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Cisco Canada president reveals her thoughts about Canada

Bernadette Wightman, president of Cisco Canada

Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman told a story yesterday during her first public speaking appearance at the Toronto Region Board of Trade that her decision to join the Canadian operation may be the right one.

The story goes; Wightman was coming back to Toronto from a few days in Texas when the customs officer at the airport said “welcome home.” She realized the customs officer was looking at her brand new permanent residence identification card.

“It was the first time someone said that to me. I took a moment and it made me reflect on all the people who have put their arms around me here in Canada,” she said.

After approximately 150 days as Cisco Canada president Wightman said she could not have had a softer landing, career wise, than moving to Canada.

“Everyone has been so welcoming here,” she added. Wightman began her tenure at Cisco Canada president by meeting as many customers, channel partners and employees as she could.

Wightman did make a positive impression on two of CDN’s Top 100 Solution Providers. Both Harry Zarek of Compugen and Mary Ann Yule of CDW Canada told CDN that there first meetings with Wightman were “wonderful” experiences.

She said that you never know what to expect when you take on new challenges from the office culture to the business climate in the country. Wightman only visited Canada once before taking the job and that was the 2005 Cisco Partner Summit in Vancouver. She knew that the business climate would be different than what she was used to running Cisco Russia.

Wightman believes Canada is an easy country to do business in and she has worked in most European cities except for Germany.

In her speech Wightman said 85 per cent of Canadians are Internet users, which is second only to the U.K per capita. Approximately 60 per cent of Canadians use a smartphone, while 82 per cent of the country uses some type of social media network. This is one of the highest penetrations globally, according to her information.

Cisco is also planning on investing more than $150 million on Canadian start-ups.

Wightman told a packed audience of customers and solution providers at the luncheon that the Internet of Things or as Cisco coins it the Internet of Everything is a $495 billion market opportunity in the next 10 years just in Canada.

“This is the next phase of the Internet and people need to be ready. We need leaders for this digital age,” she said.

From what she has learned during her first 150 days or so in the country is that Canadians are ready for this market opportunity.

And, Wightman comes to this job during an interesting time in the subsidiary’s history. In 2015, Cisco Canada will be hosting the Pan Am Games in Toronto, opening an Internet of Everything Innovation Centre in Toronto, hosting global channel partners in Montreal for Cisco Partner Summit and in a few weeks moving into one of the smartest buildings in North America – Cisco’s new Canadian headquarters.

“I feel privileged to be here…I’m never going home again. I think I might stay here forever.”

One quick hit before I go. Friend of CDN Ross Pellizzari is the new vice president of sales for Palo Alto Networks in Canada. The former Avaya Canada president and Cisco Canada channel chief told CDN that he is looking forward to selling security solutions. CDN wishes Ross the best of luck.