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Kevin Shatzkamer: Innovation at mobile technology's cutting edge

Brocade CTO and former distinguished engineer at Cisco combines engineering and management at SDM to hone leadership skills.
Kevin Shatzkamer, SDM '14
Kevin Shatzkamer, SDM '14
Photo: Dave Schultz

Kevin Shatzkamer already had a bachelor's in engineering and an MBA, yet he nevertheless decided to pursue a master's in engineering and management through MIT System Design and Management (SDM). Why? The former distinguished engineer at Cisco and recently-named CTO for mobile networking at Brocade wanted to learn more.

"I needed to learn how to apply my thinking in a more consistent, complete way and use that to go from patent to product to market," he explains. "In addition, SDM is jointly offered by MIT Sloan and the School of Engineering. It offers a solid theoretical framework and a proven tool set that would enable me to more effectively lead innovation at technology's cutting edge," says Shatzkamer, who will graduate in February 2015. 

Technology innovation has been an ongoing theme in Shatzkamer's career. When he joined Cisco in 2000 as an intern, he was the company's first official hire into the new mobile organization. He then became one of the first to be trained, and later to train others, in how to understand, apply, and develop new products in the emerging mobile market.

Over the next four years, Shatzkamer served as a consulting systems engineer, collaborating with customers (including the world's 18 largest mobile operators) to develop a strategy and architecture for next-generation mobile standards and solutions. Cisco subsequently appointed him chief architect for mobile networking, putting him in charge of devising three-year strategies, architectures, and solutions based on customer demands and worldwide industry trends.

In fewer than 10 years, Shatzkamer became the youngest employee in Cisco's history to be named a distinguished engineer. He concentrated on long-term strategy and the evolution of Internet systems architecture. He looked specifically at the intersections of cloud technologies, digital media assets, and mobile networks across the entire value chain/ecosystem. "It was truly an honor to be selected for this role," he says.

Shatzkamer now holds more than 50 patents and says his MBA gave him a good foundation for taking new technologies to market. Yet, he decided to enroll in SDM because the program offers a rigorous education in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking — combined with the opportunity to take courses at MIT's No. 1-ranked School of Engineering and its world-class Sloan School of Management.

While he said his SDM classes have been invaluable, the lessons he learned from fellow SDM students — experienced technical professionals, primarily — have been just as important because he has had an opportunity to gain insights from individuals with deep experience in arenas other than his own.

"I've learned how to apply various perspectives to my work, to look at different industries to solve problems within my own space, and to understand how seemingly unrelated developments and innovations from the past can provide vital clues to solving current and future problems," he says.

As Brocade's CTO of mobile networking, Shatzkamer will devote time to considering the mobile Internet as a system, as well as a system of systems, and will explore the implications of networking on mobility and the "Internet of Things." He will think about what can be done with today's technology as well as how it can evolve. He will also lead teams of innovators who will work to make this evolution happen.

In short, Shatzkamer plans to put MIT's motto, "mens et manus" (mind and hand), into practice. "MIT is about the practical side of innovation," he explains. "The theory, tool set, and lessons learned at SDM will help me lead others to successfully transform their ideas into products at the cutting edge of technology."

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