‘Software Leads the World,’ Top Cisco Engineer Tells UA Students

Salman Asadullah gives engineering students at the University of Arizona an insider’s view of the radically shifting technology landscape and tips for gaining an edge.

Cisco Systems Distinguished Engineer Salman Asadullah -- on a recent visit to his alma mater from San Jose, California -- spoke candidly with University of Arizona engineering students about his experiences while rising through the ranks at Cisco over two decades.

“I’ve witnessed the dramatic shifts in the networking industry in real time, and I’m here to tell you: Software leads the world,” said Asadullah, a Cisco chief technology officer, on Nov. 17. He received his UA bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1995 and in 2009 became a Cisco Distinguished Engineer, a leadership title given to less than 1 percent of all Cisco engineers.

“As we focus more on software, we will see a proliferation of application program interfaces, or APIs,” he said. “Tomorrow’s effective networking engineer will need not only solid networking skills but an understanding of emerging technologies, such as SDN, or software-defined networking, and NFV, or network function virtualization -- which are changing how network services are provisioned, orchestrated and chained.” 

Programming an Educational Background

Asadullah traveled from South Asia to study at the University of Arizona and earned his UA degree in three years, despite personal and financial hardships.

“I was never a 4.0 student at the UA; I was an ‘average student,’” said Asadullah, who went on to receive a master’s in computer engineering from Wichita State University in Kansas, where he met Cisco recruiters at a career fair. He began at Cisco as a services engineer and today influences the company’s technology directions and internet community at large.

He is a co-author and contributor of multiple patents and standardization activities for Cisco and co-authored three textbooks. He is a frequent speaker at key industry events and serves as co-chair and adviser for notable industry organizations including IPv6 Forum and Broadband Forum.

Asadullah urged students to learn software programming languages like, C, C++, Java and Python.

“That’s what networking employers are looking for.”

Design Day Sneak Preview

A few lucky students also got Asadullah’s feedback on their senior design projects.

Triston McLean, Nigel Kapoor and Nadim Hassan, seniors in electrical and computer engineering, presented their concepts to Asadullah, who gave them pointers on designing software that could prove even more valuable for their corporate sponsor, Texas Instruments.

“Don’t assign software development to just one person on your team,” he told the students. "Our industry needs every one of you to be software savvy -- no matter what your particular area of specialization.”

Asadullah also met with the College of Engineering’s dean and faculty and the University of Arizona’s chief information officer during his visit to the UA, which was sponsored by the College and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.


Top Picture: Salman Asadullah, right, advises some ECE students on their software design project.