Cisco is no longer a `high tech’ company by any stretch of imagination. The bulk of the technical work that is being done there is incremental and low-value-add, and can easily be done by the sort of easily-led newbies that such companies are eager to hire in the third world. They need very few experts. In the meantime, companies running datacenters are beginning to realize that they do not need the full-fledged switches, routers and other gear that comply to ten thousand IEEE standards. Google et-al are sourcing the hardware cheaply from china and having their own folks write just the bare minimum of networking code required to get stuff working in their datacenters. They are un-willing to pay Cisco premiums. Cisco has managed to bribe enough politicians and spread enough FUD to keep Huawei out of the US. But such tactics do not work too well outside the US, those markets figure that if someone is spying on them anyway, it might as well be the cheaper vendor.
Consequently, over the past 5 years, all semblance of commercial value has been driven out of the networking industry in the west. There are hardly any networking/telecommunication companies left. The infrastructure divisions of Lucent, Nortel, Motorola, Nokia & Siemens have either disappeared completely or exist only in vestigial forms. Folks who populated the networking industry in the late nineties and early 2000s have flocked to the surviving companies, wiz, Cisco & Juniper. Most (but definitely not all) of the smart folks sensed the oncoming demise of the networking industry and got out of Dodge while the getting was good. This means that old-school companies like Cisco and Juniper are stuffed full of people who are unemployable anywhere else. Their skills are too specialized and not transferable to any of the emerging software fields, or simply not of value in such companies. (What good does an intimate knowledge of zero-copy technologies to a company that considers hardware a commodity and writes all their stuff in Java, resulting in hundreds of copies under the hood?) They have not really kept in touch with the basics of computer science and are mostly unable to make it through the interview processes of growing web-based companies.
Thus, as other posters have indicated, there is a large volume of deadwood at Cisco. The first concern of most of such folks is to avoid being caught in the next layoff. Everyone realizes that Cisco is slowly and systematically shedding heads in the US, Europe & other high head-count countries and growing in India, a-la IBM. The politics at Cisco will make that in the US congress seem like that of a preschool. It is commonly heard within Cisco that the entire caste system of India has been replicated there. Cisco has not developed anything innovative in-house for more than a decade. Pretty much all their new product introductions have been acquisitions. No wonder John Chambers sees no value in in-house talent.
I do not intend to suggest that everyone in Cisco is sub-par. I personally know some excellent A+ engineers who are still hanging on there for various (valid and questionable) reasons, and I wish them all the best, and hope they manage to find other employment before the axe reaches their own necks.