Eight months ago, I applied for a Chief of Staff role with the Privacy Office at Cisco. Initially, I almost didn’t apply because I didn’t meet 100% of the requirements – my Privacy Impact Assessments were unknown, and I was not certified as an Information Privacy Professional/Europe (CIPP/E). I was worried that, as English is my second language, my grammar and communication skills might be inadequate.
Hello, Imposter Syndrome.
As the negative thoughts in my head grew louder, I created a variety of scenarios that all left me being rejected for this role. A domino effect played out, and I am not talking about a pizza delivery.
I wasted so much time with these negative thoughts, before finally deciding to shut that voice off as I reminded myself of the Sheryl Sandberg quote, “Men apply for positions if they meet just 60% of the requirements, while women only apply if they meet 100% of them.”
So, what if I didn’t have 100% of the requirements? In not applying—I’d exclude myself entirely from the process, and the possibility of growing my career at Cisco.
I knew I not only wanted this job—but that I could do this job, and that I had the passion and drive to learn, and in return, add great value. I knew this would be a great step in achieving my end goal of joining our Product Management team, and I knew I had the Security framework knowledge. If I could add the Privacy framework—I’d be in an even better position to market to our customers who have priorities in both Security and Privacy. The opportunity to serve as right hand to a Cisco VP and learn from the best was an extra added benefit.
I decided to go for it, and to see what would happen.
When I interviewed for the position, I focused on what I could bring to the table, how my current Security knowledge is transferable to Privacy, and I made sure to express my professional goals and aspirations so that everyone would be in alignment.
I even asked my recruiter, “Are there opportunities to grow within Privacy?” Here I was interviewing for a role, already looking to see what else the Privacy field could offer my career.
Then, I was offered the role – and happily accepted!
Six months into my role, I wanted to share my story on LinkedIn to help inspire those struggling with Imposter Syndrome or hesitating to go after roles they might not meet 100% of the requirements for. I did not expect what happened next – that post was viewed over 500k times, and I helped those who read it to tell their Imposter Syndrome ‘bye’ and apply!
What this experience taught me is that Cisco’s Leadership is willing to take a chance and create an opportunity if a person is willing to learn. You cannot teach someone ambition, but you can teach someone who is ambitious.
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