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John Thomas Chambers was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 23, 1949. He is best known as the former CEO and chairman of Cisco Systems, a technology company specializing in computer hardware.

His parents, who were attending medical school, sent him to live with his grandparents in Ravenswood shortly after his birth. The family soon reunited in Charleston. Chambers completed a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree at West Virginia University, followed by a Juris Doctor degree. He then received a Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University before taking a job as a salesman for IBM in 1976.

After seven years with IBM, Chambers left for Wan Laboratories. He sold computers to customers in Asia and rose to the position of executive vice president. Following the company’s sudden downturn in 1990, he resigned and accepted a position with Cisco Systems. The company was then focused on routers, but later diversified into other hardware needed for internet access. Chambers moved into the role of senior vice president of worldwide operations, and was named CEO in 1995.

Chambers credits part of his success to growing up in West Virginia, applying lessons learned in the outdoors from his childhood. He pushed hard to recruit the best employees and made aggressive moves to purchase other businesses. Under his leadership, the company’s annual revenue grew from $70 million to $47 billion. By March 2000, Cisco was the most valuable company in the world, valued at $575 billion. Chambers led Cisco through the dot-com bust, suffering setbacks but rebuilding effectively.

Chambers has received recognition and awards around the world for his leadership, innovation, and philanthropy. Barron’s also named him one of the world’s best CEOs, while 20/20 named him the best boss in America. He served on President Clinton’s Trade Policy Committee and President George W. Bush’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, and he was an advisor to President Macron of France and Prime Minister Modi of India. He retired from Cisco in 2017 after 27 years with the company.

Chambers now runs JC2 Ventures, investing in up-and-coming businesses. His philanthropic work focuses on improving access to technology in schools and around the world. On November 9, 2018, WVU honored Chambers by renaming the business school the John Chambers College of Business and Economics. He and his wife Elaine have two children, Lindsay and John.

This Article was written by Kevin Hogg

Last Revised on August 30, 2021


Sources

Chambers, John. Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World. New York: Hachette Books, 2018.

Waters, John K. John Chambers and the Cisco Way: Navigating through Volatility. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2002.

Cite This Article

Hogg, Kevin "John Chambers." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 30 August 2021. Web. 26 September 2021.

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