I have come to learn that there are a multitude of life lessons college does not fully prepare you for, and while I had interned at Cisco the previous summer — I was still nervous about beginning my full-fledged career at a company that’s prominence in our global community is impressive, and thus intimidating.
To add to those nerves fluttering around in my stomach, I was not quite yet aware what I would be doing at Cisco once I started – I just knew that I would be one of few women in a male-dominated space. With no sense of the culture within this particular organization, and no known experience in this field — my trepidation was rampant.
But when I started at Cisco, I realized my fears had been unfounded.
My first day and on-boarding process were supported by a variety of individuals throughout my new organization — the Trust Strategy Office (TSO). Many stood out to me, but those that stood out the most were the women of our team!
I have read and studied previously that there is a continuous phenomenon in regard to the presence of women in a male-dominated workplace. This phenomenon cultivates the idea that women are often pitted against each other, ultimately facilitating a toxic, competitive environment.
So, along with my nerves of first day at a new job, not knowing the culture on this team and knowing I would be one of few women in a male-dominated team — I also wondered if I would have to create a certain work persona or I would even be able to trust my coworkers as a result of that competitive phenomenon.
Luckily, that is not the case at Cisco.
The last thing I expected was to come into my first day at Cisco and discover a number of surprises. The first was witnessing the varying experience levels amongst the other women in my organization. Some of my colleagues have been with Cisco for over a decade. Others have only been around for a couple of years. Despite these varying levels of experience though, each of these women has a voice!
They not only play a specific role within their team, but they also contribute to the way our organization is working to improve our overarching culture.
I came to realize that despite these varying levels of experience, all of these women were still learning Cisco. Most importantly, they were vocal about the learning curve so many of us experience from time to time.
As a result, my second surprise upon starting at Cisco came with the openness these women maintained with me, the transparency they welcomed me with.
Each and every one of these women acknowledged the fact that I was new. They also assured me that our organization would benefit from the observations of an individual with fresh eyes. Again, even though I interned with Cisco, I was still unfamiliar with the company and what comprised its workplace environment within different organizations.
However, that did not mitigate the women of TSO’s support of me and my role at Cisco. Rather, they perceived my role as one with influence and impact. This is something I am still struggling to grasp — that I, too, have a voice in this organization despite my lack of experience.
Through this, I have been encouraged to move past that hesitation — to speak and ask questions. Each and every one of my teammates genuinely want to hear what I have to say about the company, what I observe and what I believe can be improved.
Through this experience, I’ve learned that it’s vital to facilitate these supportive, empowering relationships in the first place as the phenomenon of the competitive workplace, particularly amongst women, certainly exists. The women in my organization are completely aware of that very phenomenon.
It’s because of that awareness though, they strive every day to combat it. They strive to set a precedent across Cisco to facilitate growth amongst any and all employees.
Despite being new to Cisco, I have come to learn that there are a variety of ways one can become successful at what they do. I am still learning as I go, and I am sure I will continue to learn the ins and out of Cisco for quite some time. One thing that I cannot stress enough is to be conscious of who works alongside you — you never know what experience they might have, or what you might learn from each other.
What motivates me to come to the office every single day is these positive relationships with my co-workers that I’m still establishing. I love that there are people here who truly want me to succeed, and they push me forward.
We are all on the same team — Team Cisco! — and when we empower each other to excel, great things happen!
This article was originally published on Cisco.
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