Before becoming CEO of Cisco, Chuck Robbins was Head of Sales. Even then he saw employees as the key to Cisco’s success, and met a few new hires at a Women of Impact Event. These women expressed some concerns about their futures at Cisco, and he jumped in to help, by asking for some leaders in the company to become mentors to these new hires.
Juli signed up for the challenge. That’s how she met Angela Tessin who was an Analyst on the IT Service Management team.
“Angela had so much runway to her career, she just needed to see that and build the confidence,” Juli notes. “Just within that first meeting there was noticeable change in her from how she entered to how she left. She left really excited, hopeful, and optimistic knowing that there was a promising future for her here!”
“Juli helped me to see that not only was there room for tremendous growth at Cisco, but that I had her support and the support of others to utilize and grow my skills,” says Angela.
From there, Juli helped Angela identify where she wanted to go in her career, what skills would be needed for those roles, and how to work on reaching her goals. “As her mentor, I’ve been able to show Angela that women here at Cisco have the opportunity to work in a variety of areas – no one is pigeonholed here, and everyone has the ability to move around and gain experience.”
Angela says that Juli has shared so many stories and experiences with her from her own career that have helped enlighten her. “Juli encourages me and challenges me, there’s a lot of thought that goes into being a mentor.”
Juli added that as a mentor you’re there to offer insights, and things to think about, “You don’t just tell someone what to do. That’s not how you mentor someone. You should push them to succeed though, and help them gain exposure to new areas that interest them.”
What are some good mentor-relationship tips? Juli and Angela offer their advice:
- Make sure your mentor-relationship is a good fit. Sit down and have a conversation first. Did you click and have chemistry? That will help you be successful.
- Be Invested. Angela always comes prepared to her meetings with Juli because she knows they have limited time and it’s important to cut right to the chase to get the most out of their time together. Be sure to put your thoughts and questions down on paper. Be ready to take action, and be purposeful and committed to this relationship.
- Be Honest. Be Trusting. There are times in a mentor-relationship where you have to challenge your mentee and offer real world advice and opinions to help them grow. You may ask them to go out of their comfort zone in order for them to gain new experience. As a mentee you have to be honest with yourself and comfortable with your mentor to ask the difficult questions.
- Be Open to Learning. Chances are, through this mentorship you both will come away with big rewards!
So how have things progressed since Juli received that first email? “Angela is still here! We’ve actually talked about this because we were very, very close to losing her and in fact we did lose some of those women at the table because it was just too late for them. This is someone I care so much about and someone who I will be connected to for the rest of my life – if that email hadn’t come through, I never would’ve known Angela!”
Two years have gone by, and as Juli took her seat at Cisco Rocks in Levi’s Stadium during the July celebration that honored John Chambers and welcomed new CEO Chuck Robbins she looked down her row to spot a familiar face – Angela! “We didn’t plan on sitting near each other that day, but there she was! We couldn’t get over how we both randomly wound up in the same row. I’m so proud to work at Cisco, a company that holds these events that helps us all come together.”
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