As a seasoned professional (read: old guy with scars earned through experience), with a fancy title, working in a cool area, at an extraordinary company, I am asked for career advice by those in the early days of their business journey. Although I’m not really an expert, people figure I might have some insight to offer.
And it’s true, on a certain level. Over the course of decades, I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, made plenty of mistakes, fallen into good luck, had several great bosses and a couple of lousy ones. I’ve weathered broad macro storms of economic downturns, flat-out recessions, sudden market transitions, and bursting bubbles.
I’ve also made it through micro disturbances like hostile acquisitions, too many rounds of layoffs and downsizing, and a few instances of company restructuring. I’ve observed and emulated some brilliant people, learned what not to do by watching others, worked with many great do-ers and leaders, led or worked within some impactful teams, and have toiled to make positive and lasting impacts on several great companies. Along the way, in the end, I have experienced a measure of success.
For those just starting your careers as new grads, recent MBA’s, or others in the early season of your professional life, I humbly offer the following collection of thoughts as I reflect back on 30+ years… some of which you might find relevant and valuable.
- Find a mentor or two – however, choose wisely and be thoughtful where you “hitch your wagon”, preferably to several stars in various areas.
- Have a mix of patience and impatience — cultivate the desire to go faster and do more, but also recognize that many things have to align in order to make a lasting impact and may take longer as a result.
- Dig deeper for an understanding – there will be inevitable frustration due to the frequent disconnect between ‘how things are’ and how you’d like them to be; recognize that the people above and around you are not stupid, they do things for a reason, understand better by digging deeper
- Stand out from the crowd – give 10% more than is expected and note that it’s a lot of work to sustain that extra 10% over time. Build it into your own rhythm early, as you will then have a huge advantage in standing out from the crowd as special, committed, willing, and productive.
- Change roles – move around within the company, horizontally as well as vertically and take a non-linear approach to your career path, especially early. It will provide you the opportunity to gain experience in many different areas as you meet many people in different departments.
- Look for the “next big thing” — always look for innovative ways to improve projects, processes or what you are working on and help bring it to reality and especially keep an eye out for big shifts ahead.
- Commit to lifelong learning — read, watch, listen, observe, learn from both the positive and negative, adopt both style and substance from what you see and learn.
- Disagree and commit – if you don’t agree with an approach or solution, offer alternatives; but once the decision has been made, don’t undermine the work, support it with everything you’ve got.
- Be nice to others – and learn to work with them. True teamwork and selflessness are rare and people want to work with people they enjoy. And you never know when you will run into these people again – you may need their support or recommendation.
- Set an example – lead through your behavior; actions speak louder than words; be slow to commit but once you do, then over-deliver.
- Be an early adopter – take risks and innovate, try new things, don’t cling to the past or old ways of working, push the envelope.
- Connect and Network – with customers, partners, employees, colleagues, and thought leaders. Continue to grow your network, it will serve you for years and decades.
- Be accessible – be present, visible, available, engaged. Make your presence known and your impact felt.
- Be human – be friendly, empathetic and authentic. Expect to have successes and failures, ups and downs, and some spectacular public mistakes. Recognize the humanity in others and cut them a break when they inevitably mess up or disappoint.
- Share the good work – celebrate the successes of others and you’ll be shared/ referenced by them in return.
- Be among the first to know – and to dive deeper to understand fully.
- Build your own personal brand – stand for something.
- Be influential – tweak and augment other people’s thinking, even by subtle means.
- Be transparent – and share with others, however don’t have selfish ulterior motives.
- Advocate an opinion – even if it proves to be wrong. Be in the mix rather than acting as a bystander or spectator.
- Meet new people – get out of the comfort zone of a small, tight circle.
- Be interesting – show some personality; quirky is OK (flaky is not), especially if you can deliver excellence with a special unique style all your own.
Bonus: Take More Risks and Have More Fun
You’re going to spend a LOT of time and energy on your work and career in the years ahead. It’ll be part of what defines you (but it’s not everything that defines you), it’ll present you with opportunities and adventures, friends and connections, a source of pride and accomplishments and the ability to live a terrific life. It’ll also be a source of frustration, long hours, disappointments, surprises, and unforeseen twists and turns. There’s no way to plan it all out in advance, but that’s okay. Take risks, make big bets, try new things.
Approach your career as an adventure and as a journey to be enjoyed, and experience it to the fullest with bold curiosity and fearlessness, with confidence in yourself, and with the expectation that the right things will happen when and how they are meant to unfold.
I wish you a fantastic journey and great success ahead!
Tags: advice to graduates, Career, digital
#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists. Today we’ll be talking about getting started in I.T. with Cisco Champions Rowell Dionicio and Justin Parisi. Our guest hosts this week are Networking Academy members Tim Harmon and Nick Saylor.
Listen to the Podcast.
Learn about the Cisco Champions Program HERE.
See a list of all #CiscoChampion Radio podcasts HERE.
Ask about the next round of Cisco Champions nominations. EMAIL US.
