How did you learn to lead and who were your early examples?
Playing football in East Texas, where I grew up, our coaches stressed not only the importance of winning, but winning with class. They taught us to be overly prepared – to try to anticipate what you might see. And when you do achieve, not to get too high on yourself – to stay humble. These are core leadership skills that have served me well throughout my career.
You’ve been successful as an entrepreneur and working for large technology companies. How do you apply both experiences in your current role?
At a start-up, you have to bounce back quickly from failures and missteps without ever viewing yourself as a failure. You have to treat the missteps as a learning opportunity. In large companies, it’s a bigger stage and it’s easy to get lost. You have to become essential pretty quickly. In my current job, I try to bring an entrepreneurial focus around creativity, agility and speed, combined with the discipline and rigor that is required to drive change. But the common thing I’ve taken away from both experiences is that success is dependent upon having a lot of smart people around you and building the right team.
What role, if any, do you think diversity and inclusion play in fueling innovation and company success?
It’s one of the reasons Cisco’s been so successful over the years. We hire smart people, and foster a culture of inclusion and collaboration. When you’re in meetings, the dynamics and exchange of ideas is quite fluid and active, but everyone understands the importance of listening to and respecting all points of view. This attitude starts at the top, and runs throughout the company. I have seen it often in our Advanced Services organization, and most recently, in our engineering group with the launch of Cisco’s new Network Architecture, ” The Network.Intuitive.” This major initiative was the result of the efforts of a diverse and energized team all driving toward a single strategic goal.
How would you advise younger people who are entering the work force or those looking to advance their careers?
Each business, regardless of the industry, will need to evolve to become a technology and data-driven enterprise. I would encourage them to embrace technology and understand how it’s going to be applied to solve business problems that impact your organization’s success and growth.
In addition to tech savvy, what qualities do you look for when hiring?
Intelligence, confidence, and a track record of success. I find that successful people always find a way to be successful in whatever they do. I also look for critical thinkers – people who can take data and make sense of it and make it actionable. Good communication skills are a must. And leadership – even if your core competency is around the technology, the ability to lead, and influence is critical.
Has sponsorship played a role in your career success?
I’m here because of it. Throughout my career, there have been people who had trust and confidence in my ability. They presented opportunities to me that I would not have had otherwise. To give back, I recently signed Cisco’s Multiplier Effect pledge – a commitment to sponsor diverse talent – to help others get to a place where they can shine.
What do you think makes for a good leader?
Honesty, integrity, and a good work ethic. You need to treat people fairly, because any success you have as a leader is due to the collective effort of the team you’re leading. But for me, work has always been about finding my purpose. It’s about the story I’m writing for my life. As a leader, you have to let your team know how they fit into the overall success of the company. That’s the story you need to outline for them.