After working more than 20 years as an industrial technologist, Carlos Rojas shifted gears. In 2006, he joined Cisco Systems, Inc., the multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment. When industry trends indicated that the use of Cisco products was going to continue to move outside the office environment, the company wanted to build out its IT sales practice using subject matter experts with real-world experience. Rojas had a unique point of entry into the company. His manufacturing experience made him a perfect candidate. Now, Rojas is one of the company’s directors for industrial business development.
Market Potential Starts Here
When Rojas joined Cisco, his initial project sounded simple: expand Cisco’s footprint. The company would be entering multibillion-dollar emerging markets across 21 time zones with the potential to create hundreds of new jobs. Rojas worked on the assignment for almost five years, helping to expand Cisco’s reach in a transformative way that has left a lasting impact.
“Everything felt new and exciting. There was a convergence of industrial automation and IT, and Cisco was moving away from traditional IT and making its way into industries like financial services, health care, manufacturing, and transportation,” Rojas says. “I learned so much during that time, and it continues to be one of my proudest achievements.”
Up Close & Personal with Carlos Rojas
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? Work can be very consuming, but when I’m away from the office, my favorite thing to do is to spend time at home and on vacation with my family.
What is your favorite vacation spot? I love skiing in Utah.
What websites do you check every day? Bloomberg, NPR, and Flipboard.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an architect. It was rooted in the fact that I liked to build things. In a way, I still sort of see myself as an architect—an architect of business.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your teenage self? Find a mentor who will be a positive influence, a person who will confirm all of the good things inside of you that are sometimes hard to see in yourself.
Building a Small Team for Big Results
With a team of just five people, Rojas launched Cisco’s vertical sales practice. “We were all experienced subject matter experts with mud on our boots, but we still had to fight for resources and technology to make this happen. Silicon Valley was like the Wild West,” the director laughs.
The fight was well worth the effort. Rojas and his team grew sales by 17 percent compound annual growth rate over four years.
Creating a Spin-Off
One of Rojas’s initiatives that continues to be especially lucrative for Cisco is a spin-off of the company’s manufacturing sales practice. Mining production is an ever-expanding industry serving growth initiatives in many developing countries. Rojas built the mining practice after two and a half years of successful executive “line-of-business” engagement with several mining, oil, and gas companies. The mining practice resulted in double-digit year-over-year growth for Cisco the first year. Rojas continues to expand the idea by developing an e-learning solution that teaches employees how to sell to interested buyers in the manufacturing and mining industries. The training has since been adopted by the United States and Canada and is available internationally.
Forging an Alliance
October of 2013 marked the completion of a game-changing, 18-month-long project for Rojas and Cisco: establishing a strategic alliance with General Electric (GE). Specifically, the partnership was created to help GE expand its new industrial Internet service, a data analytics solution that will enable customers to analyze data and predict outcomes in order to better manage their businesses where GE products are being used. The multimillion-dollar alliance has generated a lot of buzz, including write-ups in Forbes, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt told Forbes the solution will be the “biggest commercialization of smart-grid technology.” The magnitude of the project has not been lost on Rojas.
“This project is part of a bigger, broader ecosystem being developed by GE,” he says. “I feel honored because GE could have chosen any number of companies, but they chose Cisco. I think that says a lot.”