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TheStreet Open House

Come Behind the Scenes of Tech Pioneer Cisco, Part 2

The following is part 2 of a two-part series.  Click here for Part 1, which was published Friday.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) is basically everywhere. In addition to Cisco products and services being everywhere, the company is leading the charge in new growth areas, such as smart cities.

Bringing me behind the scenes at Cisco was Patrick Finn, senior vice president of Cisco's U.S. Public Sector Organization. The bonus points in this two-part series: Insights on leadership.

Question #5

Cisco is obviously a tech giant and veteran, making it a prime target for start-up nation. From your experience in sales and amongst your team, how much time is reserved for studying competitors and how to thwart their initiatives? I feel as though businesses large and small do not pay attention to the upstarts nipping at their heels until it's too late.

Cisco holds a firm place as a leader in technology around the world. Part of that leadership is acknowledging our competitors, but "thwarting" initiatives might not be the most accurate way to describe how we spend our time. Quite often, start-ups identify an area of opportunity that the technology community feels is worth dedicating more time to.

Rarely are these start-ups taking advantage of an opportunity that Cisco has not already recognized and started work to develop, and if they have, then we need to assess whether it's something we compete with directly, or if there is greater opportunity in working with a company that has proven its capability. With Cisco's home in Silicon Valley for nearly 30 years, we've seen many businesses, large and small, work to gain market share in all sectors of technology. We are fortunate to have so many of the best engineers and business leaders to guide our development in all sectors of IT, and we are always looking to acquire new talent and push to drive innovation where it makes the most sense.

As I have said, I have a great team and critical parts of my team are the systems engineers that work with our customers. They see these start-ups and the problems that they are trying to solve. Further to this point, Cisco also sees start-ups as advantageous for our overall business and growth strategy. Our approach is centered on build, buy and partner, which fuel the company's innovative culture. Oftentimes, Cisco expands into new disruptive markets by either building internal incubator programs, and buying or partnering with companies large and small. A combination of a good strategy and exceptional leadership inside the business allows Cisco to aggressively seek out opportunities in the market and stay competitive.

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