Artificial intelligence continues to dominate the headlines of almost every technology conference I attend and is certainly the hot topic on news shows and most tech events in the area.

Local government leaders at the recent North Carolina League of Municipalities Conference hosted roundtables on the topic;  employees across almost every sector are worried about their jobs; and, of course, almost every parent of a college student is concerned about the jobs of the future for our kids, or better yet, how they can integrate AI into their careers.

Chat GPT is becoming a closer friend to me every day, as my curiosity always has me start my day with a search. I get advice on interview questions for my guests on radio shows. I search for themes or topics to cover on radio or TV or in my commentary. I tap Chat GPT for ideas for speeches and even what I should wear to special events.

A few months ago, I set up a Virtual Coffee with John Chambers, my family friend from West Virginia, who happened to run one of the largest technology companies in the world, Cisco Systems.

John Chambers, AI & innovation: Going one-on-one with a tech legend

During our conversation, Chambers went on to talk about the acceleration of AI innovation and how important it was for companies and organizations to have an AI strategy. Three AI companies he invested in over the past few years are AI companies and they are now $1 billion unicorns.

He has other AI investments which have worked out very well. Today, Chambers is mandating that all his portfolio companies become AI companies.

Chambers reminded me that during the Cloud revolution, it became the standard for companies to have an internet strategy. An internet strategy became a must! The companies that got it right, survived and thrived. The companies that did not get this strategy right went out of business. Amazon, Google and other game-changing companies came around, and we were able to put people in jobs that were more valued and the tech economy grew!

Chambers sees AI playing out the same way. An AI strategy will be a must for survival.

Chambers also is very passionate about his work with India. He is advising Prime Minister Modi on digital and startup strategy.   India’s rapid digital transformation is impressive and, in his opinion, a wake up call to the United States and other countries.

Chambers and I brainstormed and decided that we could have an event where we could spend an hour with us and share some of his wisdom with Triangle leaders, and so here we are! I cannot thank him and his team enough for taking the time to be with us.    Maybe, next year, we can get him in person when he makes another East Coast visit!

Hear from former Cisco CEO on future of AI in business

Adoption of AI brings plenty of questions

  • So, what is an AI strategy? What are the components or should be the components of a successful AI strategy?
  • What can we do as leaders in our state to make sure we are executing the right strategy?
  • For startups and investors, what should the AI strategy be, and will AI  accelerate the creation of highly valued companies?
  • Should we be worried about the hype and a crash like when the bubble burst?
  • What should our strategy be for training our workforce for the new jobs around AI?
  • How can AI help us with automating routine processes and at the same time, how can we address other concerns, like the trustworthiness of the data?
  • What are the dangers of AI moving forward?

I could not think of a better person than John Chambers to shed light on some of these questions. His skill to make accurate predictions, to connect the dots, is unmatched. (He made 180 acquisitions and led Cisco through 8 downturns.) I am concerned that the pace of innovation is occurring so fast that we need to pause, think strategically and start coming up with our own AI strategy for our AI future (which is already here in the present).

Forget books, consultants and even Chat GPT for a second. I wanted to bring one of the tech godfathers here to the Triangle, so we could have him share insights on many of these questions and our AI future.

Sorry for the Star Wars analogy, but on May 15 we have a Master Tech Jedi or Avenger with us, John Chambers! I feel a disturbance in the Tech Force, Chambers is with us!

In the words of Nick Fury, Innovators Assemble!

Get ready for a great event, which by the way is sold out!

If you want to tune in for the 4 p.m. Fireside Chat with Chambers, you can tune in to WPTF Radio (680 AM and 98.5FM) or view the live Stream at Email Steve Rao at to get the link to join virtually.

A special thank NC News Network,  RIOT, NC Idea, NC Tech, TIE Carolinas, IT Serve and the North Carolina Association of Indian Americans for their support of this event and to John Chambers for his time to make it happen!

See you tomorrow for this historic event, where we can here from one of the most transformational tech CEOS in the world and at the same time, a proud West Virginia Mountaineer!