John Chambers: Dyslexic CEO


john chambersJohn Chambers was the CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc., since January of 1995-2015. He first joined the company as senior vice president of Worldwide Sales and Operations in 1991, and rose through the ranks before landing the title of CEO; as well as Chairman of the Board in 2006. Chambers’ work at Cisco raised the company’s revenue from $1.2 billion, to approximately $40 billion in less than two decades. His success and vision has made Chambers’ one of the leading CEOs in the country.

In the mid-nineties, Chambers made the surprising confession that he suffers from the learning disability, dyslexia, to his daughter’s classmates. Following his admission, Chambers made his secret public to The New York Times in 2001; giving new hope to business-minded individuals in the dyslexic community.

Chambers was born August 23, 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio and moved at a young age to West Virginia. His parents worked as an obstetrician and a psychologist, as well as owning a family restaurant where Chambers first developed the idea of running a business. However, Chambers was diagnosed with dyslexia at age nine, and struggled with learning before receiving help from reading specialist, Lorene Anderson-Walters. Through their studies, Chambers worked diligently to overcome his obstacles and demonstrated the take-charge attitude that he would be famous for in his career and work at Cisco. “He had this very optimistic attitude about everything. He was just not going to fail,” Anderson-Walters later recalled in an interview.

John Chambers went on to earn a law degree from West Virginia University in 1974. Following an economic crisis in his hometown, Chambers relocated to Indiana and continued his education with a business degree from Indiana University. Through this accomplishment, Chambers was offered a position at the sales department of the computer company, IBM, in 1976. His time at IBM saw the birth of his first child, and inspired him to take a greater responsibility in his chosen field of business. Chambers left IBM and joined Wang Laboratories as the leader of their successful sales team in Asia. When founder An Wang passed away, the company went under and Chambers moved on to the senior vice president position at Cisco. Chambers’ accomplishments in sales and technological advancements at Cisco led to him being named CEO, where he recruited young professionals and led the company to greatness.

During a Bring Your Parent To School Day at his daughter’s elementary school, Chambers was asked a question by a student, who was unable to phrase her thoughts due to her dyslexia. Chambers famously replied with “Take your time, I’m disabled too.” That night, dozens of proud parents e-mailed the CEO and he decided to be more open with his disability to help future generations. Chambers revealed to The New York Times and countless of other publications about his dyslexia, and how he uses voicemail, briefings, and video recordings to aid his learning disability. Today, Chambers is not only a proud parent, loving husband, and successful businessman; but also an advocate and spokesperson for dyslexia.

Through his struggles and accomplishments, Chambers has risen above his disorder and emerged victorious. He has aided presidential candidates and helped businesses achieve financial prosperity. Chambers is living proof that dyslexics can persevere through any obstacles, maintain an exciting career, and lead a team to victory.

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2 thoughts on “John Chambers: Dyslexic CEO

  1. Wonderful story that I plan to share with my staff and the college students I teach who are regular ed majors. May I ask what strategies John uses to compensate? Does he use technology? If so, what technology tools?
    Thank you

  2. I have had business in the past. But I feel held back in buy my Dyslexia Disablity. I know I can Fly but am to scard to try again.

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