With much fanfare, Zorawar Biri Singh was appointed new CTO of Cisco on July 27, 2015, as Cisco's incoming CEO Chuck Robbins assumed the mantle of leadership from John Chambers. Singh's tenure at Cisco, however, was a short-lived one, with the company revealing that Singh is set to leave the company by the end of the month.
Prior to joining Cisco, Singh was a venture partner at Khosla Ventures from October 2014 until the time he joined Cisco. Before that was the General Manager of HP's Cloud business from February 2011 until February 2013.
Singh's departure is somewhat different than the long list of well-known and respected Cisco executives that have already left this year because Singh was specifically brought in as part of the Robbins era.
To be fair to Singh, he had the deck stacked against him when he joined Cisco and I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. Singh was replacing the charismatic Padmasree Warrior, who was often onstage alongside Chambers at any major event.
In contrast, aside from the first few events in the Robbins era, I've barely seen Singh, as the company has not placed him front and center. I'd suspect there has been no shortage of tension (and some drama too) in the Cisco ranks with Singh as CTO. Being an outsider coming in, without the direct, well established ties to Cisco's engineering workforce, the challenge of establishing credibility and rapport was likely difficult.
If I were Robbins, I'd look to promote from within for the next CTO, with someone that has deep engineering expertise with Cisco technologies and also understands the big picture too.
The role of CTO in many organizations has long been to evangelize technologies and help create the vision. It will be interesting to see what vision emerges from Cisco in 2017 and who (as CTO) will be the visionary.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist