One of the first things you notice about Guillermo Diaz is he greets just about anyone he meets with a huge smile and strong handshake. He’s a self-described people person who loves technology. That’s what makes his role as Cisco’s Chief Information Officer a dream job.
“I get to wear several different hats,” Diaz explains. “It’s enabling the company, accelerating the business, but also being the user of our own products, services and solutions. Being able to pull those things together and working with great people, what’s not to love?”
Diaz believes if you build relationships, you can connect anything. “I call this ROI, relationships over issues,” Diaz explains. “It really helps build comradery, helps build trust and so ROI equals ROI, return on investment.”
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Diaz uses his own background to help develop and nurture these relationships. Even though he’s now a top executive at Cisco, he came from humble beginnings. Diaz grew up in Pueblo, Colorado, but couldn’t afford to go to college right out of high school. Instead, he joined the Navy. That’s where he got his start learning about networking and telecommunications. Using the GI bill, he went to college and received a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Regis University. “It wasn’t the conventional route, but I think that’s what makes it even more special to have that degree,” says Diaz.
Staying close to his roots and honoring his roots means everything to Diaz, so when he got the opportunity to mentor students from Cristo Rey High School in San Jose, he jumped at the chance. “The curriculum is four days a week they go to school, and one day a week they work at Cisco,” Diaz explains. “We just graduated our first four-year class this past year and 100% of them went to college.” Diaz talks about these kids with the pride of a parent. “It’s really amazing to see their growth and to hear them talk about this is a drop the mike moment. I can’t take it. I have to look away.”
Networking core to his career
Diaz came to Cisco about eighteen years ago working on the infrastructure side of IT, but networking has always been core to his career. It’s that background in re-architecting the web and internet that has given him important perspective in his current role. “Doing multiple roles in the application side, the architecture role really brought an all-encompassing view of IT and allowed me to really connect with customers,” Diaz says. “I think the customer interaction is one of the key differentiators for my role. Last year alone, we did 1,400 engagements with customers, just in Cisco IT.”
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For Diaz, it all comes down to connecting people and technology, whether it’s high school students, customers, or employees. “If you think about what is happening with the future of work, being able to tie that to how we accelerate through agile and dynamic teams, to the great actual work that we’re doing, Cisco IT is right at the heart of it.”