As we commemorate International Women’s Day in March, it’s a good time to reflect on what is possible for each of us in our careers and how we can foster our own personal development. Cisco is hosting a month of activities to promote inclusion, diversity and the professional development of women as part of our Women of Impact celebration. As one of the Executive Sponsors of our Women of Cisco employee group, I’d like to pass on three things that have helped me, and I hope at least one or two of them will be useful to you.

The first is that, when a door opens, walk through it.

Wendy Mars strikes the #EachForEqual pose.

Sometimes a great opportunity can open up right in front of you and you aren’t sure what to do. Your immediate reaction may be to say “no”, and that can be for many reasons. This has happened to me and I was given some great advice – ‘when a door opens, walk through it’. Try it, don’t just automatically say no or think you can’t. Give yourself a push, take a risk. You may feel it is sink or swim time, but you will swim. Be confident.

If you get the chance to live and work abroad, take it.

I had the opportunity to work in the US (New York and Texas) and in Japan (Tokyo) when I was in my 20’s working for other companies before I joined Cisco. Living and working in different cultures is fantastic to try if you have the chance. You learn a lot about the culture and environment that you are in, but you also learn a lot about yourself. I found it really helped me with my communication, to make sure that I used language that would work internationally, and I made some great friends that I still stay connected to, some of who now work at Cisco. Small world!

Think about what gives you energy, and what drains you.

We always know what we don’t want to do and sometimes that’s easier than explaining what we do want to do. I find it more helpful to ask what gives you energy and what drains you. I get energy from being out and about, meeting customers, partners, and all of you, our teams at Cisco. I get drained with a lot of heavy internal process, and too many internal meetings. Spend some time thinking about your energizers and the things that drain you. It’s a good exercise to do. As you look at opportunities that might match that, make sure that you also think two jobs ahead as that helps you to build your career path.

One last thing, and maybe the most important thing I can pass along keep your professional network active.

It’s the most powerful thing that you have. Stay in touch, support each other and don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. We all need that. You definitely don’t want to have regrets about what could have been.

You only live once – just do it!


Wendy Mars

Senior Vice President

President - Cisco EMEA