Solder knows the way to San Jose

10/10/2018 - 09:26

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One of Cisco’s earliest employees in WA has risen through the ranks to play a major role in the group’s California headquarters.

Solder knows the way to San Jose
Carl Solder is helping Cisco roll out its major network products. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

One of Cisco’s earliest employees in WA has risen through the ranks to play a major role in the group’s California headquarters. 

When Carl Solder joined Cisco Systems in January 1996, he was the global company’s second employee in Western Australia.

But as current state director Mark Patterson explains, he was always destined for bigger and greater things.

In the 22 years since he joined the technology conglomerate, Mr Solder has risen to the position of vice-president enterprise networking business.

Based in San Jose in California, and in charge of about 100 engineers, Mr Solder is helping roll out Cisco’s ‘The Network. Intuitive’ project, and spending his weekends indulging his passion for sports and surf photography at nearby Santa Cruz beach and the Stanford University campus.

Mr Solder initially joined IBM upon graduating from Curtin University (then the WA Institute of Technology) in 1984, where he was responsible for managing branch networks for organisations including the former State Electricity Commission.

Cisco at the time was aiming to become a network provider and was seeking people with IBM skill sets.

Mr Solder fitted the bill.

“We had a sales guy from Melbourne fly over every second week and I was spending one week visiting customers with him trying to sell them things, and then spending the second week – I say in jest – repairing all the damage,” Mr Solder told Business News.

Four years later, Mr Solder was approached to join a Cisco team in Singapore (he would fly to Singapore on Sunday nights and back to Perth on Friday nights).

“I did that for three years and it was tough on the family, but a great opportunity because I got to work with companies all across Asia,” he said.

“In that time I also got to work very closely with the engineering teams in the US.”

During Mr Solder’s time in Singapore, Cisco was recognised as the biggest company in the world by market capitalisation, but the weekly travel was taking its toll.

“I started looking at options and at the time one of the US managers was over in Singapore, I was chatting about my situation and he said I could work in the US, but based in Perth,” Mr Solder said.

“I became the first remote technical marketing engineer and did that job for five years – living in Perth and travelling to the US every month or six weeks.

“My scope went from Asia-Pacific to the world.”

Employed in the engineering division in the US but based in Perth, Mr Solder worked on a project to build a product that would become Cisco’s most successful –the Catalyst 6500 switch.

“This switch is probably about $US50 billion in revenue,” Mr Solder said, noting that at one stage the product was generating $US1 billion per quarter.

“Even though I was working remotely, I was at the forefront of a tsunami. This product was not only doing the core switching it was noted for, it was also integrating a lot of other technologies, and as a result I got quite a diverse skill set.”

In July 2007, Mr Solder received a major promotion that lifted him to the ranks of ‘distinguished engineer’. He was already a ‘Cisco certified internet working expert’, a Cisco-specific title conferred on very few.

“When I got this promotion, they wanted me in the US more,” Mr Solder said.

“After a long chat with my wife, we went to the US on holiday with our two children.

“I actually worked while we were there and they got to be in the US for four weeks and they loved it.

“My boss asked again if this was the right time to come, and we took the plunge.”

Mr Solder said although his children, then aged 15 and 10, had to make major adjustments, they do not regret the move. He and his wife recently became US citizens and hold dual citizenships with Australia.

His current role is in technical strategy.

“We have a product management team that decides what we are going to build, and my job and my team’s job is to decide how we are going to build it,” Mr Solder said.

“Conversely, when the product comes out we are the first team to get it and bang away at it, test it, use it and understand it, then transfer that knowledge to the other teams as well as working with customers that are the early adopters.

“My team members are as technical as the engineers, but we can simplify it for the customers.”

For The Network. Intuitive, Mr Solder is working to bring Cisco’s new approach to managing networks – in effect putting a controller between the administrator and the network, to automate many of the functions and simplify the increasingly complex workflows required to get a network up and running effectively.

He is happy to be back in Perth to see old colleagues and to spend some of his precious holiday time speaking with staff and customers.

But he will be even happier to get back to work in California and add to his photographic portfolio.

Cisco Systems Asia Pacific president Miyuki Suzuki is presenting at a Business News breakfast on October 24. For more details head to www.businessnews.com.au/events/Miyuki-Suzuki-Leader-of-Cisco-Asia-Pacific-Japan

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