Cisco: The 70,000 Person “Startup”
There is a certain value associated with getting in early, riding the wave, and then jumping ship to go to work for the next hot company. Serial startup employees assume folks that work for “large” companies like Cisco fantasize about joining an early-stage, venture-backed technology company and wonder what it would be like to trade in their badge and cubicle for a standing desk and 4PM cocktails on Fridays.
Sometimes, the “perception’ and the “reality” don’t always align.
I worked for cloud security startup CloudLock, acquired by Cisco in August of 2016. Now that I’m officially a “Cisconian”, I’m happy to report that the acquisition has surprised me in more ways than one.
I joined CloudLock in July of 2014 (we were around 60 employees at the time – I know, I know). CloudLock offered everything I could ever want from an employer. The benefits in the pro column were undeniable and plentiful:
- Fast-paced, VC-backed startup
- “A” players, both on the executive team and throughout the company
- Extremely hot market (cloud cybersecurity)
- Limitless personal growth potential
- The opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues
- A very cool office space
- All the fun startup perks (snacks, lunches, ping pong, beer fridge)
I worked with an incredible team. I knew everyone’s name. I knew their pet’s name. I knew what kind of ice cream they liked, where they grew up, what kind of car they drove, and what motivated them.
We worked together. We spent endless hours together. Early mornings, late nights. Team dinners. Project kickoffs, project completions, project wrap ups. Highs and lows.
I experienced the growth startups promise first hand, taking advantage of opportunities made available by the nature of the startup model and making great strides in my personal development.
The company grew. And grew some more. A year after I joined, the team had doubled in size. The cloud security (or CASB) market continued to expand – rapidly. Large, established technology companies began to express interest in building out their cloud security offering or shopping for the right company to acquire.
On the morning of Cisco’s announcement to acquire CloudLock, I was ecstatic. I’m sure my neighbors can confirm this; I ran around, chanting, in some kind of crazed, borderline involuntary celebratory dance.
For the CloudLock team, acquisition was not simply a goal, it was an affirmation of our strategy, our work. Ourselves.
But, more important than what it was, was what it wasn’t. Acquisition wasn’t a finish line. Rather, it was yet another inflection point on an ever-steepening hockey stick (up-and-to-the-right trajectory).
However, in this brave new world, I had many questions for myself. What kind of workplace will this become? Will our streamlined nature be crushed by giant corporate bureaucracy and the dreaded “P” word (process)? Will we be able to hold onto the magic that led us to this point?
The reality is this: CloudLock is Cisco’s 191st acquisition. Cisco has performed so many acquisitions, they have a reputation in the market for refining the process to the point it is incredibly smooth.
Cisco recognizes the acquired company had excelled for a reason, and does not want to disrupt the success that led to acquisition in the first place. As such, Cisco affords newly acquired companies a high degree of autonomy, and my experience at CloudLock serves as a perfect example.
In short, CloudLock now boasts many of the advantages of a startup (fast-paced environment, cutting-edge technology, brilliant minds, and, yes, ping pong), coupled with the benefits of Cisco and the 70,000+ employees that proudly call Cisco home. Well, work
And all those things I mentioned about the benefits of working at Cloudlock? Now, I know that Cisco has a lot of great options too! For example, they encourage employees to take time off to give back (a great new perk), the snacks are still there, I’ve added new brilliant colleagues (70,000 more of them), I’m still in a hot market, but now with all of the resources of the powerful machine that is Cisco. We just now have more ingredients to accelerate our vision.
Every day, I discover something new about the Cisco universe that fascinates me. One of the most compelling discoveries? The unique contribution I felt like I brought to the table at CloudLock hasn’t gone unappreciated at Cisco. Rather, I feel as though at Cisco, I am appreciated for being myself – quirky personality and all – the same way I was at a startup.
And the same is true for my peers – their personality continues to shine in the workplace, but now the workplace is that much larger an environment for them to excel. We are not cogs in the wheel. I am not employee number 70,001. We are appreciated as individuals. But as a group – this is where we start to make a difference and an impact.
If it sounds like a happy ending to you, it’s not. This is just the beginning.
As I type this, I’m surrounded by the energizing hum of sales calls. Bob Marley is playing in the background (I’m talking deep cuts, live tracks). Half the marketing team is pouring over a spreadsheet a couple desks down from me. A few of the Product Managers are in with the Cloudlock’s CEO (I still sit four steps from his office) and they are drawing on the whiteboard with such excitement, there’s more black than white space left.
Personally, I couldn’t be more excited about the road ahead for our team. The only thing missing? It might be you.
Interested in working at Cisco? See open opportunities here.
Interested in joining the Cloudlock team specifically? For now, you can find those here. https://www.cloudlock.com/company/careers/