People who know Anuj Kapur know two things about him. Number one, if he can make a pop culture reference he will. Number two, that pop culture reference will usually come in the form of the joke.
On the day we sat down for an interview, Kapur not only made references to the Kardashians, he also made a self-deprecating joke about himself using a well-known character from Seinfeld. “There’s an episode where Elaine says there’s more to Newman than meets the eye, and Jerry turns around and says ‘No [there isn’t], there’s less,’” Kapur joked. “That’s how I hope people view me, which is people may believe there’s more than they see, and I have to remind them, there’s actually less.”
Kapur uses that humor and love of entertainment to his advantage in his role as Cisco’s Chief Strategy Officer. “In the entertainment industry, you play with human emotions,” Kapur explained. “In the technology industry, we play with more quantitative and qualitative metrics. Moving someone with emotions is a lot more difficult than moving someone based on the value of a product or service, so in some ways the entertainment industry inspires me to channel the creativity there into what we do on a day-to-day basis.”
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Kapur joined Cisco 14 years ago, having become interested in the company after reading a magazine feature about Mike Volpi, who worked as Cisco’s Chief Strategy Officer. “It was in 1997, and I had never heard that title before,” Kapur recalled. “Here we are 22 years later, and I have that role at that same company. It’s been humbling.”
When Kapur was named as Chief Strategy Officer in September of 2018, he wrote an article on LinkedIn, in which he credited Volpi. Imagine his surprise when Volpi commented on it. “He said I wish the best to all the people who carry the Cisco name forward today.”
Kapur is focused on making sure Cisco remains as relevant over the next five years as it has been in the past 35 years. “What we do has to respect our past, it has to reflect our present, but more importantly, it has to inspire us towards a better future,” Kapur said. “We want to be in a position to help our customers to reimagine, to secure, to transform, and to empower. Our belief is that if we can do that effectively and we can do that by transitioning our business model, our products, and our people, then we will be the most strategic partner for our customers transforming themselves.”
Kapur believes that details matter in his role. They matter in a single pour cup of coffee and matter when trying to land a joke. “Humor works because of the details,” he explained. “It’s those details that have the power to move. The great thing about this role is there is no template for what it should be or what it should not be. That brings certain challenges, but also certain opportunities.”
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