John Chambers smiling for the camera.

Not everyone can say they are one of the most recognized business leaders in the world. But are you really that surprised that a Mountaineer has earned such a distinction?


Originally published in West Virginia Focus magazine

John Chambers may come from relatively humble beginnings, having grown up in Charleston and earned degrees from the West Virginia University (WVU) College of Business and Economics and the WVU College of Law, but he’s taken some of the greatest lessons he ever learned from his ties to West Virginia and created a success story that speaks volumes to the capabilities of the Mountain State’s people.

As chairman and CEO of Cisco, the worldwide leader in networking and a globally visible company with more than 65,000 employees around the world, Chambers took the company from $70 million when he joined in January 1991, to a $1.2 billion company when he became CEO, to its current status as a $46 billion company. Today, Chambers oversees Cisco and has earned numerous awards for his leadership there, including TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” 20/20’s “Best Boss in America,” and Chief Executive Magazine’s “CEO of the Year,” to name a few. During his tenure, the company has been named to Fortune’s “America’s Most Admired Company,” Businessweek’s “Top 50 Performers,” and Forbes’ “Leading Companies in the World.” Widely recognized for his philanthropic leadership, Chambers has also served two American presidents: as vice chairman of the President George W. Bush National Infrastructure Advisory Council and on President Bill Clinton’s Trade Policy Committee.

We asked Chambers what he loves most, misses most, and learned from growing up in West Virginia.

What are 5 things you love about West Virginia?

  1. People. West Virginians are down to earth, good, honest, and caring.
  2. Family. Both mine and my wife’s families come from generations of West Virginians, and the state and its culture have influenced us in very positive ways.
  3. Beauty. West Virginia’s true beauty, from the leaves turning in the fall to the streams and rivers.
  4. Activities. All of the great fishing and hunting in the state.
  5. WVU. The many great opportunities WVU creates for our state—and our football team!

What are 5 things you miss about West Virginia?

  1. Friendships. My friends who form such a strong part of my relationship with the state, such as Jim Buckalew, Joe Rice, and Bill Nottingham, and the many friends I have from childhood through my university years.
  2. Distance. Being too far away to really enjoy all I love about the state, and the multiple generations of our families in the West Virginia area.
  3. Nature. The time on the water and the streams, canoeing the Elk River, navigating the rapids of New River, and hunting grouse near Ravenswood.
  4. Sports. Not seeing as many WVU football and basketball games as I would if I were there.
  5. Pride. The true pride you have as a West Virginian when you look at the natural beauty and landscape of our state.

What are 5 things West Virginia taught you?

  1. Limitless. There is no limit to what you can achieve in life if you are fortunate enough to get the right education.
  2. Values. West Virginia’s core values, which are emphasized by my family, as well—honesty, competing fairly (but wanting to win), and treating others as you’d like to be treated.
  3. Outdoors. A great love of the outdoors that carries over to many aspects of my life.
  4. Relationships. Just how important family and deep friendships are in life.
  5. Caution. You really need to be careful about driving too fast on the curvy West Virginia roads when there’s ice out there!