I have always said seven is my lucky number and this year it was solidified with the trifecta of sevens – I celebrated seven months in my new role as the People & Communities (P&C) Country Consultant for the United Kingdom & Ireland on my seven-year Ciscoversary which just happened to be the seventh of July (7/7).
In my seven years at Cisco, you might be surprised to learn that I have worked with 10 different teams – and this, along with my move to the United Kingdom (UK), was mostly intentional. I started at Cisco as part of the FLEX rotational programme, where I was provided the unique opportunity to work with and learn from many teams while also taking advantage of many stretch assignment opportunities. Even though I graduated from FLEX five years ago, I continue to think about my career as a rotation and regularly network with the teams I want to join or leaders I aspire to work for in the future.
I have had roles in People Operations, University Relations, Inclusive Future & Strategy and partnered with Senior Leaders in a multitude of Sales groups: Service Provider, Strategy & Planning, and Systems Engineering. I have been heavily involved and remain passionate about supporting our Inclusive Communities; with one of my favourite stretch assignments leading the Raleigh Emerging Talent Network. One of the roles I have learned the most from was being a Chief of Staff for an HR leader where I utilised my strengths in project management and dynamic leadership to drive theatre wide initiatives (if you’ve worked with me, you know I love to bring organisation to chaos through smartsheets and project plans).
So, how did I get to the UK in 2021?
The short answer is that I was following a dream and was championed by some of the best sponsors and mentors I could have ever hoped for, and I have one of most supportive and encouraging life partners, my husband. The longer answer would be I regularly practice manifestation and share my goals and dreams with others until they become reality, and sometimes my goals even become my brand. If you knew me in the past three years leading up to my move to the UK, you knew I had a goal to work and live internationally and my dream location was London.
This has been a dream of mine for a long time, but it wasn’t until five years ago that I realised I could make this dream a reality at Cisco. At the time, I was supporting the Global Service Provider Sales organisation and it was the first time in my career most of my team lived in another country. I had team members in the United Kingdom (UK), Israel, Belgium, China and Singapore and the leader of our team had worked in multiple countries with Cisco: Australia, Canada and the United States.
I was fascinated to learn from my teammates’ experiences supporting leaders and employees throughout the world, and there is no better way to catch the travel bug than to be working daily with others in a country you have never visited before. But I always ran out of time to ask all the questions I had, and knew I had to experience these places for myself.
One of my favourite memories is from years ago, when we came together at our first team off-site. Everyone brought a local treat from their country – it was the first time I had a raspberry flavoured KitKat and learned I have an unhealthy obsession with Côte d’Or chocolate. This experience only encouraged my dream to live and work internationally to grow even bigger.
My journey to the UK was not linear, but I learned a lot of great lessons along the way.
Here’s a few tips to inspire your expat journey:
1. Your Network is Invaluable: You hear this time and time again, especially early in your career, but you hear it so frequently because it’s true. Growing, nurturing, and maintaining relationships and partnerships is crucial. Mentorship throughout my journey helped me to learn where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, and who might be able to help me get there.
2. Be Intentional During Meetings: To grow your network, you’ve got to connect. Be intentional in those connections. In the three years leading up to me moving to the UK, I had regular meetings with many on the UK and broader EMEAR P&C team. I was intentional about how I built new connections in the hopes that new connections would turn into mentors. I would send questions, articles, and summaries of my recent work ahead of those meetings so that we could have deeper conversations when we met.
I would also regularly set up dedicated development meetings with my leaders and in one of them I asked for a mentor in the UK which led me to connecting with the brilliant Jen Scherler-Gormely for two years (she is one of my biggest champions and now my UKI P&C Director).
3. Stop Thinking About Your Career as a Destination: Be open to new roles along the way! For me, my many transitions and viewing my career as a ‘rotational assignment’ helped me to prepare. It also helped me know that when the right role aligned with the right timing in my personal life (who knew that the ‘right’ time would’ve been during a pandemic!), I would be ready to make the move.
4. Cisco Helps You Grow: I am extremely grateful to Cisco for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. As I researched international roles and similar roles at companies posted in other countries, they would often have the criteria “supporting an organisation in a non-headquartered location”. AKA: you already had to have international experience to get an international job.
With Cisco, my incredible hiring leader (and now boss), Sam Oliver, had no difficulty seeing how I could add unique perspective joining from a different region and how my skills and past experiences would add value to the team. If you are doubting your ability to move internationally – remember a passion for developing and caring for others means the same thing no matter where in the world you work.
After being in the UK for over a year now, I continue to be surprised (especially at the British mastery of queuing – most notably, when I’m least expecting it!). But, most of all, by my career, the incredible people at Cisco, and how this company inspires its people to chase after your dreams.
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Incredible journey, Madison! You are truly the best it gets and it fills me with joy to see you living the dream you manifested. Well done!
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