Alumni Achievers

Bobby Johnson (B.S. 1977)

Founder of Two Companies ... a Long Way from the 'Punch Card' Days

Computer science alumnus Bobby Johnson"When I think back on my time at NC State, I remember the late nights in Dabney Hall and in the Computer Center in the Textile Building working for Help," said Bobby Johnson, president and CEO of Foundry Networks. Another vivid memory involved the notorious punch cards. The number of punch cards a person carried was like a status symbol representing their year in college. Times have definitely changed.

As a senior in high school thinking about his future, Bobby says he wanted to find a way to combine his love of math with something that would be "fascinating" in the future. Computers were fascinating to him at the time because he did not know anything about them, so computer science appeared to be a good choice. Initially he planned to attend West Point Academy but since it only offered a general engineering degree and he wanted to specialize in computers, he decided that NC State would be the best place to attend college. In December of 1977, he graduated from NC State with a B.S. in computer science.

Bobby started his career as a systems network architect and developer at IBM in the Research Triangle Park. Bobby and his wife next made their home in California - a halfway point to his wife's family who lived in Hawaii - when he went to work at Hewlett-Packard. Bobby has held many management positions, including president and CEO of Tri-Data and vice president and general manager of internetworking at Network Equipment Technologies.

In 1993, Bobby spent nine months unemployed writing a business plan. After receiving funding in December of 1993, Centillion Networks was founded. As president and CEO, Bobby led the company, which built integrated ATM fan switches, to immediate success. In May of 1995, after only 18 months of incorporation, Centillion Networks was sold to Bay Networks for $1.5 billion. In May of 1996, Bobby embarked once again on forming his own company. He is currently the president and CEO of Foundry Networks, a leading provider of high performance, cost effective strategic end-to-end switching and routing solutions for enterprises and internet service providers.

Under Bobby's leadership, Foundry Networks has been honored with a number of prestigious industry awards. After having a successful IPO on September 28, 1999, Foundry raised $134 million and set two records: Highest Single Day Gain (525%) and Highest Technology Single Day Valuation. It is also one of Forbes 500 Top U.S. Companies. Among many other awards bestowed on Foundry for its outstanding products are Network Week Magazine 1999 Infrastructure Product of the Year for ServerIron Switch and Network World's "World Class Award" for BigIron 4000.

Bobby finds the most exciting aspects of business to be the competition, personalities of business, and the camaraderie of customers and employees. These are the things he craved while away from the daily activities of business when writing business plans.

Operating in a very competitive environment is both exhilarating and challenging, he says. "We are a small, fast-moving company surrounded by elephants," he said. "The major ingredients that make a person successful in this environment," he continued, "are luck, good teamwork, and great employees." Outside of work, Bobby enjoys keeping up with ACC basketball, visiting relatives, and helping charitable organizations along with others in his company.

- posted 2003 - Ken Tate -

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