Tom put him onto me (Rob Koslowsky) to explore opportunities. After I learned that Steve would not move to California, I put him in touch with Dave Hardesty, who covered the NSP customers from Virginia to Boston. Steve had a good interview with Dave who asked him to interview with Jeff Santos, his boss. Steve and Jeff met in Cincinnati for an interview and Steve was subsequently hired as a sales rep to cover the territory of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware from his home office in Virginia.
Steve recalls, “This was the first time I worked from home, so I painted the walls of a room in my house all green for the color of money. That room became my ‘upstairs’ office, where I worked on Cerent sales activities seven days a week.”
That first year he sold a lot of the Cerent 454 for Cerent-Cisco. For those nine months through July 2000, Stephen achieved top salesmen honors for all of Cisco. Steve remembers shaking John Chambers hand and basking in the very public, on stage recognition at the national sales convention. At the same time, Dave Cesca was acknowledged as the top Regional Sales Manager (RM) and Jeff Santos was congratulated for earning the top Operational Sales Director (OD). All were proud Cerent sales alumni.
During the party atmosphere, Dave recalls, “Santos coaxed me into diving off the stage where numerous Cerent alumni caught me.” They passed Dave over their heads in celebration of Cerent’s sales achievements within Cisco.
How did salesmen like Dave and Steve achieve such heights? By selling.
Steve’s main customers in the mid-Atlantic region became Nextlink Northeast with key centers in New York and Boston. His quota was $5 million, and he was securing orders to the tune of $1 million per week at the end of the fiscal year. Steve blew away his quota “numbers” with just this Nextlink account. The decision-maker up in the northeast, still says, in 2015, that Steve is the best salesman he’s ever worked with at Cisco. “It makes you feel really good,” Steve observes.
He also sold additional ‘454’ product to Allegheny Energy’s subsidiary Allegheny Communications  (Dave Hardesty himself had cracked that account before Steve arrived), GPU Telecom Services , and Conectiv Communications , a CLEC based in Delaware. Steve was proud that he never lost an account he targeted.
Then things got really tough during the dot.com bust of 2000 and the telecom meltdown of 2001. Steve recalls, “In my third year at Cisco, through July 2002, I had gone from 600 percent of quota to 20 percent of quota. Plus I didn’t sell my Cisco stock when it was at $80 in 2000, and so I reached a cash flow negative position as I was at 30 percent of plan then.”
Steve had since moved from the east coast and settled in Denver with his family, working at Cisco and managed by Dave Cesca. He pauses, “I was financially humbled and looked to head back east as me and my wife’s roots were there. No one could make money in Denver because there were just too many people in Cisco sales and not enough customers buying telecom gear after the telecom meltdown.”
He found a new home with Doug Juers who was selling to AT&T for Cisco. “On the AT&T account team under Doug Juers there was Dan Scatena working the lab, Jeff Parow covering the core network, Jeff Jacques on local network services, and myself calling on the Ultravailable team.”
The highs with Cerent-Cisco, to the lows of losing almost everything out west, to settling down to a steady job under Doug defined Steve’s sales career. He fondly recalls, “Those five years working for Doug Juers were the best part of my working career. That period also allowed me to stabilize my financial situation.”
Steve, a technocrat at heart, reflected on Cerent’s legacy: “Cerent caught everyone else off guard. The people and the product had success for many years. Cisco’s service provider teams at that time didn’t have a clue about how to sell to service providers. Operations personnel [in the telcos] were important. It took Cisco years to get it.”
Steve, contributing to the Cisco optical sales team calling on AT&T, had hit his stride, once again.
 Indeed, in March 1999, Dave Hardesty asked for help to call on the CLEC arm of Allegheny Energy. Allegheny Communications Connect was the eleventh applicant to the FCC to operate telecommunications facilities under the 1996 Telecommunications Act. They were approved on June 14, 1996. Hardesty wrote three years later, “I need help with this one. Absolutely the biggest near term prospect I have. Allegheny Communications Connect, the CLEC arm of Allegheny Energy, wants to move quickly with deploying Cerent. First meeting last Friday caused VP of Engineering to place NORTEL purchase order on hold. I have quoted two networks today, $600K total. Both OC-48 BLSR, DS3, DS1, OC-12 Stuff. Four calls today, plus this email reply from Ed Miller make me believe they are serious . . .” We got this business and then Stephen Zielke arrived on the scene in July to manage the account for Dave. He secured much more business for the region.
 GPU Telecom was the sixteenth applicant to the FCC requesting permission to operate telecommunications facilities under the 1996 Telecommunications Act. They were approved by the FCC on November 12, 1996. On January 21, 2000, Steve wrote, “[I] spoke with the VAR who booked the GPU order for us (Forsythe) – and word from Laura Sabetti is that she does not want to do business with us direct. GPU is willing to pay more to have the 15454 go through the VAR! Her words were, ‘All Cisco products I buy come through Forsythe – why can't this product?’ Note that GPU Telecom is the unregulated subsidiary – but they are using GPU Energy's purchasing and contracting (Laura Sabetti). I am in the process of quoting a 12-node project for their Pennsylvania backbone – that they want to buy very soon!! I would like to take this order (at 44.44% disc), let the VAR mark it up, and get in their backbone.” By February 2002, GPU had become one of the major dark fiber providers in North America.
 Conectiv Communications was the thirty-fourth applicant to the FCC seeking permission to operate telecommunication facilities. Their filing received FCC approval on October 7, 1997. Conectiv billed themselves, in 1998, “as a full-service telecommunications provider that is unique in its ability to offer local, regional toll, and long distance service to customers in the mid-Atlantic region. It is part of the family of companies under Conectiv, a company formed as a result of a merger between Delmarva Power and Atlantic Energy.”