This post was written by Cisco Intern, Mark Henderson, who interned for us over the summer in Toronto, Canada. He’s back at school now, but his post inspired us. Have a great year Mark!  


“If you’re not nervous, you’re not growing.” This quote is one that I have held as a personal mantra, I remember hearing it from my mom when I was growing up before every minor league hockey game and before every big presentation in school. And she was right. When I look back on the moments where I truly learned valuable lessons, they were when I overcame a personal fear like giving a public speech or putting my heart into playing hockey. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty easy to avoid these nervous situations, follow a comfy routine, and ultimately stagnate any potential for growth.

Pursuing this idea of never getting comfortable, you can imagine my excitement when I landed a Sales Development Internship at Cisco Canada. The 12-week position provided me with so many opportunities to develop neglected, lacking skills of mine. Every single day I worked at Cisco, I was exposed to work that made me nervous for all the right reasons and thus instilled valuable skills in myself through learning from the experiences.

For example, like many of us, I was a poor public speaker growing up and would always get sweaty palms, a racing heart, and a shaky voice before appearing in front of an audience. In my first month at Cisco, I was tasked with giving three big presentations to different groups: an account team, the Canada Partner Organization, and Cisco executives when we visited the San Jose office. These definitely worked up my nerves, but every subsequent presentation I was slightly less nervous than the last. After about eight presentations, I miraculously found that I no longer got nervous speaking in front of others, and I actually enjoyed the conversations I had with my audience! Cisco gave me the opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking by challenging me throughout multiple opportunities to speak in front of others.

However, public speaking was just one factor that threw me outside of my comfort zone, so here are a few more situations where I felt nervous and how that helped me better myself at Cisco:

  1. Executive Exposure: The first time I spoke to a Vice President at the Cisco Toronto office I was tremendously nervous and probably blanked out on some of things I wanted to say. But, because I was offered this exposure multiple times over the course of the internship, I found myself perfectly comfortable speaking with leaders towards the end. So much so that I even decided to offer feedback on social branding to the Director of Brand Strategy and Content because I developed the confidence to bring my ideas to the table.
  1. Calling Partners and Clients: Along with executive exposure, I was offered opportunities to speak with partners and clients about new, innovative solutions. This taught me how to keep composed when in any situation and really research my information before meeting a potential buyer or re-seller. This meant that I was able to prepare myself for the multiple paths for our conversation might take.
  1. Thinking Outside of the Box: Lastly, one of the biggest things Cisco helped me with in my personal career is fostering the ability to think outside of the box and provide creative solutions to big problems. The internship revolved around account research where there were clear issues at Cisco-related organizations with very vague solutions. Our jobs as interns were to provide ideas on how to solve these problems, regardless of how outside of the box or crazy our solutions were, those concepts were always taken into consideration. This was a really powerful lesson for me to see that even during an internship, my thoughts were still sought after and valued.

In conclusion, Cisco offered me an incredible opportunity to grow. Yes, there were times every day where I felt the butterflies in my stomach or my heart would begin to race. Instead of avoiding this fear, however, I embraced it because I knew that it was the key to my personal development and growth as a professional. Thank you Cisco, not for making me nervous…but for making me better.

Want to work at a company that challenges you? Find open roles at Cisco.