I vividly remember my first trip to San Jose to meet my new team and colleagues at Cisco - a company that, until then, I had not heard much of before. This was not really a surprise as I came from the real estate industry, and at that time routers and switches didn't appear to go well with bricks and mortar.
I coincidentally had crossed paths with some Cisco folks that were looking to make their buildings and workplaces more 'connected', and eventually more 'intelligent'. This led to a few years of consulting with Cisco's corporate real estate team and then a job offer in the summer of 2005.
Twelve years ago I started a journey that I had never imagined and one that has been nothing short of amazing.
After a few months with Cisco's corporate real estate department, I was asked to help apply the ideas for smarter and more connected buildings to our customers in the marketplace. I joined our incredible sales organization and helped shape a Smart Building practice for our Emerging Markets region.
While living in Toronto (and achieving top-tier frequent flyer status within the first six weeks of the year) I have had the fortune to visit places I'd never been before, and in some cases had never heard of before. I traveled from Russia and the Middle East to South Africa and across South America to assist the digitization of real estate and communities.
It quickly became apparent to me what the Cisco brand, the Cisco machine, and the Cisco people were capable of: we were transforming client engagements from mere technology pursuits to lasting partnerships and strategic efforts that would prove to transform projects, businesses, and industries.
Who knew that selling routers and switches (and a whole bunch of other stuff) could be so incredibly exciting and impactful.
My two years in our Emerging Markets region were followed by two more years of the same 'market making' for North America. Although I had been in Toronto all that time, it was only then that I got increasingly immersed in the amazing team of Cisco Canada where I would dedicate most of my subsequent eight years.
Slowly but surely, I had the fortune to morph my role from a focus on real estate only into smart cities, verticals, solutions, and then innovation and digital transformation. During this time, I have had the privilege to work with the best team in the industry one could wish for.
Together, we started the (digital) transformation of Canada's healthcare, municipal, energy, finance, real estate, and industrial sectors. The customers we have worked with, the projects we have worked on, and the new industry connections we have created and nurtured, have given me an out-of-this world experience.
I've often felt guilty for getting paid while doing what I love, and building this unbelievable industry practice. In addition to the innovative and transformative industry groundswell that I have been able to help create, I have had the opportunity to also build one of the most comprehensive and impactful innovation programs in the industry:
We have secured twelve University Research Chairs and have created wonderful partnerships with the academic sector in support of Canada’s future workforce with work-integrated learning opportunities and meaningful research projects. Together with the academic sector, we are focusing on the future of smart grid, smart buildings, big data, health sciences, internet of things, collaboration, and much more - all foundational to the digitization of our Country, industries and business.
21st Century Skills - Networking Academy
I've had the privilege to work with Canada's Networking Academy team and help connect this amazing 21st Century skill-building program to our customers and academic partnerships. The Networking Academy in Canada is one of the largest and fastest growing CSR programs at Cisco. We are literally helping to raise the bar of digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and cyber awareness for all Canadians while offering 10,000s of students access to accredited networking certifications.
We have invested a significant part of our $150M IoT Ventures commitment into amazing Canadian start-ups and entrepreneurs through partnerships with three of Canada's most creative Venture Capital firms. Numerous of these startups are collaborating with our engineers in our Toronto Innovation Centre, and numerous of these Canadian innovations will end up as part of our industry solutions that support the digital transformation of our customer base (both in Canada and beyond).
The 2015 PanAm Games was a real catalyst for Cisco in the Canadian marketplace. We helped it become one of the most connected sporting events while creating a lasting impact and showcase of technology capabilities for the digitization of our Country. Subsequently, we have left a $15M technology legacy investment with academic institutions and Canadian not-for-profits.
For many years, my team and I have been able to lead the messaging and thought leadership of Digital Transformation in Canada. I am proud to see that my team members are sought-after speakers and industry experts for events, associations, and boards. We are making markets and substantially increase our relevance with executies and business decisions makers. We have moved the conversations from the server room to the boardroom, and are impacting our customers’ business outcomes.
I have had the amazing pleasure of building and advocating for one of Cisco's nine global innovation centres. The only centre in North America is located in our Canadian headquarters in Toronto. The projects we are engaging on with our customers and partners (e.g. TD Bank, London Hydro, EllisDon, Barrick Gold, Oxford Properties, City of Mississauga, ESRI, just to name a few) are nothing short of mind-blowing.
We are building proof of concepts and solutions [in our Innovation Centre] that apply the Internet of Things and other foundational digital capabilities to the transformation of healthcare, financial services, real estate, and smart cities in unprecedented ways. Our Innovation Centre is a true showcase of IoT innovation, and a breeding ground for new and exciting industry solutions that will further the digitization of our Country, industries, and business. And one could argue… we haven't seen anything yet !
Cisco HQ in RBC Waterpark Place
Lastly, I have been part of a most exciting journey to help define, design, select, and move to our new Canadian Headquarters. The RBC Waterpark Pace is the most connected and intelligent building in Canada. Leveraging innovation from our Innovation Centre, we have been able to deploy "everything" onto a single IP network allowing us to improve facilities operations. Our modern Toronto office has become a showcase for the real estate industry and our customers across the Americas. It has become the hub for digital excellence, and the ultimate demonstration and catalysts for business transformation.
It almost feels like I may have closed a loop…as this is exactly where I started my Cisco career twelve years ago.
I think we've built a well-oiled innovation machine that is going to continue to pay dividends for Cisco, our customers, governments and institutions, and ultimately the Country. And the timing couldn't be any more perfect. As our Federal (and Provincial and Municipal) governments seek to cultivate our innovation economy, they're looking for industry partners that share in the vision of a digital Canada: We are that!
So, here I am, contemplating my twelve most amazing years with Cisco, and celebrating many amazing accomplishments, projects and programs, and most importantly, partners, colleagues, and friends. But it is this same contemplation that makes me antsy to explore and define what my next challenges and opportunities could be.
After quite some deliberation, I have concluded that these next challenges and opportunities may not necessary lie within Cisco. I believe that I can take the incredible things I have learned, built, and experienced and apply them to new interests and other industries.
It is therefore with unbelievable mixed emotions that I am going to say goodbye to my friends at Cisco. I am going to leave the Cisco-digital-transformation-train at this next intersection of my life. Now, I am going to try some new things in order to broaden, expand, and create my own and new destiny.
To all of you that made this the most amazing time of my life, and that have given me the experience and confidence to make this bold leap, I say: THANK YOU.
I think this is a 'goodbye' and not a 'farewell'. Thanks to an amazing twelve years, my friendships and connections at Cisco, our partners, customers, industries, and government go deep and wide. My passion remains with 'innovation', 'disruption' and 'transformation'. I am therefore confident that our paths will keep crossing as we together (from wherever we are) continue to contribute to the digitization of Canada and seek to create new opportunities for all Canadians.
I hope we stay in touch. Please follow me on twitter @DrRickH or connect with me on LinkedIn. Here, you will learn of my new plans, projects and endeavours. And here, I also hope to keep learning from you.
Adieu. Here's to New beginnings.