In 2015, I had just moved to the Raleigh, NC area and I knew no one. I was lucky enough, however, to quickly secure a contract position at Cisco. Nervous and frightened, I took a deep breath and then entered building 4 of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) campus.  

Tiara in front of "Workplace Summit" sign

As I stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the floor just above me, it felt like the longest elevator ride ever! I knew I could do this job; I was qualified and equally excited – but I was a country girl, coming from a small town, with no technical background. In fact, I had never worked for a technology company before. So, while I knew my skills were transferable, just the thought of being outside of my comfort zone made me feel uneasy.  

In that moment, a quote from the late Maya Angelou came to mind, “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay. I chose to proceed with hope, said a little prayer to myself, and confidently jumped off the elevator to hunt for my new team.  

Little did I know at that time just how much my life was about to change. A meager opportunity as an entry level case agent for a software help desk marked the beginning of a new and exciting career journey! 

In the beginning weeks I worked three times as hard to keep up with some of my co-workers –learning Cisco jargon and acronyms are a feat all their own. And in addition to speaking the language, I had to learn route-to-market, the basics of various architectures and Cisco technology that we supported. My husband laughed at my homemade flashcards, but I studied diligently each night until I had it in the bag!  

In record time I was making a name for myself, building my personal brand as a fast learner, hard worker, and dependable Cisco “leader-in-the-making”. Learning new things is a huge motivator for someone like me. I was taking it all in and even working alongside senior leaders. 

Naturally, this desire to grow and learn led to ideas of promotion. 

Initially, I thought that hard work would equal increased responsibility but quickly learned this is not always the case. Letting go of ego, and the chase of titles is so difficult – our society places such high value on climbing a ladder – but it was here that I learned not every pivotal move involves a big career change or a new fancy title.  

Eventually, I saw the beauty in lateral moves. Lateral moves can indeed be power moves if used in the right way, and when I caught on to this, the game changed! 

Feeling stuck, with no sign of a promotion in sight – I wasn’t quite sure what my next step should be. So, I volunteered to serve as a mentor on the floor, guiding my peers. 

Did it come with a fancy new title? No. But serving as a mentor in this capacity shined a light on my leadership qualities. My teammates trusted me, and Cisco leaders saw this and took note. When my team leader was promoted, it was without question who earned the right to be his successor. That lateral move (mentoring) positioned me for my next forward step, and it would be the first of many lateral moves that would continue to position me for a multitude of opportunities throughout my Cisco career.

When you come to a crossroads and are feeling stuck yourself, consider a lateral move using these three suggestions.  

Tiara in front of We Are Cisco sign.

1. Increased exposure: If you’ve mastered your current role, and upward movement doesn’t seem to be on the horizon – have you entertained the possibility of exploring other business functions? Making lateral moves afforded me some much-needed experience and exposure to the work environments of cross-functional teams. Who knows, you might find that you love working in that new space! This, in due time, could also aid in providing more clarity on what your next “move up” could be.

2. Increased Connections: You may know exactly where you want to be in the next 3-5 years, but in your current position you have no access to the network of people that can help get you there. I found that lateral moves into roles that worked closer with my desired network quickly increased my social currency! Sometimes it is “who you know” not “what you know”.

3. Increased Marketability: Lateral moves gave me more marketability in the long run. By understanding more aspects of the company as a whole and how different departments fit together, I was better suited for leadership roles, and – who knows – maybe even executive positions down the road!

Don’t let the pressure of ‘climbing a ladder’ distract you from the many opportunities – lateral moves included – in front of you. Through strategic stretch assignments, volunteering to help with projects led by various Cisco Employee Resource Organizations, and other lateral opportunities I ‘skilled up’. Although still not a technical resource (per se), I can now confidently lead a discussion among my very technical peers and OWN the room.  

I went from contractor to full-time employee, from mentor to team lead, then senior team lead, and now lead a new function for one of our Customer Experience Professional Service Delivery teams on a global scale. Experience and skills gained from lateral moves certainly contributed to my success in a major way. 

If you’ve spotted a Cisco opportunity, but you are hesitant to take that leap, push that fear aside. Apply! Connect with one of our amazing recruiters. The sky is your limit, and do not allow yourself to get hung up on titles.  

In today’s work environment career paths are no longer linear or traditional. Embrace the new modern career trajectory and grow your potential with Cisco. Be your “best self” and explore the amazing opportunities we have to offer!  


Ready to join our global teams? Apply now. 

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Tiara Roberts

Software Compliance Engagement Manager

Cisco CX Programs - Software Compliance - US