When Peter Hughes joined Cisco in 2000 the networking giant had only just started to talk the talk when it came to voice - but the company was so confident he was told they'd only need him for a year or two.
Hughes had the voice experience Cisco was looking for. Just as Cisco had seen what voice could do for data, Hughes had a vision of how data could revolutionise voice communications. Seven years later he is Cisco's regional manager of the tech and business group - and unified communications guru - yet the convergence of voice and IP is still playing out.
A former Marine, Hughes had got his start in telecommunications building mechanical telephone exchanges for British Telecom in the early 1980s.
"I've always been in the voice side of the communications industry."
"Before joining Cisco I was national sales manager at Siemens - the job that brought me to Australia. Prior to that I managed a voice and data network for a company called Galileo, the airline reservation network that ran an X.25 packet switch network out to all the travel agents and reservation systems. I managed their voice and data network in the UK. "
"Prior to that I worked for various companies including British Telecom and AT&T," Hughes says.
"My Dad worked in the GPO in the UK, I'd been in the Marines where I did a little bit of signals work. Then I did an apprenticeship with British Telecom. At the time it was all very closed, the industry was just large government monopolies. I'd been at the post office for a few years when the deregulation of the industry started and it swept the world. I thought there's an opportunity to ride this wave."
"I'd worked on building old Strowger mechanical telephone exchanges, then I moved to commissioning a lot of the next generation public telephone exchanges - GEC Plessey telephone communications system, Ericsson systems and moving to all the store and forward control systems, what was the transition of what used to be physical connections moving into the world of IP. I got an opportunity to come to Australia about 13 years ago, came out for two years, stayed for another two and decided not to go home."
"Cisco's acquisition of IP-PABX provider Selsius Systems in late 1998 inspired a confident Hughes to approach Cisco about helping them make the move into the world of voice."
"I went and had a chat with the senior management here at Cisco and said 'you guys think you know voice, but you haven't got a clue - so give us a job'," he laughs.
"To be honest they didn't have a clue, they didn't understand voice, and in true Cisco fashion I think they thought they were going to be number one in the voice world in about two years. During my interview process I recall someone saying 'look, we need you for a while but you'll be out of a job in about two years'. Seven years later I love to remind them of that, I reckon I've still got a few years to go."
"Hughes has been with Cisco since its early steps into the convergence of voice and data and admits a year or two ago he was "probably starting to get a bit bored with it," but the rise of areas such as mobility and unified communications have resparked his enthusiasm.
"We used talk about that promises of what the technology was going to provide, but now it's happening. We're starting to see a lot of the vision from five, six and seven years ago coming to fruition. If you look at what's starting to happen now with web 2.0, mash-ups, software as a service and other technologies - then you throw in mobile and telepresence - it's sexy, it's actually exciting," he says.
"These kinds of applications actually make a difference to an organisations and I also think, from a Cisco perspective, they give us a lot more relevance to an organisation. If you think about it, we're we've been really successful is in the infrastructure - but nobody sees that. Now we're at the desktop, we're at the phone. We're at the mobile phone layer and we're the telepresence in boardrooms, and that just makes my job so much more exciting.''