A little over a month ago, I handed in my Cisco badge and left the office for the final time. After working at Cisco for more than 16 years that’s a big deal, but since I left, I find myself in a new and exciting place. It took me a long time to know I was ready to leave but looking back now there’s no doubt in my mind I made the right move.
My time at Cisco was a phenomenal journey, but like all journeys it was time for it to come to an end. I am grateful for the fantastic opportunities that came my way, opportunities I like to think I made the most of. It was always hard work, sometimes really hard, but also a lot of fun, and as a result, I grew a tremendous amount, both professionally as well as personally.
There are many factors why I stayed at Cisco for as long as I did but one of the key reasons are the people. It was truly amazing to get to work with such talented, smart, hard-working and fun colleagues, representing a diverse set of perspectives, backgrounds, nationalities, ages and cultures.
In November last year I handed in my resignation due to a number of personal reasons. This news surprised many colleagues, but for my friends and family, the decision was logical as they had seen my job satisfaction decline over the last few years. Looking back now it’s difficult to summarise how my time at Cisco has shaped me as an individual as I feel there are so many things I learnt, but the most important things I take with me in this next stage of my career would be:
Embrace differences. Remain open to other people’s experiences, backgrounds and points of view. If you do, you will grow as a person, and find that life and work become all that much more stimulating as you discover new ways of doing things and evolve your way of thinking. You don’t have to like everyone or agree with everything they say, but at a minimum, listen and be open to new perspectives.
Be curious. Go into new situations with a willingness to learn. The amount you can learn by asking questions without judgement is remarkable. Most people want to share their thoughts and ideas; often they’re just waiting to be asked and listened to.
Don’t make assumptions. Your assumptions are often based on what you already know or think you know. If you try to have an open mind, you will discover things you otherwise wouldn’t. But also and very importantly, always appreciate the unique set of knowledge and experience you bring to the table as no one else will bring the exact same point of view.
Be friendly. Assume (this being the only exception to the previous point!) people mean well because most people really do. You don’t have to become friends with everyone you meet but being friendly can take you a long way when collaborating with others and working towards your goals.
Claim your seat at the table and make your voice heard. If you have something to say, say it! I can recall many times when I wanted to voice my opinion but held back, only to hear another person, and often a more senior person, say the exact same thing I was thinking. When I stopped that behaviour and started to speak up, a whole new set of possibilities materialized.
Say yes! When new opportunities come up, even if you hadn’t seen it coming or it wasn’t part of your original plan (if you, unlike me, had a plan to begin with), embrace them! Some of the best work experiences I’ve had was when I took on new challenges. In those situations, I chose to focus on why I would be good at something vs. where my gaps were. I also took pride and comfort in the fact that people I trusted believed in me to be successful, otherwise they obviously wouldn’t have offered me those new tasks or job roles.
Everyone knows change can be difficult, and there were parts of the process in this highly personal change that were challenging, whilst others I've taken in my stride. Even if I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in a few months or a year from now, I know for sure that I am in the exactly right place and ready to embrace whatever new adventures life has in store for me. And that is an amazing feeling.
Watch this space!