You heard in my last blog post that, I was named the 2017 Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) Woman to Watch for their newly established Technology category.  A truly incredible honor that I share with so many people who have helped shape me as both a professional woman in tech, but also as a decent global citizen.  This award represents so much to me personally and professionally, and I figured I couldn’t give it justice without being authentic to all the fears and doubts that I have battled over the past 12 years to get to the point where I can only now, truly own my authenticity.  Here, I share a snippet of my journey, hoping that it will help inspire others to reclaim their power and own their path, as I have found that showing vulnerability is the key to building confidence.

I got my start at Cisco in 2006, being hired into an accelerator program called CSAP directly out of Undergrad.  For so long I was unsure of myself: a young, millennial female filled with wanderlust working in an industry that was at the time, starkly contrasted to who I was.  Surrounded by men who were far more technical (many of whom had worked in Cable & Media longer than I had been alive!) naturally made me feel inferior.  I struggled to find commonalty of culture, style, or cause.

In my first customer engagement role within Cable, I truly battled with “Imposter Syndrome.”  I was plagued by self-doubt that I was inadequate and concerned that others didn’t view me as competent or capable enough to hold my position.  Several instances fed into my fear, one of which, was a mean-spirited bet organized by a colleague, that I wouldn’t make it past my first year in the role. When a peer of mine clued me into the bet, I was completely defeated.  A woman who had graduated Summa Cum Laude in Finance in her MBA, amassed countless certifications in tech platforms, and ranked in the top 10% of all Cisco hires, was surmounted to “not able to cut it.”

Ladies Who Lead: Cisco’s Media 2017/2018 Team

Devastated, I considering resigning from technology all together.  Fortunately for me, two things happened:

  • A mentor on my team, as well as an executive sponsor of mine, encouraged me to persevere. They saw the potential of a 24-year-old girl, and rallied behind me. I immediately realized the influence mentors, sponsors, and confidants can make, and thus I made it my mission to always fight for the underdog and surround myself with a support system.
  • I reclaimed my power. I have never been, nor will I ever be a victim—I’m a fighter.  So, I put my head down, determined to prove everyone I would succeed, and focused intently on being the most prepared, technically acute, and capable business partner to my clients as possible.  The hard work paid off, as I was awarded some of Cisco’s highest distinctions, and began to pave the way to the role I currently hold.

It comes down to this: Be Your Authentic Self.  The moment you stop trying to compare yourself: your age, your style, your appearance to others, the easier it will become for you to become grounded in the tasks you need to accomplish.  So much of our energy is wasted trying to assimilate or worse; worry about what others think!  We all need to embrace our individuality, and realize that it is our merit which propels us.  The moment we stop giving our power away, is the moment we stand sturdy and steadfast in our ability to move, lead, and inspire.

Build the Team You Always Wished You Could Be Apart Of…

As evidenced by my story, I didn’t have the easiest on-boarding experience into this industry. Yet, what I have realized in the decade-plus that I have been in the industry, is that we have the power to lead, inspire, and most importantly, build the teams we always wished we could have been a part of!  To be the change you want to see is the single most powerful thing anyone can do, and in an industry, that is rapidly changing in demographic and skill set, it is more important than ever that each of paves the way for others.

In my capacity, I have used my influence to create a collaborative, diverse, dynamic, and frankly, entrepreneurial environment within a $50B Fortune 30 company.  By leading by example, and supporting the talent around me, I have realized we are able to build bridges to the talent the industry needs to survive and thrive.  You don’t need to be a people leader to do this—all of us are capable of Standing for each other, and as demonstrated in the aforementioned story, the power of mentors and sponsors serves to instill a sense of community and courage into our team mates.


Samira Panah Bakhtiar

Director, Cisco's Media Operation

Global Service Provider Organization