In 2015, Chuck Robbins became the Chief Executive Officer of Cisco, a $240 billion tech company that is considered to be one of the most influential software and hardware businesses in the world. The move marked a tremendous milestone for the American businessman, who was born in rural Georgia during the mid-1960s. After completing his education, Robbins bounced around at a few companies before joining Cisco in 1997 as an account manager. During his 20+ year tenure at Cisco, Robbins has filled various posts, including regional manager, operations director, and senior vice president of Worldwide Field Operations—a role in which he led Cisco's Worldwide Sales and Partner Organizations. In addition to his many duties as CEO, Robbins also serves on multiple boards, such as BlackRock, the Business Roundtable, the Ford Foundation, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, among others.
In 1983, Robbins enrolled at the University of North Carolina, the first public university in the nation. Instead of business and technology, however, Robbins was more interested in achieving fame on the basketball court. As a freshman, he played on UNC's junior varsity basketball team. He had strived but failed to make the varsity team, which in that year had featured legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. At some point, Robbins realized that the NBA wasn't in the cards, so he focused more on his work in the classroom. Inspired by the early days of bulletin boards and dial-up modems, Robbins began to spend more time in campus computer labs, even teaching himself how to code. In 1987, he graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a computer science concentration. To his credit, Robbins remains one of the few CEOs in the world who can say that they scrimmaged against Michael Jordan.
Since graduating, Robbins certainly hasn't lost any of his enthusiasm for Tar Heels sports, as the CEO is known for his fandom of UNC athletics on multiple social media platforms. In 2019, Robbins put his executive duties to the side to return to his alma mater. Hosted by UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, Robbins drew a full-capacity crowd for a candid fireside chat with Dean Doug Shackelford. In terms of lessons, much of Robbins’ advice was directed to the student-heavy crowd, some of whom had already accepted positions at Cisco upon graduation. He also urged them to accept spontaneity in their careers, or face the consequences. “You’re just going to be disappointed," he said. “Anyone who tells you ‘take control of your destiny,’ I disagree. Let destiny happen. Work hard and take the opportunities that people believe you’re ready for, and if you want to move forward, then be willing to take the risks when they believe in you.”