Anne Johnson

"Keep abreast of technology and use the knowledge to guide your ambitions," says Anne, angel investor and CEO of Cunning Systems.

Name Anne Johnson
Degree course MSc Knowledge Based Systems
Year of graduation 1984
anne johnson

CEO, Cunning Systems

Having taken the MSc course run jointly by Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (before Informatics was formed), I was going to become a Knowledge Engineer for a company in Edinburgh. They went into liquidation 6 weeks before I was due to join them, so instead I went to Hewlett Packard at South Queensferry.

That led to a move to HP Labs in Bristol. HP Labs were Cisco Systems' first UK customer and at that time Cisco had a staff of 12. Subsequently Cisco asked if I'd work for their newly signed UK distributor and reseller. We built a UK market for Cisco and other network technology suppliers. Then in 1995 I moved to Palo Alto, California to work for Netsys Technologies, in which Cisco had an investment - it became one of the early Cisco acquisitions.

I left Cisco after 10 years and came back to Edinburgh for part of a year in 2009, doing technical business development work in Europe for two companies: Arista Networks (founded by Andy Bechtolscheim, who founded Sun Microsystems) and XKL LLC (founded by Len Bosack, who founded Cisco Systems), focused on high speed network infrastructure products.

Recently I've been working with smaller companies. I've mentored 6 programs for theTechstars accelerator in London and San Antonio, supported the Saltire Foundation, and developed a portfolio of early stage investments.

What is a typical day in your current job?

Office days are dominated by email and video conversations, with customers and colleagues. There's a lot of background reading, and a good deal of short form writing. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

At Cisco I was the technical leader for the acquisition of a company which made technology for defence against denial of service attacks. Having people working on that technology and making it widely available kept the Internet up and running in the face of many criminal threats.

Do you have any advice for fellow alumni & students?

Keep abreast of technology as it develops, and use the knowledge to guide your ambitions.

What is your favourite memory from your time at Edinburgh?

Being able to persuade Edinburgh University Computing Service to connect Appleton Tower to Kings Buildings using Cisco routers and the TCP/IP protocol in 1991 - it was the first UK university to do so.

Some of my favourite personal memories: Two of the people on the MSc course were determined to drink in every pub in Edinburgh during the year of the course, and sometimes I'd join them to try their better finds. Getting access to USEnet in 1983 was a revelation, and multiperson chat (talk) on a DEC 20 was fun!

This article was first published in 2009 and updated in 2016. For updates on what Anne is doing now, find her LinkedIn below.