It seems like only a year ago when I stepped in the Cisco office as a new hire fresh out of college. Oh wait, it was just a year ago when all this happened. Time flies when work is never dull and learning seems never-ending. I can go on and on about all the lessons I learned, awesome projects I got to witness and work on, the supportive team I work with, etcetera etcetera. Instead of writing a 365-page book documenting my adventures at Cisco (a page a day is an underestimation by the way), I’ll summarize the top three things I learned at Cisco.
1. Don’t be afraid to make your ideas heard:
I don’t know about you, but when I first started, approaching a colleague, manager, or director with a new idea seemed more intimidating than jumping off an airplane 5,000 feet above the ground in a sky diving lesson. Mind you, I have a serious case of acrophobia (read: fear of heights). When you’re new, everyone else is more senior than you, has more experience under the belt, knows more about the ins and outs of Cisco, and need I say more? The idea of bringing a new idea to the table seems almost ridiculous.
“Someone must have come up with the idea before.”
“What if they say no?”
These were thoughts that often held me back. At some point, though, I came to realize I don’t know for sure if the idea has been suggested before or if it was going to be rejected. I don’t know until I make my ideas heard. My biggest limiting factor was me for paralyzing myself in action with unproductive second guesses. The moment I came to this epiphany was the moment I began to participate more in discussions and felt more like part of a team.
Think of it this way, one of the greatest assets of a new hire is his or her fresh perspective. Free of corporate habits and a stranger to conventions, a new hire is essentially a blank canvas, a creative masterpiece waiting to happen. So next time you have a new idea, make it heard.
2. Work-life balance:
College was like this for me: Class for about 5 hours a day, then a part-time job for about 4 hours, club meetings for an hour or two, group meeting for 3 hours, study group session for 2 hours, essay and homework for who knows how long… There simply wasn’t enough time for myself, my family, or my friends. Reading for the sake of reading became impossible, making a phone call to my family became less frequent, hanging out with friends was something dictated by my calendar. I was always stressed and soon my health took a hit. I was sick at least four times a year, each time lasting about a month.
That’s why I made a pact to work on my work-life balance. After four years of overworking in college, it’s challenging to say the least to change that habit. So I created a plan: sign off after 7pm, keep weekends for my family and friends, and make a point to take a lunch break away from the desk each day (even if it’s just for half an hour). This has been working out for me so far. Occasionally, I still check my emails in the middle of the night, turn on my work laptop on weekends when I’m approaching a deadline, and definitely guilty of working through lunch sometimes. I’m still learning how to balance my work and personal lives, but I have seen a lot of improvements since I started dedicating more time to doing the things that keep me grounded and recharged.
3. Make the best out of the differences between you and your team:
The thing I’ve always appreciated about Cisco is the opportunity to work with people from all over the world and walks of life. To think… I once thought college was a melting pot of different cultures, personalities, and dreams. Cisco is like that but to the fifth power! I get to work with people from Europe and Asia, learn from some of the most intelligent individuals who have been in the business for 10+ years, collaborate with teams across functions, and meet with people who think differently than me. It’s not always a walk in the park, I admit, to come to a consensus when it comes to decision-making, and it will take time to bounce different ideas back and forth before arriving at the best decision possible. When there are disagreements, I can always rest assured it’s because we view one single issue through different perspectives. I am fascinated by how there is no one way to address an issue, and there is always someone in this company who is just hands-down unquestionably good in areas I still need to perfect. I see this as another opportunity to learn from someone who knows more than me and who has qualities I need to learn from. So what did I learn? To thrive in differences!
Reflecting on my top three lessons for the year, I feel incredibly lucky and thankful for Cisco and the people I work with. I’m thankful my colleagues are always open to hearing my new ideas and contribute to an environment that’s so accepting. I’m thankful Cisco encourages work-life balance and allows for work flexibility that gives us the chance to dedicate time to all the other things that are important to us outside of work. I’m thankful my colleagues think differently than me and have different ways of approaching an issue (last thing I want is being in a room with multiple forms of me). I have so much more I’m thankful for, but let’s not make this a cheesy post.
Whether you’re a new hire or not, I’m certain there are always lessons learned and things to be thankful for. Tell me about them in the comment section below!