Meet the Executive: David Meads, VP for Middle East and Africa
Digital Business, Country Digital Acceleration, Thought Leadership, People & Culture
We recently sat with Edwin Paalvast, President of Cisco EMEAR, to talk about his career journey and his perspective on the present and future of technology, and with Oliver Tuszik, VP & GM of Cisco Germany, to talk about digitization. Today, we meet a new members of Edwin Paalvast's Leadership Team: David Meads, Vice President for Middle East and Africa.
As Cisco’s Vice President for the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Meads is responsible for the company’s sales and go-to-market strategy, in addition to overseeing growth initiatives, strategic alliances and field execution of that strategy. A key focus in this role is to partner with governments and businesses to build the technology skills, ecosystems and engines that drive economic growth, competitiveness and prosperity across this large, diverse set of markets.
I consider myself very fortunate to be living and working in such a diverse and vibrant region. There is no question that as companies and governments seek to transform their businesses and the lives of their citizens, technology has an ever increasing and vital role to play and with that, I believe Cisco’s role has never been more relevant to our customers than it is today. I would say the most rewarding part of my role is the sheer variety of engagements I have with our customers and partners and seeing the collective difference our work is driving as we help them become more agile, competitive and innovative in a digital economy.
Another highlight of my role is being able to work with people from incredibly diverse backgrounds, with very different and complementary areas of expertise and world views. MEA truly is unlike anywhere else in the world when it comes to its diversity – a huge geography with over 70 countries, a youthful, growing population of 1.5 billion people, and countless cultures, languages and government systems. As well as presenting us with unparalleled opportunities, it also presents a unique set of challenges, not least with regards to economic and geo-political volatility. But with all this, there’s never a dull moment and that is what makes my role exciting, challenging and overall, tremendously fulfilling.
The Middle East is on the verge of massive digital disruption and the region’s digitisation charge is being driven by the citizens themselves, as well at the top levels – by business and country leaders with inspired visions for the future of their people. In the UAE, for example, the government’ digital adoption efforts place it on par with the world’s digital vanguard across several metrics, and well ahead in certain areas. The way the government has embraced the opportunities created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and their determination to use technology to drive citizen services and happiness is nothing short of inspiring.
I see the same levels of commitment across other governments, such as in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where – in partnership with the Government and through our Country Digitization Acceleration (CDA) program – we are playing a key role in supporting the massive transformation towards a digital society focusing on areas such as healthcare and education and helping to develop the digital skills needed to realise the potential that digitisation offers.
Across the region, Cisco is closely involved in major national projects such the Dubai World Expo 2020, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and other smart city initiatives including major projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The Innovation and Experience Centre (IXC) is a showcase for many of our solutions and serves to demonstrate our commitment to the region as well as contributing towards supporting the region’s ambitions to play a prominent role in the global digital economy.
I believe that the Cisco campaign – “There’s Never Been a Better Time” – was developed with our region in mind!
SKILLS – no question! I believe that this is the biggest singular challenge across the entire region. When it comes to the skills needed for digitization, MEA has one of the world’s fastest growing skills gaps across ICT and Cyber Security. As digitization picks up pace across our region, a coordinated and concerted effort between the public and private sector is essential to close this gap, especially as the interest in new emerging technologies like Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Blockchain picks up pace.
Helping to bridge the skills gap is an area in which Cisco has been active for nearly two decades, with an extensive footprint and track record of achievements. The impact that Cisco Networking Academies and our other initiatives are having on developing talent and enabling students to compete and thrive in the current and future job market is a topic that frequently comes up in my meetings with government leaders, as well as customer CXO’s. To date, NetAcad has helped shape the region’s workforce and created incredible opportunities for over 850,000 students across MEA. This is undoubtedly a main point of pride for us and an area where we will continue to lead and invest.