John Chambers

Graduation Year: 1971

Career Highlights:

Mr. John Chambers was born and raised in West Virginia. As the son of two physicians, his mother was a psychiatrist and his father was an obstetrician, he had early ambitions of becoming a doctor. He soon decided, however, that he would rather own his own business. Chambers graduated from West Virginia University with J.D. and B.S./B.A. degrees. He went on to attend graduate school at Indiana University, where he received an M.B.A. in finance and management. Upon the completion of his degrees, Chambers began his career in technology sales with IBM. After six years with IBM, he took a job at Wang Laboratories. He eventually worked his way up to Vice-President of U.S. operations in 1987. He eventually quit his job at Wang Laboratories in 1991 because he did not like where the company was going.Mr. Chambers soon sent out hundreds of applications to different companies. From all of these applications, he received only one reply. A group of his friends and colleagues, however, introduced him to a small, growing company named Cisco Systems, Inc. Cisco, founded in 1984 by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Learner, provides end-to-end networking solutions that customers use to build a unified information infrastructure. Chambers quickly worked his way up to executive Vice-president, where along with two of his colleagues set Cisco on its present course of aquiring small companies with cutting edge technologies that complimented Cisco’s line of products.

Chambers was appointed president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cisco Systems in 1994 and he still holds this position today. During his tenure, Chambers has increased the company’s annual revenues from $1.2 billion to $8 billion. Cisco’s work force has also skyrocketed to 10,000 people worldwide during this period. It is no surprise that Chambers has won several awards since becoming the CEO of Cisco. In 1996, he was named one of the 25 Most Powerful People in Networking by Network World. In December of 1997, he was named CEO of the Year by Electronic Business Chambers presently resides in Los Altos Hills, California with his wife of 24 years, Elaine. He also has two children. His daughter Lindsay is a sophomore in college and his son John is a senior in high school.

That he combination of hard work and skill will lead to success is a maxim that is widely believed in American society. Nowhere is this statement better illustrated than in the career of Mr. John Chambers. Chambers’ combined hard work and skill to become the CEO of Cisco Systems. In just four years as CEO, Chambers has established Cisco as one of the major powers in networking.

Chambers attended Duke University from 1967 until 1968. While at Duke, he was a member of the School of Engineering and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Mr. Chambers presently holds strong ties to Duke University. He helps with the Annual Fund and is a member of the President’s Executive Council. He has also funded two endowments for the School of Engineering. The John T. Chambers Endowment Fund is an unrestricted endowment that is used in many different areas throughout the School of Engineering. The John T. Chambers Scholarship Endowment Fund provides scholarship money for graduate engineering students.

Originally published in DukEngineer, Fall 1998. Written by Ryan Miller.