As an early-in-career woman working in a male-dominated industry, I certainly found myself wondering what it was like to be an executive at a Fortune 100 company. And, more specifically, I wondered what it was like to be a female C-suite leader in today’s world.
The fact that Cisco has six (yes, SIX!) females on its Executive Leadership Team drew me to the company a year ago. Since then, Cisco has given me incredible opportunities to grow both professionally and personally. The most incredible of which was the opportunity to shadow Cisco’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kelly Kramer through Cisco Connected Women’s Executive Shadow Program.
After successfully applying to the program, I attended two trainings with female colleagues across Cisco and gained skills in three critical areas: emotional intelligence, powerful questioning & active listening, and executive presence. Cisco prepared me well for my shadow experience. However, prior to my initial meeting with Kelly, I felt nervous; I had never chatted with any C-suite executive at our company!
That nervousness turned into excitement, however, and faded away as soon as I stepped into Kelly’s office. She immediately made me feel welcome and we had an incredible conversation about her career journey, personal growth, and early-in-career advice for myself.
Over the course of the next couple of months, I shadowed Kelly in leadership meetings. I observed her leadership style, the way in which she ran her team, and also the leadership dynamics amongst her and other executives (extremely collaborative, by the way). She introduced me to everyone in the room at these meetings and I was able to meet and network with many new executives in the Finance organization.
Working as a business analyst in Cisco’s Customer Experience (CX) organization and not touching finance in my role, I also learned a lot about what our Finance organization does and how the two are working together to drive Cisco’s transformation. I certainly felt the collaboration in the room as everyone at the table actively engaged with each other to push Cisco’s vision forward.
By the end of my experience, I gained incredible insight into not only ‘what it takes’ to be CFO, but also ‘what it takes’ to be a strong, female executive. The most important piece of advice that Kelly gave me that has now stuck with me is the following: Don’t be afraid of being fired.
At first, I was a little taken aback by this, but I now wholeheartedly agree. It means not being afraid to take risks both professionally and personally. It means not being afraid to share your thoughts and opinions daily – whether with your immediate team or your organization’s leaders. Kelly’s boldness inspired me, and I’ve taken it to heart.
Since my experience shadowing Kelly, I’ve been pushing myself every single day to take bold risks as an individual and alongside my team, and I’ve been able to challenge myself to critically think and problem solve in my role within the CX Strategy organization.
I aspire to grow as a female leader and this experience has allowed me to better understand the dynamics of our executive leadership. I’m grateful to work at a company where access to leadership isn’t limited, diversity is valued at all levels, and the culture is open and transparent.
Are you ready to be bold with us? We’re hiring. Apply now.