Recently I had the opportunity to talk to a group of students who had a decision to make. They had multiple job offers, a good problem to have, but could only pick one. Hard Choices. My job was to sell them on Cisco. But it turned out to be more than that. While I was happy to share why I came to Cisco and stayed for 15+ years, I wanted them to really think about what mattered most to them. Here’s some of what we talked about.
One of the main things that people forget when looking for a career is that yes, a company chooses you, but most of the time, you get to choose the company. So “Choose Wisely” (channeling the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the last Crusade.) How? Start with these 3 things:
1. Choose a Culture where you will thrive:
Choose a Company that cares about what matters to you and what matters to the company. It’s important to find a place that allows you to experiment, take risks and most importantly to break glass. A place that will invest in you, where you are around other bright people with whom you can learn from as well as a culture that enables success and allows you to pursue your passion. And it needs to be fun too.
This picture is at Grace Hopper Conference a couple of months ago. We had free reign on everything from booth design to hosting advanced tech node sessions to designing demos we wanted to showcase. It allowed us to be creative and have fun and get the end result we wanted despite achy feet from three days of running around the cavernous conference center.
Cisco is a fun place to work! Teams have their own micro cultures and have done many different things from Bollywood dance offs to orchestrating haunted houses on Halloween in various buildings to Dodgeball tournaments to raise funds for March of Dimes. Cisco is also a company that cares for our community. We care about the world and we take our social responsibility seriously. What’s good for our community & our world is good for business. Just a couple weeks ago, we raised over $750,000 in a 48-hour challenge for the Second Harvest Food Bank.
A company culture that allows you to thrive and aligns to your values sets you up for success while having fun!
2. Choose a company that offers many opportunities.
Choosing a company isn’t just about your first job. Think about your second or third job and so on and so forth. Is the company you’re choosing going to provide you with lily pads to other roles? You should choose a company where you can establish a career trajectory. I thought I would be at Cisco for 12 to 24 months at the most. Fifteen years later, I am in my fifth role in Engineering and its very much “One Company, Multiple Careers.”
My mentors and sponsors here played a big role in changing the trajectory of my life and career. I was encouraged (it was more of a sharp elbow vs. gentle nudge at times) to take on roles that helped build new capabilities. It took me out of my comfort zone each time going from being the “go to” person to once again being the “new kid on the block.” I failed at some, succeeded at many others and the challenges and opportunity to reinvent myself each time gave me the confidence and visibility to continue to push forward. And I can continue to do that because Cisco is a company with multiple businesses and technology domains, so the career opportunities are vast and interesting.
3. If you want to be inspired, choose a company that innovates.
Choose a company that thrives on Innovation. Choose a company that inspires YOU to innovate and allows YOU to take risks to do so. You want to belong to a place where you can be at the forefront of technology. At Cisco, it’s about innovation that matters to our customers whether you’re Connecting and Securing the World to IoT, Analytics, Cloud, Collaboration.
In Engineering, we have internal start ups called Alphas. These start ups are focused on disruptive innovation ideas and combine the agility and risk profile of a startup with the resources and scale of a large, resourceful company like Cisco. Anyone can submit an idea for review and have the opportunity to get funded. The same concept is now available company wide under the “Innovation Challenge”
We innovate to change the way the world, lives, works, plays and learns.
It’s critical to get clarity around what you’re passionate about so work doesn’t feel like a chore, but you also want to choose a place that is fun, challenging and filled with opportunities. If you do, you can’t go wrong!
I’m always happy to connect and help future and current Cisconians. Find me on Twitter @LizCentoni, or comment below.
If you’d like to join the company that has inspired me, you can see openings here.