Jessica Bair is committed to making the world a better place. She’s served as a missionary, a member of the military and as of late, she’s dedicated her career to developing cybersecurity technology. Now at Cisco Systems, Inc., Bair helps partners around the world integrate the most advanced technologies into their security practices. It’s a job that keeps her on her toes — and on lots of flights.
But Bair doesn’t just help the world at work. She’s on the board of two nonprofits dedicated to LGBTQ equality in politics and in entertainment, and she takes advantage of Cisco’s 40 hours of paid time off to volunteer.
Bair’s life has recently inspired a documentary. But before the credits roll, she shared how Cisco is supporting her endeavors to make real change and how she’s found a meaningful career along the way.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been in my role as Senior Manager, Ecosystem Development — Advanced Threat Solutions for five years. Previously, I was the senior director of business development for Threat Grid, Inc.
What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day?
The first thing I do each day is help technology ecosystem partners on the East Coast and in the Middle East and Europe with their questions. The last thing I do is assist our partners in Asia.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
All of Cisco’s new security and networking products have exposed APIs that application developers can use to automate; Our team helps partners build integrations with the open architecture. Every year, I travel to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Singapore and London to work with other security professionals, including those in competing security companies.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
Corporate citizenship is a core value at Cisco. I have 40 paid hours a year to volunteer with non-profit organizations. Currently, Cisco is working on homelessness and global hunger as its priority initiatives.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
Getting women involved. Last year, I volunteered to help share the Cisco Security story with women around the world. Now, I am the global co-lead for the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity recruitment team, in addition to my regular duties.
What about outside of work?
I serve on the boards of two non-profit organizations, one working for LGBTQ political equality and the other for LGBTQ visibility in film.
What are you trying to improve on?
Laughing and smiling more at work, because I really do enjoy my career. I once won “the best poker face” gag award at another tech firm, likely because my 20’s were spent serving God and Country; I spent two years in religious missionary service and eight years in the Army. I always enjoy a good laugh.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
In 2014, it was time to leave a cybersecurity company where I had been for 13 years. I had joined the company after completing my military service, and I helped it grow from a start-up to a public corporation.
As I was looking for a new opportunity, I wanted to join an organization that had killer technology and a leadership team that would let me design a position where my skills and experience could help them grow. I selected Threat Grid, which had a team of 20 men. I was the first woman they hired. Six weeks later, the company was acquired by Cisco for its automated malware analysis and integrated intelligence platform, and I joined a team of over 70,000 professionals.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
Every day, I work with technology partners who are finding new ways to connect people and to make the world a safer place to live, work and play.
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?
A filmmaker in Hollywood is making a documentary about my life, so I have spent a lot of time this year looking through my archives of photographs, videos, documents and correspondence.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
You have an incredible work-life balance when you find an opportunity that you really enjoy, that you are really good at doing, that the world needs and that someone will pay you well for doing. At that point, you have a hobby that pays. For me, that is Cybersecurity.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
My father. He purchased a computer for his small business when I was in my pre-teens, and my first job was data entry of his expenses for his quarterly tax preparation. I was the first kid in my neighborhood to use a computer for something other than gaming, and I never looked back.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Be your own brand and be bold in your execution.
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