Travis, in military uniform, sitting behind a military vehicle.I’ve been operating in this brand new, hybrid work environment as a Cisco Cybersecurity Sales Specialist for just over a year now, and it’s been nothing short of fantastic. Moving from the battlefield to the living room comes with its challenges, perks, difficulties, and amazing opportunities. What a wild ride it has been! One of the most valuable things I have learned here at Cisco is that if one thing is certain, things will change. However, I also learned that leadership training on contingencies I received in the military is as relevant in my role at Cisco as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is one of those contingency planning learning experiences from a deployment I remember vividly.

The strangely satisfying smell of a sandstorm overwhelmed by a sudden and unexpected torrential downpour is as unique an experience as there is, rivaled only by the sight of it. Ah, Afghanistan. I might miss you just a tiny bit.

Over the past seven months, my fellow Marines and I had been on several missions where the objective was clear and the outcome was relatively predictable. This current mission, however, was anything but predictable or routine.

In a halted position, we watched the magnificent mountain of sand, dancing and fighting to stay alive against an overpowering rainstorm out in front of us. We knew that once it was safe to move, we were headed into a part of the country that very few Western militaries had ever been – and to make things worse, the enemy knew we were coming. We battened down the hatches, prepared to get pounded by the storm, and take on whatever was sent our way.

We moved out, the rain still very heavy in front of us, making the roads a muddy mess, but, eerily, not a drop fell on us. We moved slowly and cautiously because of the threat of explosives on our route. But, to our surprise, nothing was happening. Not one vehicle was hit.

We stopped to discover the heavy rain had destroyed the explosives’ initiators. I heard an audible gasp from my Marines in the vehicle, looking to me for leadership and guidance. With a new sense of security and burst of confidence, I gave them a look that said, “Let’s do this.” They all nodded back without saying a word. Our plans changed. Now it was time to get to work.

Throughout that mission and many others to follow, I continuously had to change my plans based on whatever situation we were faced with.

As leaders, we are continuously faced with the unexpected and have to adjust to the situation in front of us, including this shift from in-person work environments to hybrid work models. Now, I’m not trying to say that a combat situation is the same as Cisco’s work environment. Still, over the past year, I’ve found myself adopting so many lessons from military contingency planning into my day-to-day, hybrid work-life.

Work from home office with guitar and diplomas on the wall and desk with external monitor and laptop.

We have a saying in the military, “Adapt and overcome.” What military veterans bring to the table is the ability to assess a situation, determine what the outcome should be, and move toward that outcome. Here at Cisco, I’ve been able to put this philosophy to the test more than once. As a cybersecurity sales specialist, every day, I have to assess what my customer needs, determine the solution to best meet that need, and move toward that solution, all while interacting completely remotely. Things often change and can be challenging, but that’s where the military training really kicks in.

As a customer-facing sales organization, oftentimes, customers drive our schedules. Our sales teams go to healthy extremes to not only make ourselves available to customers as they need us, but to deliver the excellence that they deserve. With that said, things often change at the drop of a hat. A meeting scheduled for an hour is all of a sudden cut to 15 minutes, and as a sales and cybersecurity team, we have to adapt and overcome by squeezing the information that the customer needs into that short timeframe! The ability to think quickly on your feet is a translatable skill that we military folks have learned well.

Military life translates well to life here at Cisco. Our ability to adapt to changing situations is just a part of a military person’s DNA. Over the past year, I’ve been able to adjust to a hybrid work model, gain incredible flexibility for my family (a true benefit after being deployed for so long), and I’ve been able to find a community of not only Cisconians, but military veterans just like me who have your back whenever you need them. If you are a military veteran or transitioning military member, I highly encourage you to reach out to Cisco and see for yourself what I’m talking about. You won’t be disappointed.

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Dr. Travis M. Hearne

Leader, Americas Security Partner Sales

Global Security Sales Organization