“Raise your hand!” It’s what we all have to do in order to grow our careers, gain new opportunities, and take on different experiences. Sometimes opportunities come to us without us doing anything, but most of the time, opportunities come across our plate because in someway or another, we raised our hands. We may have had a conversation about what we wanted to do with a mentor, or taken a class that seemed interesting, or directly said, ‘hey, I’m interested.’ Regardless, if we don’t raise our hands then we certainly won’t ever get selected for a new project, new job, or any new opportunities for growth.

Take a second and ask yourself, when was the last time you raised your hand? Did your hand shoot straight up? Or did you raise your hand for the “opportunity” no one wanted, including yourself? Really think about it because it will help you determine if you’re getting what your want or missing out and feeling unfulfilled professionally and personally.

I attended the Simmons Leadership Conference the first week in April and was truly inspired by the women there that were raising their hands. Or as Sheryl Sandberg calls it, Leaning In. Cisco had over 300 women and few men attend the conference this year and we hope to bring more next year. The opportunities are endless in networking, learning new skills, hearing other women’s stories and feeling the energy it takes to take control of the what you want in your life and career. It’s not always natural to raise our hand so conferences like this one really help build the confidence and provide resources for women to learn and practice how to engage and take charge of creating the career they desire.

There was a time in my career that I didn’t raise my hand and I went along following whatever was in front of me, just doing my job. Until a mentor of mine commented that I needed to raise my hand. For me, those words really hit home and I started looking at my career and what I wanted very differently. I started raising my hand for projects ‘outside’ of my responsibilities, asking to shadow fellow peers and even some managers in different departments so that I could expose myself to different parts of the business. Now, when I’m in meetings I listen to what is being said and think about whether or not it is something I want to raise my hand for. In the past, I would just sit and listen until I heard my name behind a predetermine action item. That didn’t get me anywhere!

If you haven’t picked up Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” I encourage you to do so. What got me to stop and ponder was am I pursuing my career with gusto? And where do I need more gusto? Passion for what we’re doing will make us great or pull us apart at the seams. The second most powerful notion I took away from the book was am I being my authentic self, all the time? It’s easy to slip into doing or acting in a way your perceive others want to see, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory like starting a new job, new project, or working with a new team. This was a great question to ask myself now that I’m six months into my role at Cisco.

Questions like ‘did I raise my hand’, or ‘am I leaning in’ are great set points. Think about what your questions are to help you check in with yourself. It’s your journey; have your taken control?



Kathleen Weslock

Senior Vice President

Chief Human Resources Officer