After another great summer of working with our AMAZING Global Sales Interns, my first thought was, “Where did all of our time go?” It felt like we just had orientation, and now they were prepping for their final presentations and planning out the rest of their summers before returning to school in the fall.
During their first week, the air was filled with excitement and eager expectations – just like the first day of school. Now, as we came to a close on their time with us, it was with some surprise and sadness that I realized it was over. That’s what happens when you’re having fun and working hard though!
Next, I found myself wondering what I learned from this experience of leading our interns. It’s easy to forget in the daily routine of things that, while providing coaching and feedback to these rising stars, they are also teaching us some valuable lessons as well. Each interaction, question, comment or joke was an opportunity to learn something new about them and from them. Not to mention, I also had a front row seat in experiencing how our workforce’s next generations are ready to tackle each new challenge.
In fact, working with our interns was also a way for me to challenge my own thoughts on what working with an inter-generational workforce REALLY meant. And, I’m happy to say the result was not only a positive one, but one that helped me to establish some new best practices that I think will be helpful in engaging with the workforce of the future.
In nine weeks I received an education on the incredible value our interns bring to Cisco, but these three lessons really stuck out to me:
1. Remember to swing for the fence. EVERY time. When I think about the successful teams I have been a part of in my career at Cisco – there has been a common theme throughout each of those teams: we approached each project with a “go big or go home” mentality. It seems our interns know this immediately and start swinging on day one.
Our interns are only with us for a short time, yet they take advantage of every opportunity to weigh in on critical parts of our business. Because they understand that their time is finite, they go big each time. There was a level of curiosity and excitement present on EVERY assignment that made me WANT to see the final product, and they never disappointed.
2. Bring “fresh eyes” to each project. Spending a long time in a role or organization gives you a historical perspective but can also be a burden. Those of us of with that perspective tend to rely heavily on established policies and procedures and protecting something I call “the integrity of the program” – a different way of expressing that old chestnut, “We have always done it this way”. However, this also squelches the enthusiasm for new ideas and fresh perspectives.
Admittedly, I suffered from some of that myself as I labored under assumptions about “millennials” and “Gen Y/Z” that are, quite frankly, wrong. Because our interns didn’t have the baggage of history, they were free to explore and develop new pathways to success – which opened up a whole new world of innovation.
3. Say, “Of course we can”. In a company that is known for innovation, we should say, “Yes” – and we should say it a lot. I remember taking on a new role a few years ago and asking if there was a playbook or a list of things I should do. My manager said that I should feel free to “do what made the most sense”. So, I started with that mindset and then figured out the “how” later.
Our interns approached the work with the same spirit, and each week was another chance to meet a new sales team, approach a new account and deliver a world-class presentation. There was never even a question of “Will this work?” – they always carried the spirit of, “Yes, of course it will!” It is good for the soul to be in the company of checked optimism and boundless energy.
I will miss my group of young professionals but will hold close the lessons they taught me. They gave me a fresh look at life, and a renewed sense of energy.
I am not sure what the future holds for them, but I know that their futures are very bright – and should they find their way back to Cisco? Well, we will all benefit from their lessons even further.
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