Cisco Product Manager
Customer Focus, Respect for Others-Standards for a Young Engineer
It's safe to say Pete Davis was a child of networking technology long
before the phrase "dot-com" became as ordinary as an area code. At
eight years old, when most kids in his neighborhood were riding bikes,
playing baseball, and skateboarding, Pete Davis was already managing
a dial-up bulletin board system - many years before people used the
Internet for anything other than official government business and
connecting universities. Four years later, he was a self-taught system
administrator, running a server of an Internet chat system for thousands
At 13, while other kids preoccupied themselves with middle-school
social status, Davis began an internship at WZLX, a Massachusetts
radio station. He would later assist in the deployment of the station's
Web site - marking the radio broadcast industry's first Internet presence.
He eventually joined the staff at a small New England ISP, TIAC (The
Internet Access Company) where he rapidly provided answers to customer
questions while he was responsible for keeping the systems and network
functioning 24x7. His extra time in the office was spent planning
upgrades and evaluating new products for future offerings (including
SOHO routers and eventually, early broadband technology). He quickly
worked his way up to his position of senior systems and network engineer.
All by the time he was 16.
Standing in Customers' Shoes
Davis, now 23, remains passionate about the technology that fueled
his childhood, but he is admittedly more driven by customer satisfaction
when developing networking products. As a product manager for the
Cisco Remote Access VPN solutions team (VPN and Security Services
Business Unit - VSEC), he has already developed the industry's first
true virtual private network (VPN) client appliance, a device that
makes it easy and affordable for remote and branch office users to
connect securely over the Internet. Davis credits the talent of the
Cisco engineering team for the quality of the product.
"I said to myself, 'Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What
is wrong in the VPN industry that makes it so impossible to configure
them and maintain and deploy them?' " "There was no product
in the industry that made that [type of access] simple."
The Cisco VPN 3002 Hardware Client, which fits on a desktop PC, combines
the best features of software clients - including scalability and
ease of use - with the stability and independence of hardware platforms.
The result is a truly cost-effective product that is ideal for franchises,
chain stores, and other organizations where thousands of remote end
users might want to securely access the corporate network from large
numbers of geographically dispersed sites. It's ideal for connecting
remote systems or users while limiting the burden on an IT department.
An Innovative Spirit
Customer successes are a driving force behind Davis' innovative spirit.
"An innovator is someone who can really understand that it's OK to
go talk to customers and jot down notes, but you also really need
to listen to what they're not telling you," Davis said. "You sometimes
have to think beyond what they're telling you, because a customer
may not be ready to put in words what he/she really wants. You have
to put yourself in their shoes and think, 'What would I need to be
more productive? How would I be amazed by a product?' "
Davis attributes this focus on customer satisfaction and respect for
people he meets in life to many experiences, but specifically to his
experience while working at TIAC. At 15, frustrated with the service
he received from the local ISP, he phoned the CEO and said, "Hi, I've
never had a job in my life, but I feel like I know enough to make
your company better," he said. "They eventually gave me the passwords,
and I fixed many problems without getting paid. Within six months,
I was a paid employee. Even though I wasn't making any money in the
beginning, I answered customer e-mail all day and night, provided
technical support, and learned a lot. We ended up growing the company
from three employees and 60 customers to 250 employees and 65,000
customers. We were New England's largest ISP for about two and a half
years. I was ultimately responsible for the network and routers, the
UNIX machines that ran the servers, training [of the Engineering staff],
and was the escalation resource for the team that we built."
But the job wasn't without intense frustration. Because Davis was
so young, he was sometimes the recipient of expletives, insults and
even a flying chair from an executive and admits that it took him
some time to learn how to deal with such an environment.
"That job was an awesome learning experience. I learned how not to
treat people in life," Davis said. "Starting off at my first real
job-- at such a young age -- was very difficult, and I found that
I was treated like a second-class citizen. I thought I did my best
to act responsibly and in a professional, adult way, yet I was treated
like a two-year-old. Since then, I've really grown as a person from
all my different experiences. If I hadn't done my time, paid my dues,
I'd be nowhere today. I have endless patience and respect for people
I meet in life because of this experience and hold no grudges."