2020 FierceTelecom Rising Star — Cisco's Bob Everson

The FierceTelecom editorial team is proud to announce our second annual Rising Stars series, in which we’re profiling up-and-coming executives in the telecom industry. We’ve selected a slate of executives whom we think are on the rise in 2020. We’ve been doling out the names of our winners so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. And later this week, we’ll post a Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in the FierceTelecom ecosystem. We hope you enjoy the series!

Bob Everson always knew he would be an architect. He entered the nation's top architecture school at the age of 16, then switched gears and studied business. His interest in computers and networking eventually brought him to Cisco, where one of his first jobs was helping lead the design of the network that runs NASDAQ. Then he moved into service provider networks, leading to his current role as senior director of 5G Architecture. 

"I'm always back to architecture because to me an architect cares a lot about the details, but you have to be able to bring the overall picture together too," said Everson. He said his biggest professional strength is his ability to move quickly from the big picture to a specific domain and then back out to the context again.

Everson has two major professional priorities right now. The first is understanding how communication network architectures need to evolve, and helping service providers see a path to get there. The second is predicting and preparing for 5G enterprise applications.

"5G enterprise is a really hot market," Everson said. "The reality is we probably know 20-30% of the actual use cases that are going to be in existence three years from now, so [service providers] can't have a fixed infrastructure. They need a programmable infrastructure." 

Cisco supplies many components of the infrastructure that service providers need, but Everson is devoting a lot of time and energy to one of the pieces that Cisco doesn't supply: the radio access network. "The RAN is the first thing they have to figure out, and that's what drives a lot of their architecture," Everson said. "We're investing a lot of time and resources with customers and with partners putting together next-generation RAN systems." Everson leads the Open vRAN Ecosystem project that Cisco launched in 2018 to work with other vendors to accelerate an open, virtualized RAN.

"It's one thing to think a step or two ahead. It's another to actually make that path to get there and make these things real." Everson said. 

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Understanding Cisco's customers is clearly important to Everson, and he's also heavily invested in understanding his own team's thinking and uncovering hidden biases. He said he and his colleagues spend time studying human behavior, psychology, and cognitive bias in an effort to understand the assumptions that may be driving their decisions. "There's a saying about that," Everson said. "The easiest person to fool is yourself."