Cisco Champion SMEs
Rowell Dionicio, @rowelldionicio, Network Engineer
Justin Parisi, @NFSDudeAbides, Technical Marketing Engineer
Networking Academy Guest Hosts
Tim Harmon, @harmont2004
Nick Saylor, @SalsaBeard
Additional Networking Academy Members
Rachel Bakker (@rbakker)
Up and coming skills for new professionals
Getting your foot in the door
What hiring managers look for
Overcoming lack of experience
The most important tools you’ll need to jump start your career
Networking and Tech Groups
Read More »
Tags: #CiscoChampionRadio, Career, Career Advice, Early in Career Network, IT careers, mentorship, networking academy, tech careers
Last week I had the wonderful honor of being a presenter in the Cisco Networking Academy Find Yourself in The Future Series. To date this series has attracted over 9000 live attendees, which is testament to the extremely high levels of interest in technology careers in this region as well as the extraordinary efforts of the APAC marketing team. One figure blew me away in particular: 70% of attendees are interested in pursuing careers in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is an incredibly exciting field. It draws in some of the most talented technologists and brainiacs and in many ways cybersecurity is similar to a game of chess. It’s about anticipating and staying ahead of your opponent. It’s also about learning to think like the bad guys except that he patterns are anything but predictable and then doing good. And, that feeling of contributing to the good of humankind is intensely gratifying.
Cybersecurity is such a diverse field and it intersects with just about every area of technology and even behavioral sciences. And, it’s this intersection that will enable students to pursue their dream careers in cybersecurity. Imagine a career in cybersecurity that intersects with medicine. Today people could die from hackers sending fatal doses to hospital drug pumps and you might have a vision for solving this life-threatening problem. In my work one of my goals is to provide our chidren a safe, digital playground. This combines my interest for education with privacy and digital safety.
On last week’s presentation I suggested students take the following steps to achieving their dream careers. And, it’s these very steps that have been major enablers in my career too.
- Find an area of cyber security that is particularly compelling and exciting to you. Or find the intersection of cybersecurity with another field and think of ways that you could change or influence the industry.
- Research that area on the web and learn as much as you can about it.
- Explore possibilities of being an intern in an organization that is pursuing innovative directions that coincide with your interests.
- Find a mentor. Mentors both help you grow your career as well as help you navigate a workplace. If you can find a way to help the person who is mentoring you, for example, research a new area, then you become very valuable to your mentor too.
- Finally, think about your career in a series of phases. What you might start out doing may be very different to what you do in 20 years from now. So think about companies that allow you to evolve and career paths that are flexible.
We live in an increasingly insecure digital world. The upside is that that cybersecurity will continue to be a much sought after skillset in the workforce. And, if I can help you pursue your dream career in cybersecurity, please reach out to me and if you missed the session you can view the recording on YouTube.
Tags: Career, cybersecurity, jobs
First lets talk about what a Network Engineer is. According to The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from Dictionary.com website a Network Engineer is:
“A high-level LAN /WAN technician who plans, implements and supports network solutions between multiple platforms. A network engineer installs and maintains local area network hardware and software, and troubleshoots network usage and computer peripherals.”
Network Engineers can wear many different hats. I believe the more “Traditional” Network Engineers mainly work on devices such as Routers, Switches, Firewalls, Wireless Access Points and Controllers, Load Balancers, Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems as well as some server maintenance involving virtualization and network management software. Next we should discuss the overview of the differences between Network Engineering and Administration. Keep in mind I am just talking from an industry general view/standpoint. Some companies may not differ between the 2 titles. Engineers and Admins tend to share a lot of responsibility when it comes to maintaining and troubleshooting a network. The dividing line seems to be in the design/installation area with the bulk of this work generally being done by the more “experienced” engineers. Admins usually fall under the NOC (Network Operations Center) which in large companies/agencies is usually staffed 24x7x365. I have also seen the difference broken down into tiers when it comes to troubleshooting escalation. Network Admins usually fall in the Tier 1-2 range with Engineers being considered Tier 3. Read More »
Tags: #ciscochampion, Career, GNS3, IT careers, network engineer, VIRL
Several months ago I became so busy with work that I subconsciously compiled a script that auto-executed every time someone asked any question vaguely resembling, “How have you been?”. I didn’t have time to think of a human answer, so without hesitation, the canned response “busy” would sound from my lips.
Often times we get so busy with work we become robotic, and even worse – we forget to live. The funny thing is, by the time we realize it, rather than making some significant change, we just keep working to distract ourselves from the uncomfortable truth. As we strive to stay current with the evolution of technologies, certifications and the world around us, we quickly become overwhelmed, placing our wellbeing and sense of self at risk. We have a thousand things going on at work, two thousand things to catch up on, a hundred books to read, tests to take, projects to complete, deadlines to meet, and, oh yeah, an entirely separate life to live with family and loved ones, plus housework, hobbies and so on, all with a phone screen glued to our eyes, constantly checking email and social media. It’s quite an amazing feat to take on such a loaded life and remain happy. Read More »
Tags: #ciscochampion, Career, work, work life balance