Even at a company as great as Cisco, you can find yourself stuck in a role that you don’t enjoy anymore. Maybe you’ve outgrown it, or maybe you find yourself in a rut.
It happened to me.
Four years ago, when I first joined Cisco as a Software Engineer I was very excited. I had spent 20 years in a similar role, and had a lot of experience in embedded Software design. But this past year, I realized that writing a piece of code just wasn’t bringing me to same level of joy anymore.
I had started working closely with customers in the past few years, and I was now enjoying the relationship with people more than the algorithms. I had also been given some responsibility in Product Management, and I liked it, but unfortunately in my division there was no opportunity to take more responsibility in this direction.
After returning home from summer vacation, where I was able to reflect and really think about where I wanted to be in life, I realized that it had happened – I was stuck. I knew something had to change, I had to find a new career. I wanted to find that same joy that the algorithms used to bring me. It occurred to me as well that I was not getting any younger, and as I approached my fifties…I felt I had to hurry up.
On a Sunday night in September, my wife and daughter (and even the dog) were already sleeping. I, too, was preparing to go to bed, and was thinking through my career change plan: specializing in Agile management, trying to build relationships with consulting companies working in this field, and beginning to look for new opportunities.
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Before closing my laptop that evening, I decided to quickly check the Cisco job openings for my country. I thought, “You never know…Cisco is a great company, and it would be a shame to leave.”
That’s when I found it – my new beginning! It was an opening for a “Virtual Customer Success Manager”.
The headline intrigued me, the “what you’ll do” section was interesting, and the “who you’ll work with” area had me locked in as it spoke about working together with Sales and Delivery teams to drive the adoption of Cisco Software Products that were related to security and networking. But it was the “who you are” part that captured me completely as it described a person who had technological experience, and asked, “Do you have a passion to engage with customers and partners and help them achieve outcomes from Cisco solutions?”
Yes! That was ME!
It was a chance I couldn’t miss. I decided to apply immediately, and with the risk of going to bed late, I updated my CV, submitted my application, and also prepared a presentation letter for the recruiting manager and the hiring manager. I tried to describe myself in the most honest and appealing way, explaining why I thought that there was a good match here, and showing my excitement and interest in the position.
After a few days, I was contacted by the recruiter, and everything took off from here.
It was tough! In a matter of 3-4 weeks, I went through multiple interviews with six different people. Besides the hiring manager, I also spoke with a future team member, as well as some of the people from the sales and account team, and with the manager’s director.
I found out that the job position was also open to external candidates, not only Cisco employees. So I wondered: how can I take advantage of the fact that I’m already in the company, to give me a better position?
I realized that there are indeed some possible ways to stand out. Here is what I would recommend:
- You know who the recruiter and the hiring manager are, and you can reach them with an internal mail, or with other internal channels.
- You might have a colleague who knows the team where you are trying to be inserted: they might be able to introduce you, or better explain to you how this team works, and what the role is actually about.
- In some cases, there’s a possibility that you may already know some people that are going to interview you. It can be due to internal events or volunteering activities you have joined in the past.
- You can use good videoconferencing equipment in your office, for remote interviews.
These are all “networking” activities, of course, to be better known and to spread information about yourself. Cisco even seems to encourage it as it makes sense! If you have already worked well, and there are colleagues that know and appreciate you, this is a very good guarantee for recruiters and hiring managers.
I also found it useful to introduce myself on LinkedIn to the people I was going to speak with. It was a way for them to look at my profile and get overall information about who I am as a potential candidate, and I have to say that it was generally appreciated.
Of course, you have to be honest with yourself, too. Ask yourself if you truly feel you are the best match for this role. You can’t sell what you don’t have, or pretend to be what you are not. But, if you think that you’d be the best fit for the team you’re applying with and it benefits the company – then you don’t have any excuses! Now you just have to find all the possible ways to promote yourself. 😀
The interviews all went well, and – now – here I am! As I’m writing this post, I’m at the airport, waiting to leave for a three day meeting where I’ll join my new team for their annual meeting. I’ll be meeting everyone for the first time in person!
I’m really excited and open to this new part of my life. I can confirm that it’s never too late…to give a new direction to your professional life and career. I did, and I’m glad that I was able to stay at Cisco because of how they enable and encourage their employees to continue to grow.