Inside Campus: How Cisco R&D does what it does best – Innovate

From developing end-to-end IoT platforms to playing a key role in designing the encrypted traffic analytics solution, Cisco’s R&D Centre in Bangalore innovates at par with any of its global sites. Krishna Sundaresan, VP-Engineering, Enterprise Networking Group, Cisco Systems tells us what puts the R&D Centre in a league of its own.

Krishna Sundaresan, VP-Engineering, Enterprise Networking Group, Cisco Systems
Cisco

Established in October 2007, Cisco’s R&D facility at Bangalore now employs 11,000 people and serves as the breeding ground for some of Cisco’s cutting edge technology solutions.

It's not just the strength of the workforce that sets the R&D unit apart – it’s the caliber of the people working there, their expertise, and the legacy they’ve built over the years.

The R&D Centre sees, on average, a patent filed every two days and is the birthplace for numerous key technologies like intent-based networking, next-gen firewalls, and end-to-end IoT platforms, to name a few.

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Snapshot: Cisco R&D Centre at a glance

In an industry reeling under high attrition rates, the average employee tenure in Cisco’s R&D Centre stands at a remarkable 7.8 years. A prime reason for this is a highly motivated workforce that prides itself on working with cutting-edge technologies and closely engaging with customers.

And it's this work culture and sense of belonging amongst its employees that puts Cisco in the top rung. In a survey covering 3.4 million employees across 90 countries, Great Place to Work, in partnership with Fortune, ranked Cisco Systems as the No.1 company to work for.

In an exclusive interaction with Computerworld, Krishna Sundaresan, VP-Engineering, Enterprise Networking Group at Cisco Systems, reveals what keeps Cisco’s employees driven and motivated, and key technologies the R&D Centre is working on.

Sundaresan shares that there are at least a thousand people who've stayed with the Cisco R&D facility for close to 10 years now. Although the workforce was initially employed for back-end work, in the last five years, it has been innovating on-par with other Cisco sites – bringing products to the market with the same level of complexity and capabilities as any other site in the world.

Edited excerpts:

Krishna, could you tell us about the legacy of the research center – which solutions were developed here? Also the key technologies the Centre is working on.

The team here files, on an average, one patent every two days. One way to spur innovation is to work with customers directly – the need drives innovation.

There are a lot of themes and innovative technology solutions being built here - for instance, encrypted traffic analytics. The team here played a significant role in the development of Catalyst 9000 products. 

Among the notable ones are Catalyst 9600 and Catalyst 9800 – a next-gen wireless LAN controller. In addition to this, a lot of the next-gen firewall development was done by the security team in this facility.

We also work very closely with the technology body driving the Smart City project. We play a key role in enabling newer technologies and helping frame the process in which the project will be deployed.

krishna sundaresan vice president engineering enterprise networking group cisco systems 002 Cisco

We work very closely with the technology body driving the Smart City project. We play a key role in enabling newer technologies and helping frame the process in which the project will be deployed.

Krishna Sundaresan, VP-Engineering, Enterprise Networking Group, Cisco Systems

What about enterprise solutions? Is there a particular market the Centre primarily focuses on?

For the enterprise, we're developing intent-based network behavior, where you specify intent and the network adapts itself to the intent. Our datacenter team, on the other hand, works on some of the newer platforms as well as the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

The service provider team here is working on developing 5G and IoT platforms. These platforms connect to IoT devices and share the data with the cloud. 

The team works as a fulcrum for building solutions catering to the APAC market. 

Could you throw some light on the skills gap in the tech space? How does Cisco go about bridging the gap?

For new employees, you have to get them to a place where they know about the backgrounds of various technologies and trends shaping the space. 

So to equip them with the prerequisite knowledge, we have a mechanism to give them some sort of a baseline so they may contribute as soon as they join. The new employees love it because they don't have to go through classroom training. 

One of the things we train new employees on and bring them up to speed is by teaching them system skills and technologies they'll be working on. Once they're equipped with the necessary know-how, they're given hands-on experience, working in tandem with a mentor.

Unlike classroom training, we've seen the hands-on, mentor-guided method working very well for us. We track their progress very closely and we've observed a sense of gratification among new employees.

krishna sundaresan vice president engineering enterprise networking group cisco systems 002 Cisco

Unlike classroom training, we've seen the hands-on, mentor-guided method working very well for us. We track their progress very closely and we've observed a sense of gratification among new employees.

Krishna Sundaresan, Cisco Systems

The mentoring program is a very carefully orchestrated method we drive for people across the company and not just new employees. 

We’ve seen a lot of companies struggling to deal with high attrition rates. What does Cisco do to engage and motivate its employees?

The compensation we offer is reasonably competitive. In addition to this, employees are rewarded with the opportunity to do challenging work and gauge the impact they can create in the marketplace.  

Whatever we develop here will register on a global scale. Very few companies come close to the impact we can create from a scaling standpoint. 

A lot of next-gen platforms are being built here. The employees get a chance to work with cutting-edge technologies, closely engaging with customers. We have built enough competence and expertise over a period of time.

We also place a lot of importance on the management's engagement with employees. We've seen numerous employees joining straight out of college and becoming principal engineers. And this is why we've seen a lot of people staying with Cisco for long periods of time.

We have a large set of distribution and principal engineers working out of this Centre in Bangalore. Employees get motivated by working with these people.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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