Cisco's Spehar: A team player
Three years ago, Scott Spehar knew nothing about selling technology to the government. Now, the sports fanatic who once dreamed of challenging people like Barry Bonds for major league home run records runs Cisco Systems Inc.'s federal sales
Spehar came to Washington, D.C., for the job, transferring from northern California, where he was director of sales for commercial clients. Doug Dennerline, vice president of U.S. operations, hired him for the federal post. He came with 17 years of experience in managing the sales of technology organizations, including the Rolm Co., which was acquired by IBM Corp. But he had never worked on the federal side of the house.
"I gave him 15 reasons why I wasn't the right guy," Spehar said. "The first one was that I have no federal experience, and he said, 'Great.'"
He hit the ground at top speed, learning how the government works and how to sell Cisco's products and services to agencies, he said. Under his leadership, the federal group was ranked as Cisco's top performing area in 2001 and 2002, according to a Cisco spokeswoman. The division is responsible for about $883 million in products and $160 million in services annually.
The sudden change wasn't unusual for Spehar, whose life had already taken unexpected turns. The first major curve was when he dropped out of college, where he had played baseball and set his sights a little too high.
"I realized at some point in time that I wasn't going to be a big league baseball player, which was my sole mission in life," he said. "I left college after two years."
Spehar worked for almost 10 years before returning to college, finally earning a business administration degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. Even with his aspirations of a career in athletics abandoned, sports and competition continued to shape his view of the world and of his work.
"Most of my views in life have been shaped in terms of sports experience," he said. As young boys, he and his brother "played football, baseball, basketball. We did everything you can think of