Former Avici CEO Joins Cisco

Former Avici, Convergent, and Polaris exec takes a spot in Cisco's service provider voice department

August 2, 2005

2 Min Read
Former Avici CEO Joins Cisco

Surya Panditi, the executive behind many a bubble-era telecom startup, has joined a frequent competitor to his companies by taking a job at {dirlink 2|19}.

Panditi, the former CEO of Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), Convergent Networks Inc., and Polaris Networks, is now general manager of Cisco's service provider voice business. Cisco broadcast news of his recent arrival via an internal email, according to one source outside the company.

Panditi reports to Don Proctor, the vice president and general manager of Cisco's voice technology group. Proctor reports to chief development officer Charles Giancarlo.

So, is Panditi abandoning the startup life for good? That's not the way he puts it.

"I had several opportunities, and I looked at both small and large companies. What excited me about Cisco was that it was an entrepreneurial company, even though it's a huge company," he says.

Panditi becomes part of the new-look Cisco, as the company is regaining equilibrium after losing several senior executives. Mario Mazzola has resigned as chief development officer, with Giancarlo promoted in his place. And three executives of storage networking spin-in Andiamo -- Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain, and Soni Jiandani -- have retired, triggering a chain of executive changes, particularly in the storage and security areas (see Cisco Buys Andiamo Finally, Cisco Elevates Giancarlo, and Cisco Names Data Chief).

Panditi has some voice networking experience from his one-year stint at Convergent, and his other CEO jobs included experience with Cisco competitors of different stripes. And he's certainly had some big-company experience, as he lists {dirlink 2|39}, U.S. Robotics Corp., and Ungermann-Bass on his resumé.

Here's the recent history: Panditi left the CEO post at core-router startup Avici in 2001, joining Convergent to start 2002. One year later, he left Convergent and took the help at Polaris, an optical networking startup.

Polaris all but closed earlier this year and was sold to its largest creditor, real estate developer Carl Berg. Around the same time, Panditi announced he would step down from Avici's board, severing his last formal tie with that company. (See Avici Shuffles Top Execs, Panditi Goes Soft, Polaris Picks Panditi as CEO, Avici Up, Panditi Out, and Landlord Takes Polaris.)

Former Polaris employees say Berg is rebuilding Polaris by pumping new funding into the company and rehiring former employees -- roughly 20 of them as of June. Berg hasn't returned calls requesting comment.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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