Every large company has a personality. At Cisco’s headquarters, the world’s largest maker of network equipment equipment, that personality can be summed up in a word: connected.
There’s a sense of renewal at the 31-year-old tech giant, with its first new CEO in 20 years, Chuck Robbins.
Cisco recently invited Business Insider to its world headquarters in San Jose as part of a invitational press conference to meet the new CEO and his new administration.
During that time, we took a rare tour of Cisco’s enormous campus and were shown some of the areas so secret, most of its 71,000 employees don’t even know they exist.
Cisco employs over 71,000 employees, with 15,500 full time employees in the Bay Area. It has some outpost offices in San Francisco (like Meraki and OpenDNS, companies it acquired). But most of those people work at its San Jose headquarters.
Here's a shot of Cisco's new CEO Chuck Robbins hanging out in the crowd while one of his executives gave a presentation to a room of a journalists. His goal for the company is to move 'faster, faster, faster' he says.
Cisco's San Jose campus is so enormous it actually spans three cities: San Jose, Milpitas, and Mountain View.
To tour the campus, we had to drive from spot to spot. Our tour guide is Nigel Glennie, on the PR and communications team. Glennie is responsible for communicating with employees whenever some kind of incident or disaster involving Cisco occurs. (Stay tuned for more on that.)
Cisco offers people live demos of its products here. Cisco used to have an Executive Briefing Center where execs would do huge PowerPoint presentations. It was an inside joke to 'correlate intellectual capacity with the complexity of your PowerPoint presentations. No more,' Robbins said.
In this room of the new 'Customer Experience Center,' Cisco is showing off new technology for the manufacturing industry.
For instance, this woman is demonstrating a robotic arm on a Cisco network. See that small box with the yellow cord on the bottom?
That's the Cisco product. It's a new switch that can help predict when a robot will break down before it actually breaks.
Cisco's big push is 'collaboration' tech for online meetings, phone calls, videoconferencing, instant messaging and the like. It has apps available for the Apple Watch ...
... for its new DX80 touchscreen PC monitor/videoconferencing unit that can also be used like a big Android tablet ...
And Cisco still sells its classic huge videoconferencing rooms. This one has two cameras that will hunt down the person who is talking.
Obviously, all this stuff works on iPads and Macs. Cisco just announced a new agreement with Apple to build special iOS-friendly networks, too.
Cisco execs still love their PowePoints, though. Only today they do them on the enormous wall-sized touchscreens that the company sells.
Cisco eats its own dog food. All of this tech is being used by its own employees everyday. For instance, it doesn't hire receptionists for all of its many buildings ...
Instead it uses one receptionist and beams him around to about 10 other lobbies via videoconferencing. (We thought this man was just a video until he talked to us ...)
In the corner of the kitchen area was everyone's favourite thing: One reporter called it the 'stalking machine.' It lets you see where everyone on campus is. We found chairman John Chambers, who's 'retired' from the CEO position but still at the heart of the company. When he's not flying his private jet to meet with world leaders, his laughter (and his entourage) fill the halls of Cisco's headquarters.
It even showed us the walking path Chambers took when he moved from office to office. It's like a real life Harry Potter 'Maurader's Map.'
A five-minute drive away from Building 9 is where you'll find the company's pride and joy, the Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV) trucks. These bring internet and phone service to places struck by disaster. That's the team's leader Rakesh Bharania (right) and a new employee, network engineer Jason Hoac (left).
The trucks live in this parking lot. This team is called Tactical Operations (TACOPs) and travels all over the US and the world to disasters like hurricanes, bombings, floods, what-have-you -- and they never charge for their services. Cisco covers all equipment and expenses, and employees act as volunteers.
This team, which includes 350 Cisco employee volunteers, has saved lives. For instance, in 2013 while working at a domestic event, they saw a person have a heart attack. They were dispatched paramedics and the person made a full recovery. (That's Business Insider's Julie Bort in the NERVE truck with Hoac wearing the team's safety vest.)
Sometimes the team goes into dangerous areas at great personal risk. This team is beloved at Cisco. They are the world's network/communication super heroes.
This is Jared Govorko, another of Cisco's secret heroes. He's a leader in the Safety, Security and Business Resiliency group. His team is like the quiet guardian angels at Cisco, watching over all employees worldwide to protect them from medical emergencies, natural disasters, and criminal acts.
Here's the room where the team watches the campus. When an employee dials 911 or pulls an AED from the wall, the calls come here. The team sends a Cisco EMT (or security guard) and coordinates with city emergency people. The team handled 229 medical emergencies on campus last year. Because they get there in about 3 minutes, they have directly saved three lives in the last five years, Govorko says.
Govorko also took us into a secret room where we weren't allowed to take pictures. It's where Cisco tests new security products by trying them out on its own campus. It looked like a bunch of PCs, screens, and blinky-light boxes. Here's a picture of the sign on the door.
One of the best perks at Cisco is not a secret. It's a massive 44,000 square foot fitness center called Life Connections.
In its reception area was this Cisco electric sign showing off stuff going on with the company, like Cisco's products in the film The Martian.
This is Rob Kelly, who is more than just the facility manager at the club, he's an ex-military network guy, a member of the TACOPs team. Because this is Cisco, this fitness center is one of the biggest users of internet TV tech in the world.
And because this is a company that worships connectivity, you can even Skype into a meeting while running on the treadmill.
If you don't want to take your meeting on the treadmill, the fitness center has phone booth rooms where employees can do meetings in the middle of their workouts.
Massages are not free, but employees do sometimes get them as gifts. After Cisco announced its new CEO and the PR team worked non-stop for weeks, they were all treated to a massage.
Another HUGE perk for Cisco employees is a new, full medical facility in partnership with Stanford. This will use all the coolest medical digital tech from Cisco. It was being installed when we visited.
Cisco also has a huge cafeteria elsewhere on campus. The food isn't free but it is reasonably priced and quite tasty.
But the best perk of all is something so secret, almost no one on campus knows about it. We heard a myth about nap pods somewhere in Building I.
It took a bit of effort to find an employee in Building I that knew something about this 'myth.' She took us to this room.
But they weren't nap pods. There were three rooms that contained very expensive massage chairs complete with TV screens. (At Cisco, you can do a videoconference even while chilling in a massage chair.)
Nigel Glennie was really happy that he discovered these chairs. None of the other Cisco employees we talked to knew they were there.
After our massages, we headed to the executive tower, the only three-story building on campus. Here's the view out the window.
Cisco is in the middle of renovating its headquarters campus, but the executive tower, where you'll find offices for John Chambers and Chuck Robbins, is mostly finished.
But the weirdest thing on campus is the view out this window of the executive tower, where the PR team works.
Lots of goats. The neighbour has been using them as an eco-friendly way to rid the property of weeds.
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