Fresh out of college at Emory University (go Eagles!), I landed a strategy consulting role with a top firm and headed to Washington, DC. The work was challenging and provided an amazing view into the inner workings of some amazing clients across a broad range of markets.
While I enjoyed the job, I wanted more. I wanted to be closer to the action and execution, but I needed to figure out how to make that move.
I happened upon a book “100 Fastest Growing Companies” and set my sights on joining one of them. (Fun fact: back when this book was published, Cisco had just 1500 employees. Now we have 75,000 and growing)
Today, I lead a global sales team of security sales specialists and have the privilege of sponsoring our Emerging Talent at Cisco: Cybersecurity group. The journey to get here wasn’t a straight line. But along the way, I’ve learned a few things about building a career you love and helping build the next generation of cybersecurity rock stars.
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In chatting with entry level employees across Cisco, I hear how much visibility and networking matter to them. There are so many options for cybersecurity roles (and an ongoing talent gap), so take the time to learn and reach out to people in positions that sound interesting. You can also look for local IT and cybersecurity groups (e.g. ISSA) to get involved and volunteer in some capacity.
Within my team, I think “skip levels” are crucially important, as well as regular check-ins on career ambitions. Never hesitate to ask for these from your management.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing mentors throughout my career who I lean on for career advice. In the Emerging Talent Cybersecurity group, we’re actively pairing mentors and mentees and have set a goal for participation from senior leaders.
Don’t be shy about approaching potential mentors. I find that, as a leader, I learn just as much from these conversations and welcome the chance to connect. Take the initiative to handle the logistics and come to the call prepared with questions and topics. We all need sponsors too—who are the people that talk about you when you are not in the room?
I like to remind people that statistically most of us don’t work in the field we major in (political science for me). So, from the beginning of your career, embracing learning and curiosity is a must. Don’t be afraid if you make a “wrong turn” along the way. As sellers, navigating objections and challenges comes with the territory – so apply the same principles to your own career development.
In a world of new and ever-evolving threats, we also must keep our cybersecurity skills sharp.
You can ask my team—we take to heart the Cisco Guiding Principles, especially: “Take a Bold Step” and “Take Accountability.” In a sales organization, we need to be bold in our expectations to grab market share in newly forming markets, to win lighthouse accounts, and to build new revenue streams for the company. And we need to take accountability for these goals.
So, in your own career planning – be bold, set goals, and track and measure your performance. Share your personal record of success with future hiring managers.
Grit is also hugely important to me. Angela Duckworth’s famous talk on the power of passion and persistence inspires me every day. In security sales, we need hunters that believe in our technology and have the drive to make things happen.
You’re never quite sure where the path leads – but for me, I’m grateful for the amazing experiences along the way and to keep building on these in the future. Want to start your journey with fast-growing Cisco Secure? We’re hiring!