I’ve always had a bit of hate/love relationship with entrepreneurship. I put the “hate” first because as a child, I recall my parent’s restaurant taking up an extraordinary amount of the family’s time. Knowing this was just the “way of life” for most small businesses, I was convinced it wouldn’t be the lifestyle for me as an adult.

When I got to college, however, my true love for entrepreneurship began.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I found myself feeling uniquely connected to “mom & pop” shops over the franchisee next door. I treasured sensing the labor of love within the walls of the business, and how it related to my childhood. I even began daydreaming about my own business ideas.

The thought of developing your own ideas into something the world doesn’t want to live without, is incredibly motivating. In fact, it’s easy to see why the fire of entrepreneurship burns bright in many others.

Since then, I’ve switched careers and have found myself on a team that feels very much like a start-up! The broader team that I work in is Cisco’s University Recruiting Team (UR) and the team I’m specifically on is the University Recruiting Experience team (URX). Similar to a lot of start-ups I learn about, we’re identifying gaps, doing something about it, and our heart is in it – we truly love where we work!

Here are 5 Ways my team is a lot like a start-up:

1. We have clientele. Every day we’re innovating solutions to accommodate our “clients”. Whether it is for Cisco’s elite class of oncoming new hires, managers awaiting their new team members, or our own fellow team members within the broader UR team; we too have a client base. We strive for greater “market share” by taking extra care in our current relationships, building on our services and exploring how we can innovate. Although we churn and burn through so much work, helping our clients navigate these waters is invigorating.

2. We wear many hats. This part is one of the more energizing qualities of working on my team! We meet with our “clients”, plan events, analyze data, coordinate a number of internal systematic processes, and manage internal and external communications. It’s thrilling that we have the opportunity to do so many different things and for so many phases of the recruitment process! I never have a boring day – and, for me, that gets extra bonus points!

3. New ideas need “buy in”. No, we’re not meeting with venture capitalists, but our senior director and senior vice president might as well be! While they are supportive and encourage us to take the chance on something new – we still have to pitch our well thought out idea(s) to them and members of our clientele.

For example, if you’ve interned with Cisco before, you may have attended our global intern event where we have members of Cisco’s esteemed executive leadership speak and offer advice to current interns; orchestrating that day requires months of planning and a number of approvals. If you’re a recent grad or soon to be grad and are starting a new role with Cisco, you may have been invited to our Day One Connection; if so, that registration process was something we “pitched”. Maybe you are aspiring for a role at Cisco and you’ve made it to final round interviews in what we call Cisco Day Assessment Center – that event is a whole day with many moving parts that needed “buy in”.

4. We’re surrounded by inspiration. When looking for inspiration, I don’t have to go far. Cisco offers a number of platforms and programs to help grow and shape free thinkers. Intrapreneurs can bring their business acumen to a platform called the innovation hub, where you can select from a number of programs to get involved in. When I discovered this platform, I was elated just thinking of all the innovation going through these channels.

When I am looking to work on something new, put to use an unused skill, or expand my capabilities – I go to the Cisco Talent Marketplace where I can pick up a short-term project or a task-based assignment (also known as a stretch assignment). Knowing these opportunities are at my fingertips gives me re-assurance that new opportunities aren’t far away.

5. Risk. A final point worth making…to me, one of the more daunting elements of a genuine start up is the risk! I am still taking risks and trying new things at Cisco, but I have to admit, my stakes aren’t as high as a typical start up. I realize how lucky I am to have my cake and eat it too, there’s nothing like having a career with entrepreneurial, start-up spirit while working for one of the best technology companies on the planet!

When you think of Cisco, you might think “big, corporate tech company” – and, to a point – we are. But behind that initial stereotype, we’re a bunch of fast paced, dynamic, diverse, talented teams. In some regard, I think of us as a group of small businesses operating as one to make the world a better place through technology, and it’s amazing!

Want to #LoveWhereYouWork? Apply now, and if you are a University candidate – tell your recruiter I said hello!


Virginia Lewis

Project Manager/Program Manager

University Recruiting Talent Acquisition