Former Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman

Published: March 30th, 2017

2016 was another special year for Cisco Canada President Bernadette Wightman. She started the year off with a bang by opening the new billion-dollar Innovation Centre in downtown Toronto. At that opening, Wightman made a promise to place no limits on the number of partners, projects or special relationships at the newly opened facility.

Wightman, who moves up from the 7th position last year, said Cisco Canada is just using half of this centre at the time of opening and would like to fill the rest of it. “I have no problem asking for more investment to expand,” she said.

The Toronto Innovation Centre is one of nine Cisco Innovation Centres around the world.

Wightman is a true believer in diversity and committed significant dollars to that end in 2016 by introducing the Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle program.

This program will provide women entrepreneurs with access to technology knowledge and resources such as the Toronto Innovation Centre.

The goal of the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle is to help bridge the gap for ecosystem partners including Women of Influence, Completely Managed, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and Communitech as well as to further the digital strategy of Canada.

Currently only 15 per cent of all Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are run by women.

Furthering and enhancing Cisco’s channel commitment to Canadian partners also became a big priority for Wightman in 2016.

The Cisco Canada leader introduced a four-point plan that provides more resources to channel partners in 2016 and beyond.

The underlining strategy behind the move is for Cisco and its top channel partners to become a united front for customers.

Wightman told CDN at the time that most of Cisco Canada’s resources tend to be devoted to customers and she decided to shift at least a third of that to the channel.

“We are going to be putting additional resources, specifically technical, to help partners build out those practices were they need them, such as in security,” she said.

Security became a top priority for Cisco globally in 2016. The networking giant developed a security portfolio organically and from acquisitions such as Sourcefire and Lancope Inc., but for channel partners, Cisco’s strategy is to place security in everything Cisco does.

With that Wightman instructed her internal sales team last year to commit more time to help Canadian channel chief Mark Collins and his team.

A key part of Cisco renewed channel strategy was the launch of a new incentive program named CAIP or Collaboration Adoption Incentive Program. CAIP is asking partners to deliver business outcomes along with end user adoption. The networking giant is looking for solution providers who can deliver the right outcomes and Wightman believes CAIP will help drive that.

“To be honest, the partners here in Canada are already really good at it. We too had to go through our own transformation for our sales teams based on outcome selling. It’s different than before, but we are learning some fabulous stuff even from our own channel partners,” Wightman added.

And, to top it off Wightman had an audience with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

“Mr. Trudeau was very gracious with his time and we had a little chat. He understands our company and the importance of digitization and innovation, which being at Cisco is part of our DNA. He said it’s going to be an area of focus for the government and the country.

Wightman has been very open about her desire to help make Canada the best digital country in North America.