Olivia in front of a fountain in Orlando, FL.I had never heard of a Sales Engineer prior to walking into the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in 2019. When I got the incredible opportunity to attend GHC with the Association of Computing Machinery – Women’s chapter (ACMW) at Ohio State University on a scholarship, I was set on finding a software development role. 

So, I did the research, applied for positions, and set up interviews before the conference.  

Once the time came and I stepped into the career fair hall, I quickly realized that no amount of research can prepare you for the overwhelming number of companies and excited energy in one room. The booth sizes and flashiness varied widely across companies. And you guessed it, Cisco had one of the largest and best-looking booths in the room. Not to mention, it was the very first booth you saw when you walked into the hall. 

In many ways, I was more attracted to the small, more simple booths in the back of the hall. I knew that I wanted to work with technology but I was worried about getting lost in a huge tech company that didn’t care about their employees. After a few days I finally decided to go over to the Cisco booth and see what they had to say. You have to remember that the companies at the fair are selling their company to you as much as you are selling yourself to the company. After talking to the women of Cisco at the booth I quickly realized that even though Cisco is a huge, global company, they truly care about their employees. Every single one of them spoke volumes about the amazing culture and how great all the employees are.  

You could say it was a match made in Orlando. 

Olivia at GHC.But my story wasn’t quite as simple as that. As I said, I was set on getting a software development job but my current role is in sales! So, how did I end up in such a different position than I anticipated? After waiting awhile in line to speak with one of the software developers about my experience and going over my elevator pitch over and over in my head, the developer went to lunch! I was pretty disappointed that I would have to wait in another long line to speak with the next developer, so I looked around the booth to see if there was anyone else I might be able to speak with 

Over on the other side of the booth there was a woman with only a few people in line, so I went over to talk to her. It turns out she was an alumni of the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) and was looking to recruit more women for the Associate Sales Engineer (ASE) role. I explained to her that I loved technology but didn’t see myself sitting at a desk all day writing code, I wanted to interact with coworkers or even work directly with clients. I’m so glad that I chose this line to wait in as speaking with her showed me the possibilities becoming a System Engineer might provide. 

That night I went and applied for CSAP and that began my journey through the interview process. I am incredibly thankful I took the time to speak with that recruiter and found a position that aligned with my passions and desires for my career. 

My advice to young women attending GHC, or currently on the job hunt is this: take advantage with this new virtual career fair format. You are able to have the confidence of sitting in your own home and waiting in a queue to speak to the representative instead of anxiously watching them speak to other people just like you.  

Practice your elevator pitch out loud, dance around the room, or do whatever you need to do to feel confident and ready to shine so you can stand out to that recruiter and score your dream job. And if it doesn’t go well, don’t worry! I didn’t get an interview with Cisco at the career fair and went through much of the recruitment process virtually after leaving Grace Hopper last year 

Cisco is extremely well equipped to find the best talent, even in a virtual format! So, apply for that job, talk to the recruiters, and explore the amazing opportunities Cisco has to offer. 

Ready to join our amazing #WomenInTech? Apply now! 

Subscribe to the We Are Cisco Blog


Olivia Wolf

Associate Systems Engineer