Working for a startup is an exhilarating, formative experience – high risk, high reward, and high potential for growth. Now imagine enjoying the best parts of that experience while at Cisco. Over the past few years, I’ve been a part of the transition from what was a startup to what has become Cisco DNA Spaces – the industry leader in Location and IoT Services. It’s been the most exciting and transformative time of my career.
As a startup, the founders of July Systems created a culture of ‘getting things done’. They encouraged having a well-thought-out strategy founded on a common vision. This vision informed the execution while providing flexibility and agency for the people doing the executing.
There’s something different about the intense, flexible, and decentralized nature of a startup. The opportunity costs are more profound. The initiatives are accelerated. The work is cross-functional, often requiring you to wear different hats while doing things outside your wheelhouse. In a single day, you might put together a prototype, do some coding, call a partner, and sell to a customer. There’s an excitement when you’re doing more than just making the horse go faster.
You’re building something totally new and innovative that is going to change the world.
The Best Parts of Being a Startup
Over my career, I’ve seen many startups acquired by large companies, and often, the leadership (and intensity) leaves after a while. Not so with DNA Spaces. Cisco has created an environment where we have been able to keep the best parts of being a startup in place. As a result, the energy and culture that existed before the purchase are still driving our team to excellence.
Here are a few of my favorite aspects about working like I’m at a startup within Cisco:
Agility: When COVID hit, we were in a position to really help people. Our product and engineering team was able to completely turn around and focus on apps that would provide businesses with safer workspaces. We still had the energy and agility to pivot when our customers needed us to.
Impact: They say, “When Cisco moves an inch, the world moves a mile.” I live the truth of this. As part of Cisco, we have immediate global reach to a huge customer base. We were able to literally impact the world when they needed our products the most. And when we make a change to the product, millions of people may experience that improvement the next day.
Resources: One of the biggest challenges for startups is limited resources. Capital. Engineers. Equipment. Tools. Infrastructure. Expertise. As part of Cisco, DNA Spaces has access to all of these. In addition, we also have access to an incredible number of experts within Cisco: legal, marketing, technology, PR, finance. We no longer have to reinvent everything we need.
Success: From the market side, success for a startup is a battle for mindshare. It takes years to build the relationships and partnerships needed to serve a global market. Working within Cisco means that we have already won the distribution battle. Instead of fighting for each individual win, we are now part of an overall solution that Cisco sells. And this frees us up to do even more of what we are best at: innovation.
Diversity: Every day the job is different. I get to work across time zones, talking with users across the world. This diversity of experience is a huge benefit because I get a global perspective of what our customers need. More learning means being able to deliver bigger results and a better experience.
Resiliency: Part of the thrill of working for a startup is the dream that it will succeed. As a part of Cisco, we have incredible resiliency. Certainly, we have to justify our expenditures, but we’re no longer so tight on budget that we worry whether the company will still be in business in six months. And having the peace of mind that you’ve got a stable paycheck just makes working for a startup all that much better.
So that’s part of why I love working at Cisco. DNA Spaces is changing the world even faster than it could as July Systems while still holding the core culture of a startup. I love the excitement. I love being passionate about my work. And I love how much more effectively we are able to make the world a better place for everyone.
Check out our Cisco Networking video channel