How I Found My Dream Job in a Male-Dominated Space

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Photo Courtesy of Cisco.

Photo Courtesy of Cisco.

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Yaritza Saldaña Flores was once told that she needed to change how she worked. Not because of a performance issue or a visit to HR, but because she “was a girl.” 

Flash forward a few years and she’s found a job she loves at Cisco, a technology company that’s culture “embraces everyone’s unique personalities,” according to Yartiza. That makes her role as a consulting engineer working in networking — a stereotypically male-dominated space — a much more enjoyable, equitable and exciting job. Plus, Cisco’s amazing team members and its focus on work-life balance don’t hurt. 

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Seven months into her career at Cisco, Yaritza took some time out of her day to share more about her career journey, give us her best advice for women in tech and chat about what makes her love working at Cisco. She also shared her best tips for building confidence — and how it’s helped her navigate being a woman in tech and arm herself with what she needs to dream big. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I have been with Cisco for seven months. Previously, I worked at an IT company for seven years as a support engineer for Voice over IP technology.

Why Cisco? How did you come onboard?  

Why not Cisco? It has an excellent work culture where you can be whatever you dream of becoming in the company! Working here was always a distant dream, but it came true after working hard, facing my fears, some interviews and a little help from my friends. (Ahh, we can hear The Beatles playing in the background!)  

What’s the first and last thing you do at work every day? 

The first thing I do is get a cup of hot tea and check my email for new updates. The latter part of my day depends on the day itself. Sometimes I end the day with salsa lessons, chess games or chats with friends.

What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company? 

The people. You can always meet someone who is willing to help you in perhaps a technical way, or even with personal and general topics. At Cisco, you never feel alone.

What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should? 

The flexibility and culture that we live every day! In my last job, if you didn't wear heels or an elegant suit, it was interpreted that you were not a professional and competent person. Sometimes I felt as if I was a different person at the office versus in my personal life. 

Cisco embraces everyone’s unique personalities — hair color, tattoos, geek t-shirts! Your ability to work and the talent you bring to your team and the company are never defined by who you are, what you wear or your unique attributes. They are strengths here! 

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

It’s important to me to be empathetic with everyone I meet. I work to put myself in other people’s shoes so that I can give the best of myself, understand them and treat them as I would like to be treated. 

What about outside of work? 

After work, I love having time to watch TV, go to the movies, explore new places, exercise and spend time with the people I love. Some companies make this impossible. At Cisco, we’re able to balance — and integrate — our work into our lives.

What are you trying to improve on? 

I am still working on the limits I put on myself that are mainly driven by fear. I’ve missed several opportunities because I was afraid to go after them.

What’s your favorite mistake? 

After a few weeks at my second job, I deleted the operating system on a new router. I was terrified when I realized and I didn’t know what my coworkers would think! I didn’t know how to solve it in that moment, and I was blocked by the fear. After arming myself with the courage to communicate my mistake, I received support and help from my team, which has helped me later in many situations.

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

Choosing to work in networking. It was love at first sight! Some days it is a personal challenge, but it makes me feel proud to take on a career that many people think is only meant for men.

What do you love most about your job or your company? 

Even when I have a lot of work or busy days, I always have a minute to enjoy and smile when I finish something.

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 

I'm currently watching some series like Mozart in the Jungle, Rick and Morty and The Crown. For music, I’m listening to mostly K-pop, Indie and Metal playlists.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?

Never give up, not even when everything feels like it is against you. At my last job, I was once told that I had to change how I worked “because I was a girl.” Years later, I showed that I didn’t just do work the work “like a man” — I did it better.

Who is the most influential person in your life and why? 

My mother. I have always seen her work hard and not give up achieving her personal goals as a teacher. At 53 years old, she has just obtained her doctorate!

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

Once a friend at work told me: “If someone could think to create that, what makes you think you don't have the ability to do the same?”

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had? 

Support. Sometimes you don't believe in yourself at work and your boss can give you that last little push you need to dream bigger.


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