Kate Baldwin, a manager at Cisco. Photo courtesy of Cisco
If you feel like you’re navigating your career as a woman in a man’s world, Kate Baldwin has some advice for you: “Be bold, and don’t doubt yourself,” she advises. “Sometimes it feels safer to sit back and consider your ideas and responses, but I’ve had great opportunities because I had a support system that was indirectly or directly nudging me to go with my gut – whether it was going for a job or sharing my ideas.”
As a manager at Cisco, Baldwin’s been fortunate enough to enjoy the resources that a large company can offer, while still forging personal connections that have accelerated her career. “I still run into the woman who conducted my first interview around the office,” she says. “I’ve also been able to go and recruit other women to Cisco.”
Baldwin recently spoke to Fairygodboss about how she’s landed a role that perfectly blends her past experiences, why she loves being part of a company with “an incredible group of female leaders,” and how she’s learned to put a positive spin on rejection.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I just recently started my role in TAC (Technical Assistance Center), managing the team that creates training for our support team. It’s the perfect combination of my past experiences at Cisco – I spent 4 years working in internal IT Support for our Cisco collaboration products before I moved to Learning Services, delivering enterprise training to Cisco employees. I love that my new role brings me closer to our customers and partners.
Why Cisco? How did you come onboard?
I was recruited for Cisco at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology event! It’s a great memory, and despite how large Cisco can be, I still run into the woman who conducted my first interview around the office. I’ve also been able to go back and recruit other women to Cisco.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
Check in with my team on Webex Teams! My team is dispersed across the globe, and whether we are asking about family, sharing funny videos, or digging into the latest work challenge, we are constantly connecting through Teams. It seems like a Cisco commercial, but it’s true — a tool can’t make up for genuine in person connection, but it definitely closes the gap significantly.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of Cisco?
In an industry that is light on women, we have an incredible group of females on our executive leadership team! Cisco walks the talk there and calls ourselves out when we don’t feel like we are living up to the high standard we set for ourselves when it comes to inclusion and diversity.
What’s something you’re especially good at at-work?
Giving it my all. I’m genuinely and naturally inclined to give my best to what’s in front of me, whether that’s speed mentoring with young girls in STEM, putting on an event for a Cisco Employee Resource Organization, or leading a project for my day job.
What about outside of work?
I love to bring people together and am well known amongst my friends for being the person who organizes a soccer team, puts on the holiday party, or invites a few groups of friends together for a ladies’ happy hour.
What are you trying to improve on?
Listening! In taking a new role, I’ve had a lot of time to practice this. It’s so important that you actually listen to what someone is saying versus just waiting for your chance to talk – you end up with a much more robust experience and better outcome in the end. I’ve learned so much but being patient and listening versus jumping to a solution or an opinion. It doesn’t come naturally, but I’m constantly checking myself on it to make it a habit.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
For the past two years, I have been getting my MBA at Duke while working, going up to campus every other Friday and Saturday. It was a significant sacrifice of time and energy, but also one that prompted so much growth. Being able to transition to a new challenge in a new role a few months after graduation is a satisfying application of all that effort.
What do you love most about Cisco?
My company is all about its employees. As a company, we have the opportunity to take part in incredible, high-impact projects around the globe. Cisco was a sponsor for the Rio 2016 Olympics, and in addition to changing the face of Rio’s IT infrastructure and providing the backbone for the whole grand event, Cisco sponsored eight employees to carry a torch in the Torch Relay. Cisco gave me that once in a lifetime experience that I could have never even imagined.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
Since graduation in December, some of my MBA friends have been trying to keep on track with professional development by having a monthly book club. Our latest book was “Multipliers” and it was incredibly insightful. Highly recommended!
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Be bold, and don’t doubt yourself! There’s a role out there and a company that is perfect for you. Any rejection just gets you closer to that right place.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
My mom has been a quiet but huge presence in my life. She was the main breadwinner as a nurse, and at the hospital, everyone knows exactly who she is, from the security guard to ER doctors – she’s known for being “kick ass” at her job and a hard worker. She taught me that I could do whatever I wanted with my life.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Go for it! Sometimes as a woman in a man’s world, it feels safer to sit back and consider your ideas and responses, but I’ve had great opportunities because I had a support system that was indirectly or directly nudging me to go with my gut – whether it was going for a job or sharing my ideas.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Direct and transparent. He taught me that being a leader is about seeing the best of your team and challenging them to meet that high expectation.
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