% to over 5% of GDP in 2 years; Connecting Sichuan, an effort to help rebuild healthcare and education models in the Sichuan region of China which was impacted by an earthquake in May 2008. Chambers also cosponsored the Jordan Education Initiative, which CISCO has worked on in partnership with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and the World Economic Forum. That besides, in 2006, Chambers had co-led a delegation of U.S. business leaders, in partnership with the U.S. State Department, to form the Partnership for Lebanon that was aimed at helping provide critically needed resources for ongoing reconstruction in Lebanon. Chambers has also spearheaded several other education initiatives, including the 21st Century Schools initiative, to improve education and opportunity for children in the Gulf Coast Region affected by Hurricane Katrina. (Source: CISCO)


Chambers married to Elaine. They have two children, Lindsay and John.

Accolades, Awards, & Honors

Chambers has received various awards and honors for his leadership and work over the past 18 years at the helm of CISCO. Some of them are:

CNN's Top 25 Most Powerful People
Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People"
Received the first-ever Clinton Global Citizen Award from former U.S. President Bill Clinton
One of Barron's "World's Best CEOs “
"Best Boss in America" by 20/20
Business Week's "Top 25 Executives Worldwide"
“CEO of the Year" by Chief Executive Magazine
Business Council's "Award for Corporate Leadership"
"Best Investor Relations by a CEO" from Investor Relations Magazine three times
Received twice the U.S. State Department Top Corporate Social Responsibility Award (ACE)
“Woodrow Wilson Award” for Corporate Citizenship
Silicon Valley Education Foundation Pioneer Business Leader Award, 2009
Franklin Institute's Bower Award for Business Leadership, 2012
Voted the Most Powerful Person in Networking by ‘Network World’ magazine
Distinguished Industry Leader Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Included in the "Hall of Fame" (award) from Channel Reseller News for his success in helping channel partners build sustainable business models


  Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way.
  Through the wisdom of its government leaders and the entrepreneurship of its private sector, India has rapidly risen to become a major force in the global economy, ... CISCO believes that the Internet, and related technologies, will be a key enabler for India to achieve its goal of becoming a developed nation.
  While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven't made in the last decade.
  I believe we — together — need to drive a fundamental culture change and it is up to us as leaders to make this change happen. What we have been doing hasn't worked, and it is time to adjust.
  I am ordering each of my top managers to come up with new women-focused initiatives and put them into their development plans.
  We love to compete, and we try to always compete with class. And we compete to win the market transitions.
  It’s too early to say how far along we are in becoming the world’s No. 1 IT player, or the Internet of everything. I’d say a little bit of progress there, but it’s way too early in the ball game to say.
  Technology has an exponential path in front of it, meaning it has the ability to propel science, medicine, business, social issues and personal interactions in ways that are increasingly important to society and our own everyday lives.
  While we remain cautious about the implications of a brief pause in the current 10-year expansion of the U.S. economy, we believe that CISCO has never been better positioned to help our customers solve their two most important business issues: Increasing productivity and creating new sources of revenue.
  We always try to look three to five years out in the decisions we make and there's no question that the CISCO brand, our opportunity in the commercial market and the evolution of our leaders are going to take us to the next level.
  There is a good chance India may become our largest total sales market in the whole of Asia.

Hope viewers caught up the spark…