Q: First of all, there is a statistic that says in 2020 there will be, worldwide, one million new devices added per hour. In terms of dynamics, how would you characterize what customers are facing and what Cisco enterprise customers are trying to deal in this new era that Cisco is defining as ‘’a completely different world’’?
Dorin Pena: We are living the 4th big wave of internet: we started using emails and web in the 1990s, then came e-commerce around the turn of the millennium, then we experienced the power of mobility and social networks. And now we are entering the era of digitization.
This means that no matter what company or what sector you work in, all companies are basically becoming technology companies. Technology is impacting all aspects of our businesses: from incorporating sensors into production machines to how we communicate with our customers. This huge trend of connecting all kinds of devices, from blood pressure meters to cars or lightbulbs is resulting in the number you mentioned before: 1 million devices getting connected every hour, by 2020. Also, we calculate that by 2021, approx. 50% of all devices that will be connected to the internet, will be so called M2M devices – so not PCs, or mobile phones, or televisions, but machines or sensors.
This means that networks, the business Cisco is in, are becoming more important than ever before. However, networks are also more under pressure than ever before. Therefore, we need a completely new approach to networking with automation, analytics and built-in security. Cisco is putting lots of R&D into developing these intent-based networks.
Q: In not so many words, how would you describe Cisco Romania?
Dorin Pena: In not so many words? Then let me give you 2 numbers: 17 and 373. Cisco has been present in the Romanian market for 17 years. During this time, we were working to bring the latest technologies to our Romanian customers. I could say from Silicon Valley directly to Romania. And we also worked hard to build our partner ecosystem.
Cisco’s business model is built on partnerships: we work together with a lot of local partners, namely 373 at the moment. They are present all across Romania and bring our technologies to our customers: small and big.
Q: One of the major questions CEO’s are trying to decipher in this issue of Major Companies in Romania is how different is their field of activity, comparing to 20 years ago. In this respect, how “a completely different world” is the Romanian market that you address now, comparing to the one in late 90’?
Dorin Pena: We see the same waves of the internet happening here as I described earlier.
In essence, the openness of our economy is incomparable with 20 years ago: our companies are part of international supply chains, our children have the world in their pocket through their smartphones. They are the workforce of the future and they are looking for new ways of working: collaboration and sharing instead of command and control.
The biggest change is digitization: and all CEOs need to deal with technology, not only the ones leading technology companies. Digitization is a risk and an opportunity at the same time. There are entire sectors which have been completely turned upside down by it: think of media or retail. At the same time, it’s a huge opportunity. No matter where you live, you have a good idea and can bring it out to the world.
Q: How did Cisco develop itself on Romanian market? How should we judge the Cisco progress in Romania?
Dorin Pena: Let me give you 3 examples: those of our customers, our partner ecosystem, and our education program Networking Academy.
Our customers know Cisco well and they are truly a community. Every year, we organize the biggest B2B IT conference in Romania, where we have more than 1000 people. We talk about the latest technology trends, but also about what concerns our customers: from cybersecurity to cloud.
I am very proud of my colleagues here at Cisco Romania, we have a great team. But Cisco Romania is much more than the team sitting here in our Bucharest office. Cisco Romania is also the thousands of networking engineers and specialists working at our partners. We work very closely with them, offer regular trainings on the latest technologies.
On the other hand, our biggest CSR program: Cisco Networking Academy. It was established 20 years ago worldwide, and Romania was among the first countries introducing it. We trained almost 100,000 students in Romania in this profession over the past years and have more than 10,000 in the program currently. By the way, I am one of those 100,000 whose IT career started in NetAcad. But of course, we are not training these kids to become Cisco employees – they find professional careers all across the economy.
Q: Would you define yourself as a product of Cisco Networking Academy in terms of career? Please detail your answer. Can you tell us a few words about Cisco Networking Academy? How does Cisco get involved into education?
Dorin Pena: I definitely do. There are many IT careers: most people think of software developers. But IT is much more colorful: from networking to cybersecurity, from IoT to machine learning. Maybe without Networking Academy, I would be a software developer now. But I certainly did not regret my choice for networking.
When it comes to Networking Academy, we are partnering with schools and teaching kids how to design, implement and operate networks. As I said before, networks are more important than ever. So these skills are hugely valuable.
Q: What’s your point of view on the challenges and trends in terms of technology and digitization? As Cisco officials recently said, “the new era of technology (and network) is powered by intent, informed by context and over time continues to adapt and to become intuitive”. How are these trends accommodated in the world and in the Romanian market?
Dorin Pena: Yes, these are interesting words, and what they mean is that networks are becoming more and more automated.
There is one topic we did not yet touch: the lack of IT specialists. At the same time, more than 70% of network configurations are still done manually. If we manage to automate these routine processes, we give time back to the IT experts to focus on really interesting tasks, tasks which are strategically important for their companies or institutions.
Q: One of the big things that you know about your customers is that they need security. And what Cisco did and no other company has done, is its new security technology, that with 99.95% efficacy will determine if there’s a malware inside encrypted traffic. Can you detail to how extent is the cybersecurity important for Romanian companies?
Dorin Pena: You open the newspapers, tv, radio or news portals on the internet and every week you read about attacks. Ransomware, spam, malvertising are becoming everyday talk.
At the same time, it’s not an option anymore to not connect your company to the internet.
The advice we give our customers is to think about cybersecurity differently. We need a real change of paradigm: not only to try to prevent attacks but to know what to do during and after attacks as well.
What is truly important is to reduce time to detection. To know you have been attacked. It’s scary to say but most companies, not only in Romania but worldwide, only discover attacks after about 100 days. Imagine the damage that happens during such a long time. Our engineers here at Cisco have been focusing a lot on reducing time to detection, and we managed to reduce it to a few hours. The goal is to go even further.
Q: What trends do you see in your field of activity for 2018?
Dorin Pena: 3 key trends I would recommend everyone to keep in mind: IoT, security and artificial intelligence. We will be talking a lot about these in 2018 and beyond.