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One on One: with Juniper Networks' Dean Cunningham

One on One: with Juniper Networks' Dean Cunningham

Cunningham revisits his career journey, his focus for Juniper this year and his ambitions.

Dean Cunningham (Juniper Networks)

Dean Cunningham (Juniper Networks)

Credit: Juniper Networks

Spending too much time surfing with his mate led Juniper Networks’ APJ senior director of partner sales, Dean Cunningham, towards his first interview with Telstra. Initially starting as an individual contractor, 18 months later, he was leading a team of 14 and shifted around various roles with the telco for more than 10 years before finding himself in vendor land. First working at Polycom, Cunningham later made his move from Bondi to Singapore, adding Brocade and Veeam to his resume before landing at Juniper Networks. 

What was your first job?

As a Bondi boy born and bred, my first ever job was at nine years old as a paperboy in my local area, delivering newspapers on Sunday mornings.

Professionally, my first job was with Telstra in a customer-service role in Sydney, a company at which I ended up staying for over ten years. I fell into this accidentally, having had the interview for my first role with Telstra set up by my friend’s mum on the basis that I was spending too much time surfing with her son and not enough time studying or working! Thankfully, things really do seem to happen for a reason and I ended up building a career out of the opportunity.

How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?

I went into Telstra as an individual contributor, and after 18 months was in charge of a team of 14 people. I subsequently moved from the consumer side to the enterprise side of the business and found my way into Telstra’s managed service space, eventually transitioning to a wholesale role within the company. 

I was also lucky enough in my time at Telstra to have lots of opportunities, one such opportunity was a fellowship for 12 months that allowed me to work on a project at Boston Consulting Group, understand the changing environments of charities in Australia and overseas study. It opened up my eyes to work opportunities outside of Australia and different perspectives.

When I moved away from Telstra, I had a short stop in a mid-market reseller in Sydney before ending up in vendor land – initially with Polycom running their sales operations business in A/NZ and then their local channel business. I then started spending more time getting involved in APAC-wide opportunities, so eight and a half years ago I moved to Singapore. I spent time with Brocade and Veeam, where I saw the size of the business double during my time there – before finding my way to Juniper Networks, which I joined in February last year.

Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to work across so many different parts of the IT industry, including collaboration data centres, networks, software and hardware.

What are some of your plans for Juniper in the coming months?

My role at Juniper Networks is around partner transformation and focusing on how we can evolve the business, utilising partner feedback to evolve the programs and expanding on them further in 2022. As a business, we have made some key acquisitions over the last few years that have left us better prepared to service our partners.

From this perspective, the main focus in 2022 will be to make sure we are on the right path, and making key enhancements to our Juniper Partner Advantage Program based on the evolution of the business. 

Juniper has always been committed to building partnerships and long-lasting relationships that will ensure growth for both the company and our channel partners. In doing so, we will continue to ensure that our partners are well equipped with the right skills, specialisation and accreditation to help us get the best solutions into the hands of our end customers.

We also want to continue investing in the development and wellbeing of our people. Particularly given the last two years, we want to continue making sure employees are healthy, happy and feel well. We recently launched the Juniper Unplugged Program, a global program focused on spending time in the community and assisting those in need. 

Ensuring we build on these initiatives will be a strong focus of mine, as I know the positive impact they can have on our employees’ wellbeing at both a personal and professional level.

What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?

While there hasn’t been a singular big regret in my career, the times I didn’t trust my gut feeling are the times I came unstuck. Ultimately, these mistakes gave me the ability to have different perspectives – something which is particularly important when operating at a regional level.

In my current APAC-wide role, I’ve especially realised how valuable it is to have a diversity of thought processes among the team as it allows you to minimise the chances of making a rash decision, which leads to better business outcomes.

What are some of your ambitions -- personally and professionally?

From a professional point of view, my ambition has always been to continue to learn and challenge myself, as without it you become stagnant. When I moved from Australia into an APAC role, I had to spend a lot of time learning how to replicate my work across a broader scope with so many different cultures in the region – which is something I’ve loved doing.

Whenever possible, I always look for new opportunities to push myself within the business, and actively think of what my next step might look like – perhaps working across a different region or taking on a global role. I have also found I work much better in organisations that are growing or need to evolve, as I find the challenge that comes with growth is truly exciting and makes for interesting and engaging work.

These are thoughts I apply to my personal life as well. Covid has taught us life is important and shouldn’t be taken for granted, so I’ve taken every opportunity to explore new things inside of Singapore during Covid restrictions that I would not have normally done. I’ve especially missed travel with friends and family and can't wait to get the chance to do it again.

What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?

I have been given lots of advice over time and can’t pick one, but my thirteen-year-old gave me a quote not too long that I find myself thinking about quite often: “If you can’t say it simply then you don’t know it well enough”. This can be applied to all facets of your life.

The other broader piece of advice I received a long time ago was to be honest and upfront, two qualities that have defined my leadership style over the years and have benefited me both personally and professionally.

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