Today is International Women’s Day and there is so much to be thoughtful about — top of mind for me is my mom and how important she was in helping me develop a growth mindset. The core of my own approach to growth centered on a fundamental lesson I learned from her: that when you put in the effort to learn, you get smarter. When you have that kind of mindset, you can change your skills and intelligence through hard work and persistence. A “growth mindset” is not a new revelation, but a term coined by Dr. Carol Dweck to describe the underlying beliefs people have about how learning and intelligence impact success. To be successful, you’ll need to be willing to embrace personal growth. Putting in extra time and effort can lead to higher achievement.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but a few things I’ve learned along the way, that fuel my own growth mindset.

Be Excited About the Possibilities

When I was eight years-old, my mom – a former programmer-turned-teacher— bought our family’s first computer to start programming her grading book. Her decision to have a computer in the house impacted the trajectory of my career. As I watched her programming, I thought that was really cool, so I took her lap manuals, taught myself Basic, and started writing software. This opened my mind to the endless possibilities of technology. I learned from her to build on anything that sparks my interest, put in the time to learn, and it will be well worth the effort.

Embrace Learning

At Cisco, our long history of success has also seen its share of market changes, competitive pressures, distractions, obstacles, and pitfalls. But the learnings we’ve gained from these experiences helped us reflect and improve as we work to advance and drive demand for our core solutions. Just look at what we’ve done with the network, software, and cloud. We’ve evolved what and how we deliver innovative solutions to align with market and customer needs. The lesson here is to learn from both success and failure in order to move forward and accelerate your growth.

Embrace Change

Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen the cloud market drastically change. Companies and people have had to reinvent themselves and transform to be able to compete. A great example of this is Amazon – the online bookseller, who became one of the biggest online retailers. But 10 years ago, who would have imagined it being one of the top two online IT providers with AWS? They not only embraced the change; they changed the whole game. The fact is, there will always be change. It’s important to stay flexible and balance that with the fortitude to navigate that sea of change and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.

Have Vision

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times how Cisco has an ability to “see around corners” to help our company and our customers innovate faster. We have a history of predicting trends, starting with our focus on growing the Internet from our early days. But, while that’s happening, we don’t just drop the ball on the rest of our business. Our approach is to look at what is happening with the market, in our customers businesses, and technology trends to anticipate next transition. What I take from this is to stay focused on the goals or task at hand, but be sure to balance that with the agility to navigate the waters when things don’t exactly go as planned.

Always Have a Beginner’s Mind

In Zen Buddhism, there is a philosophy referred to as a “beginner’s mind.” Simply put, it the willingness to be open, and enthusiastic about learning at any level, just as a beginner might. Having a beginner’s mind enables you to look for creative solutions to challenges because your view is expanded, curious, and eager to learn. Grace Hopper said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.” By looking at a situation with an open “beginner’s” mind, you’ll find that you’ve gained new perspective and learnings in the process.

There are so many more ways to develop your own growth mindset. The bottom line is, growth happens over time and experiences. When you believe you can grow, you realize that your effort has an effect on your success. Whether it’s in the business, professional, or personal facets of your life, when your mind is open to growth, obstacles and challenges becomes opportunities to learn and gain higher achievement.

Thanks mom.



Kip Compton

No longer with Cisco