By Joseph Walker
Cisco Systems Inc.'s announcement last month that it would lay off 6,500 workers from its global work force was welcome news to technology recruiters, who say it's an opportunity to poach top employees uncertain of the company's future, Fins.com reported Wednesday.
"It's simply blood in the water," said Jeff Winter, founder of GravityPeople, a San Francisco-based technology recruiting firm. "There are recruiters that will immediately start calling Cisco, soliciting their engineers and inciting fear that Cisco's on its way out."
Brocade Communications Systems, Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based networking company and Cisco competitor, has seen a larger influx of resumes from Cisco employees in the last two months, director of global talent acquisition Brian Pototo told Fins.com.
"They're not necessarily cutting their top performers," Pototo said. But "it does create that uncertainty among the people who are the top performers. You might be able to shake them loose."
Mike Sienkowski, president of Sausalito, Calif.-based tech recruiting firm BirdDog, Inc., said that he's also had more Cisco employees contact his firm or respond to job openings recently. While he expects that most of those laid off will be underperformers, he sees an opportunity to poach more highly coveted employees at the company.
"The people I'm after, Cisco keeps close and watches very closely, but they're more susceptible to my calls now," Sienkowski said.
Cisco said last month the layoffs would include about 15% of the company's executive staff, from the vice president level and up. Sienkowski doesn't think that most companies will be eager to hire former Cisco executives. "They're probably very expensive dead weight," he said.
Other companies that may look to recruit from Cisco include Juniper Networks Inc. and NVIDIA Corp., said Alan Shapiro, a principal at Technology Search International, a San Jose, Cailf.-based recruiting firm.
Of the 6,500 job reductions, about 2,100 will come from an employee buyout program. The company's second quarter earnings announcement included $453 million in charges for a voluntary early retirement program and $214 million for employee severance, as well as other charges,
Two recruiters who interact with Cisco employees said the early retirement package was available to those whose age plus years of service at Cisco equaled 60 or more. That aligns with an internal memo circulating on the Internet. Cisco declined to comment for this article or on the specifics of its buyout program.
For one senior director-level Cisco employee who took a buyout after 15 years at the company, Cisco's downsizing was a blessing in disguise, said Rob Reeves, president of Redfish Technology, Inc., a technology recruiting firm with an office in Silicon Valley that is helping the employee look for his next job.
"It was a golden handcuffs situation," said Reeves. "Other companies wouldn't pay him what Cisco would pay him, but at the same time he was being under-utilized in his role at Cisco...he was plateaued in his career."
The former Cisco employee is currently in late-stage job talks with several companies, Reeves said.
Because of Cisco's large size -- it currently has 71,825 employees -- it will be difficult to make sure that only dead weight is laid off, Shapiro said.
"I wonder if Cisco upper management has actually taken a look at the resumes of the people they're laying off, because if you're laying off that many people, you're putting a lot of talent on the street that could compete directly or indirectly with Cisco," Shapiro said.
-By Joseph Walker, FINS.COM; Joseph.Walker@dowjones.com