Sometimes going back can be the way forward. That’s been the case for Tiara Roberts, Current Strategy & Planning Manager at Cisco. Tiara first worked for the hardware, software, and internet solutions company in 2015, before leaving to take a job at another company. “I always knew that I wanted to return – the Cisco culture is contagious; they really take things to the next level.”  Tiara shared with Fairygodboss why she left, what she learned while she was gone, and why she came back.

Tell me a bit about your current role. What are your priorities, and what about the role excites you most? 

I serve as a Strategy and Planning Manager within Cisco’s Global Customer Experience (CX) Centers Excellence & Standardization org. As a part of the Acquisition Integration & Delivery Readiness Team, my primary goal is to ensure that CX is ready for the introduction and delivery of new strategic investments. Currently my focus is driving adoption and continual process improvement across CX Centers for the Integrated Delivery Process (IDP) Program. What I love the most about this role is that it feeds my passion for scaling change.

What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day? 

First thing I do is brew a cup of Earl Grey tea, that’s my favorite! I pair it with a morning affirmation and that is how I kick-start my day. The last thing I do is journal. I wrap up the day by debriefing. I like to set aside 10-15 minutes and just reflect on what went well and where I can improve. This practice has repeatedly boosted my performance and has greatly impacted my career success.

Let’s talk about your career path. When did you first come to work for your company, and in what role? 

My career path started out in the medical field. Making the switch into the tech space was a major shift for me. My journey with Cisco began back in 2015. I worked with a large project group to launch Cisco One, as part of the company’s pivotal transition away from a hardware sales focus to software. I worked with this team for about 2 years and then I left Cisco to pursue another opportunity.

Why did you leave, and what ultimately made you come back?

I left to regroup and skill up. I learned so much from my first assignment with Cisco, but it was an intimidating experience. Cisco is a very fast-paced environment. I was not used to that. I knew my value, but had a hard time fully translating it to others. As a woman in corporate America, it can be extremely difficult finding the courage to boldly speak up so that your voice and ideas are heard loud and clear, especially if you function in a male-dominated industry. 

Sometimes you must take a step back and re-evaluate before you can move forward with intent. Stepping away allowed me to reach academic achievements that built my confidence. I also used this time to carve out a specific career plan. I always knew that I wanted to return – the Cisco culture is contagious; they really take things to the next level. I wanted to be a part of that, which is what helped me stay the course until my return became a reality!

What’s your favorite aspect of your company’s culture and/or your favorite company perk? 

A few things come to mind; one being the “People Deal” – Cisco’s promise to employees – and our Conscious Culture. Cisco considers culture a two-way street, a relationship of give and take. The company recognizes the importance of bridging the gap between senior leaders and employee experience. Second, it’s the ability to own your career. There are a plethora of opportunities and resources, and it is up to each individual employee to harness and grow.

What’s something you’re especially good at at work?

My peers recognize me as a “teacher” and “Influencer.” I am also very good at seeing the bigger picture. I can surface business insights from data and then use them to drive impactful change, continuous process improvement, and to make better business decisions. 

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

My biggest “flex” was unlocking the power of mentorship and sponsorship. Nobody successful has done it all on their own. Having people to invest in you and your career growth is the greatest “cheat code” and something I wish I had a better understanding of earlier in my career. I once viewed asking for help as a weakness and that there was strength in “toughing it out.” Instead of asking for support, I’d try to do everything myself. I quickly learned this mental attitude aids in surviving, not thriving. I am proud of improving my ability to ask for and accept help. Asking for help most certainly helped me achieve greater and no one has ever viewed me any less of a leader because of it! 

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

I had the privilege of hearing author Erica Williams Simon speak at a conference, and she said something that resonated with me. It really evolved the way I viewed career planning. She said, “Don’t ever attach yourself to a person, place, company, organization, or a project. Attach yourself to a mission, a calling, a purpose only. That is how you keep your power and your peace.” This is working well for me so far!


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