Cisco Blogs


Cisco Blog > Life At Cisco

22 Tips for New Grads and Others Early-in-Career

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, mountain climbI’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 quote from Michael Jordandue 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. quote clay shirky 1
  • 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: , ,

Digital Payments Lack the Framework for Success…And That Needs To Change

Co-authored with Mark Kovarski

In an era of constant technological evolution, our utilization of different technologies, including mobile devices, has had massive impact on the financial services industry. As a result, the industry is facing major disruption as new technology translates into new ways of exchanging value (money). In fact, digital payment concepts are constantly developing, with technology advances changing the payment universe as we know it. Disruptive innovations, such as Apple Pay, continue to gain scaled acceptance globally. Contactless payment solutions could take us a step further towards getting rid of the security and convenience shortfalls of traditional credit and debit cards, but it’s important that a capable, secure network is put in place before digital payments can truly flourish.

The Changing Payments Landscape

The first official currency was introduced in Turkey in 600vBC and, around 1661 AD, coins evolved into bank notes. In 1946, the first credit card was introduced and since the start of this century technology advances have disrupted the world of money more than once. In 1999, European banks started offering mobile banking while in 2008, contactless payment cards were issued in the UK for the first time. Now, driven by mobile and Internet technologies, we are in the early stages of fundamentally changing how we perceive the concept of money. Financial control is no longer only in the hands of the financial industry. Today, entrepreneurial minds are connecting us to our (and others) money in new and innovative ways.

Smartphones and tablets have recently become common devices with 79.4 million U.S. consumers who shop online. According to (source) 51% of U.S. digital buyers are expected to make purchases using a mobile device. New services like Apple Pay and mobile payments (M-payments) are becoming increasingly common in financial services. The questions we must begin to consider are, who will be the key providers in the financial services market in the future and what sort of payment ecosystem will emerge? Read More »

Tags: , , , , , ,

How Banks Can Capture New Customers by Adopting a Digital Strategy for Mortgage Lending

Banks are experiencing market disruptors attacking from many angles. They’re facing competition not only within the financial services industry, but also from non-traditional banking institutions that are delivering new mortgage lending models and innovative digital services that provide the convenience and personalization consumers want. Unless banks adopt these new models as well, they risk losing customers and revenue to competitors and emerging market disruptors. In this blog, I’ll focus on how banks can implement a digital branch strategy for mortgage lending that enables them to deliver greater value to their customers, improve productivity among their advisors and even increase profitability.

In mortgage lending today, there are common “gaps” where consumers are most likely to abandon the process or go to a competitor. From the consumer’s perspective, acquiring a mortgage is likely the biggest purchase they will ever make. They spend time researching it, getting their finances in order and gathering the necessary documentation. If the consumer visits a bank branch wanting to apply for a mortgage, only to be told that the mortgage specialist is not available right now or to make an appointment for next week, they are likely to walk across the street to a competitor and not come back. Banks are seeing “leakage” in the mortgage lending process as high as 70% in these scenarios. Once a customer has left, only 30% are likely to return. Read More »

Tags: , , , , ,

U.S. Army Builds Internet of Everything Infrastructure for the Fighting Force of Tomorrow

Every July, we celebrate on the 4th to commemorate the Continental Congress’ approval of the Declaration of Independence.  This year, the patriotic occasion reminded me of an event held last month when, together with United States Congresswoman Jackie Speier and the president of Sonim Technologies, Bob Plaschke, I announced a partnership with Sonim for the digital transformation of the communications systems supporting the U.S. Army training center in Fort Irwin (California).

Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Smarketing: A Sales & Marketing Love Story

Once upon a time, sales and marketing were in love

True, Marketing wanted a long-term relationship and Sales only wanted a one-night stand, but it was clear where everyone stood.

Then, the relationship began to change

With the advent of digital and social tools, buyers – not sellers – stepped into the driver’s seat.  They began using online means to conduct ROI analyses before making final purchasing decisions.  Today, according to Sirius Decisions, buyers are more informed than ever because they’ve got access to online content as well as an extensive online peer network.  And, according to a recent DemandGen Buyer Behaviour report, almost half of buyers create a short-list of potential vendors and one- third conduct initial research on solution options before the first communication with a sales rep.

Marketing started to use tactics that buyers, not Sales, preferred

Marketing started to change too.  As Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker has said, “Marketing was the last function to be industrialised and the first function to be digitised.” With the buyer in control, Marketers started moving away from outbound tactics like tradeshows, live events, and email campaigns that Sales was used to.  We started using digital tactics that matched the buyers’ desire to look for information online using search engines, vendor websites, and social media sites. But neither Sales nor Marketing was happy.  Things got so bad that Hubspot reported:  “87% of the terms sales and marketing teams use to describe each other are negative.”

Enter Revenue Marketing

Like a good marriage counsellor, Revenue Marketing helped Sales and Marketing rekindle their relationship.  In a nutshell, Revenue Marketing ensures that Marketing strategies and campaigns align with Sales and business objectives to generate a measurable ROI to the bottom line.  Using Revenue Marketing principles, Marketing started to transform from a cost centre to a revenue centre. Marketing and Sales began to work in partnership again. And they began speaking the same language – using terms of endearment like planning, forecasts, pipeline, bookings, and revenue.

Back on track:  Smarketing

Today, the romance between Sales and Marketing is back on.  And, like all happy couples, they’re using a pet name:  Smarketing.  Hubspot defines the term Smarketing as “the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication.” We’ve embraced the term and the concept here at Cisco, and here are four lessons learned to strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing.

4 Tips For Smarketing bliss

 1. Speak a common language

It’s important to be on the same page. For example, here at Cisco, Sales and Marketing both know exactly what we mean by terms such as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), Sales Accepted Leads (SAL), and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

2. Gaze in the same direction

Marketing and Sales must also share revenue goals and strategies.  We have defined how much Marketing will contribute to Sales  – both to the pipeline and to bookings.  We have also articulated what each team will do to support the others’ efforts.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Once you’re on the same page, tune your operational systems to give visibility into results – and refine your processes continually.  At Cisco, Sales and Marketing use common reporting dashboards and hold each other accountable.  Both teams listen and respond to feedback.

 4. Celebrate success hand-in-hand

Now that Marketing can concretely prove its value, both teams can celebrate together. This builds strong team morale.

Smarketing may be a cute term but it has very real ramifications.  In fact, according to a study done by the Aberdeen Group, companies with strong sales and marketing alignment can get 20% annual revenue growth.  Now that’s worth celebrating.

So please raise a glass and join me in congratulating the happy couple.  To….Smarketing!

Tags: , , , ,