Get to Know Wendy Bahr

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Wendy and her husband Eric, with their children Alex and Katie.

The best advice Wendy Bahr ever got came from her mom: Whatever you do for the first three weeks of a relationship or marriage, be prepared to do for the rest of your life. Translation: Expectations are often set early and can be difficult to reset. It’s a gem of wisdom that Wendy has found to be a golden rule of selling, too.

"Whether it’s a spouse or business partner, it’s important to set expectations realistically and to provide an opportunity to meet or exceed them," she says.

The mindset to exceed customer expectations while continuing to grow profits for Cisco and our partners is exactly her goal in her new role. Last July, she became the first female Senior Vice President of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization. She is in charge of managing and supporting over 60,000 global partners accounting for more than 80 percent of the company’s revenue.

"If ever there was a time for us to embrace being adaptable and evolve to capture new digital opportunities together, that time is now," she says.

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Fly fishing in Alaska.

Wendy’s latest role is the brightest jewel in a starred sales and technology career that spans 20-plus years. Since joining Cisco in 2000, Wendy has led the company’s Americas Partner Organization and its Global and Strategic Partner Organization. She’s also served as senior vice president of U.S. and Canada Channels and vice president of U.S. Commercial and Field Channels. Before joining Cisco, she spent a decade at Verizon, including serving as director of Enterprise Sales.

Wendy’s first job was as a waitress—a valuable experience she still extracts insights from today. Waitressing taught her that it’s often the little things that customers remember and make them want to come back—such as remembering their names or what they usually order. In her current role, looking through the customer and partner lens is just as critical.

"That first job taught me that our customers have a choice and we have to earn their loyalty," she says. "And every day, almost 300,000 partners get up and have a choice as to whether or not they take us to market. It’s up to us to make sure they choose us over and over again."

To help make that happen, Wendy has three guiding principles: simplicity, alignment and value exchange. The value-exchange part of the equation—how we exchange value with partners—has evolved with the transforming IT landscape and associated sales motions. We are seeing new types of partners, such as mobile application providers, cloud providers and developers. The value we provide them includes things like access to proofs of concept, more early access to software and lab gear, and access to our distinguished engineers.

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Rafting with her family in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Born in Pittsfield, Mass., Wendy was raised in various parts of the United States but considers Virginia home. It was at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, that she earned her B.A. in communications. Her hobbies include playing golf, hiking, traveling, visiting wineries and fly-fishing—a skill she picked up via John Chambers at leadership meetings in Alaska. On one of her fly-fishing trips to a nature preserve, Wendy attracted more than a fish.

"We ended up having a very close encounter with a bear," she recalls. The guide reassured her and her fellow anglers that "there’s never been a reported attack on a group of three or more people. What stuck with me was the word ‘reported!’" Wendy says. They managed to bunch together and repel the animal.

Wendy lives in Los Gatos, California, with Eric, her husband of more than 33 years. They have two grown children, a border collie and a cat. In her office, she keeps a framed collage of photos from her 25th wedding anniversary at St. James Episcopal Church in Florence, Italy.

"That group of photos reminds me of how lucky I am," she says.

You would never know this but ...

  • She never goes anywhere without her Quest power bars—Cinnamon Bun is her favorite flavor.
  • When she was a child, she wanted to grow up to be a producer of live shows.
  • When she was 13, she won a gymnastics competition.
  • If she could have any talent in the world, it would be the ability to sing.
  • Her favorite place to hang out is her own backyard, particularly with friends around the fire pit, enjoying the view with a glass of wine.

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