Cisco Innovators: James Leach | The Network

    James Leach may have an engineering and business background, but he likes to consider himself an expert translator. As the Director of platform strategy for united computing system (UCS), Leach straddles between the worlds of engineering and marketing. “I have to be able to speak to the engineering teams and give them hard definitions of what a product needs to do,” Leach said. “I also get to talk to customers and partners to understand what their their needs are, and I translate those requirements for the engineers.”

    Leach joined Cisco nearly eight years ago and was immediately struck by just how quickly his team moved to innovate and disrupt the UCS industry. “Things moved at a pace that it frankly took me a little while to get used, to but I loved it,” Leach said. “I expected that pace to flatten out and slow down, but it’s only accelerated.”

    Part of the reason for the acceleration is because of UCS Intersight, Cisco’s cloud based data center, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate data center management. “The scale and the the speed that exists inside of a data center today has just gotten beyond what a human can manage effectively and efficiently in real time,” says Leach. “It’s probably the biggest game changer that we’ve had since we brought UCS to market.” Leach believes this is just the beginning for UCS Intersight, and even he can’t predict the features and functionality it will have in the future. “What we want to do is build a system that’s nimble enough and agile enough to be able to become whatever it needs to be in three years and beyond.  What it needs to be in one year is going to be different than what it needs to be in three,” Leach said.

    Leach credits his team for working together and making sure no one falls behind in this ever changing industry. “There’s a reliance on a team and the team is competitive, but not within the team so much. We’re competing against a lot of outside entities but internally I think we’re moving all in the same direction,” Leach said.

    While incredibly proud of his team and the launch of UCS Intersight, Leach humbly acknowledges receiving two patents while at Cisco. “The first one was issued and I think it fell on my birthday, so it was kind of a cool coincidence,” Leach said. “When you’re at a company like Cisco where you’re working in a project management role, it’s just nice to be able to have that opportunity and be involved enough to get a patent.”

    Patents are no doubt important, but when it comes to career advancement, Leach lives by the  advice a business school professor gave him and shares it with others. Embrace the gaps. That means you should look places to fill a gap. For example, Leach’s expertise is with servers. When he came to Cisco, that helped him stand out. “Being a server guy in a networking company is a gap, but you become more valuable and you get to again translate, and close those gaps with your ability,” Leach said. “When you can find those gaps, you have a purpose. You have something that you can offer.”

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