02:56 PM
David Ewalt
David Ewalt

Global Thinking

Technology has the power to change the world, Cisco CEO Chambers says

Look up the word "bellwether" in the dictionary, and you might just see a picture of Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers. After all, his company remains the dominant vendor in the enterprise networking hardware market, and its fortunes continue to serve as a barometer for the technology industry as a whole. So then, the big question is, what are Chambers' expectations for a long-awaited turnaround in the technology sector?

"The expectation for 2004 is that wherever you see sustainable GDP growth, you'll see good growth in the tech sector," Chambers said by E-mail. "Barring any surprise, the segment of the tech sector that's tied to productivity increases will have a solid 2004."

Chambers also predicts it will be a year of winners and losers in the technology industry. "It's a matter of execution and how you tie your products into meeting customer needs."

John Chambers

IT is still a good career option, Chambers says

Photo by Darren Gygi
To do that, Cisco is tightly focusing its product development on six emerging technologies: security, IP telephony, storage networking, optical networking, wireless, and the home-networking market. "All six have the potential to be $1 billion markets for Cisco, if we execute well," Chambers said.

But the news isn't just that an improving economy means improved spending on technology; in fact, it also operates the other way around. "When you see people invest in IT, you see a correlation in productivity increases and correlation to GDP growth," Chambers said.

Still, Chambers worries that for all of technology's benefits, we may be missing an opportunity to really use it to change not just the future of business but the future of entire countries and the standard of living of their citizens. "It requires a multiple-part focus by government, business, and education to do that, as well as strong encouragement and support from the tech sector," he said. "I truly believe that jobs and the best future will go to where the best-educated workforce is with the right infrastructure and the right supportive government."

Chambers hopes that we can continue to build that educated workforce here in the United States, and he believes that technology remains an excellent career option for young people. "My first piece of advice to high-school students is to really emphasize the importance of education and ideally to obtain an advanced degree," he said. "Second, follow your heart and your mind in terms of what you're good at and what you enjoy. One thing I've learned is that you should focus on the things you enjoy and do well, and with a lot of hard work you can be truly successful. If business and technology are something you enjoy, then I think you can have a very bright future in a very rewarding area."

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