As teenagers on the cusp of adulthood graduate and head into their college years, we tell them it’s okay to not fully know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Some, of course, do and will go on to chase down those dreams. While others may struggle to find where the fit in the work force, and possibly be overwhelmed by all the possibilities and opportunities college (and life) provide.
I’m perhaps proof of that. If anything, I’m proof that it is never too late to head back to school. At the age of 50, and with the full support and encouragement from Cisco and my team, I was admitted to Edinburgh Law Graduate School! I would graduate three years later in 2015, just 31 years after completing my undergrad degree.
See, I told you it’s never too late!
Of course, those 31 years weren’t without attempting to get different degrees, my MBA, or perhaps my master’s degree in Computer Science – and even testing the waters of new opportunities. I just never found anything that was quite right. I also struggled with lack of interest in some of the subject matter, trying to avoid financial hardships, and of course raising my young family.
For many of those earlier years, my time was spent running my network consulting and software startup, writing two technical books on networking, speaking engagements, and business development activities.
I continually heard my father’s voice, however, who as a high school guidance counselor that used to advise, “Take one class at a time, and one day you will find that you’ve finished your degree.” Maybe that was the best strategy in the long run, but upon introspection, I found that I really wanted to focus my studies in one area.
The question was really – what did I want to study?
The MBA was functional, but a bit boring to me at this point in my career: I can write, I can present, I can analyze financial statements, and I’ve been an entrepreneur and an effective and motivational leader. Something that did interest me, however, was law!
Of course, law school requires a full-time multi-year commitment – not to mention big money! Which led me to explore other options – and that’s how I wound up at the University of Edinburgh Law School (Scotland). Their program seeks to admit a mix of lawyers and non-lawyers in each cohort to balance the program and provide different perspectives.
I started my studies at Edinburgh Law School while I was working at another high-tech firm. When I was offered a role at Cisco, I was originally concerned my studies might not be supported – which, couldn’t have been further from the truth. My management was completely supportive, and Cisco’s flexible tuition program allowed me to continue my studies uninterrupted.
I am proud to say that I am one of a handful of non-lawyers who graduated with an advanced, specialized law degree – the Master of Laws or “Latin Legum Magister” – in Innovation, Technology, and the Law.
I soon realized, however, that my fresh knowledge and law degree would also benefit my career at Cisco too! With my understanding of the legal and regulatory constraints that most international businesses are subjected, I would be able to more effectively help my global customers by understanding their most complex challenges.
More importantly for Cisco and for my career, this knowledge puts me at the forefront of data privacy and data protection law, since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted on May 25, 2018, was the focus of much of my research and master’s dissertation.
Not familiar with the GDPR? Have you ever seen the “Privacy Notices” and “Cookie Notices” that now pop up on every web site you visit? It is due to the GDPR coming into effect in 2018, and this new EU Regulation (law) has been applied globally, as most sites cannot discern where their users reside.
I have even found that my updated knowledge has opened new doors and made it possible to look across Cisco at different opportunities to continue growing my career – specifically in the areas of Security, Data Protection and Privacy.
Recently, I connected with our Chief Privacy Officer and her team to pursue the possibility of a “stretch assignment” to collaborate on data protection and privacy initiatives throughout the company! Stretch assignments at Cisco enable employees to broaden their horizons and learn new skills while spending a few hours each week working for other teams to develop their career further. It’s a great way to dive deeper and learn more about all the great teams here at Cisco and the goals they’re working towards.
I was also nominated to be on the Cisco Americas Financial Industry Advisory Board (IAB) due to my extensive work in financial services and my newly acquired regulatory/legal knowledge.
I never imagined that by chasing a lifelong dream of obtaining further education through my passions, I’d also open more doors at Cisco. That is just one of the incredible testaments to how great this company is – yes, they support you furthering your education, but they also support you in applying that new knowledge in growing with the company.
Ready to grow with us? We’re hiring. Apply now.