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Published on 03/12/2024
Last updated on 03/12/2024

Harnessing fear for professional growth: Insights from an Outshift Business Operations Leader & Chief of Staff


Stepping out of my comfort zone has led to significant growth professionally and personally.  

My 16-year tenure at Cisco has taken multiple fascinating detours. It’s given me an array of diverse experiences that have culminated in my current role as a Business Operations Leader and Chief of Staff at Outshift, where I support the marketing, open source program office (OSPO), and product-led growth teams. What does that mean? I contribute to strategic planning, financial management, communication facilitation, and key business initiatives and priorities.  

Embracing fear to unlock professional growth 

At the outset, I entered the corporate world as an Executive Assistant, first to a director, and then for an SVP. From these administrative roots, I blossomed into various roles in marketing, project management, program management, sales, and operations.  

Embracing the unknown has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my career. The more I put myself in uncomfortable positions where I didn’t have all the answers or knew what I was supposed to be doing, the more I grew. For every new role I’ve taken on, leaning into fear has been essential. 

By daring to venture beyond the familiar confines of my comfort zone and continually pushing boundaries, I’ve learned the importance of putting my career growth at the forefront. I need to prioritize my own career growth, as no one else will do it for me. It’s not just a necessity, but a responsibility.  

Navigating career transitions 

My current role as a Chief of Staff emerged organically during a phase of growth within Outshift, then called Emerging Technologies & Incubation (ET&I). Initially, I was running operations for the Cisco Innovation Labs team and then headed up a thought leadership role for ET&I. These experiences have all shaped my approach to my current position. They helped me become more agile and comfortable with working through moments of organizational change and ambiguity and enabled me to make strategic decisions quickly—even if I don’t have all the information.

Being in this role has given me a deeper insight into the intricacies of managing a large organization and understanding executive priorities.  

Transferring skills and learning from failure 

Through my distinct roles, I never pigeonholed myself into a single role or job. Curiosity and my desire for new challenges have fueled my career transitions. One of the biggest role transitions was when I moved from a project manager role into a partner account manager (sales) role. Whenever a role became too easy, I sought out the next opportunity.

I've learned to view my skills as transferable and any gaps in my knowledge as opportunities to learn. Cisco has given me the opportunity to do that. They’ve also allowed me to balance my personal life with my professional ambitions, facilitating my career growth. I can still be a mum, wife, daughter, and sister.

Steering through these changes required an open mind and resilience. Amid setbacks, I've learned to view failures as part of the growth process. For all the roles I’ve been in, I’ve also had ones I didn’t get, and that’s okay.

There have been many times where I’ve failed in interviews and presentations. In some cases, my preparation was inadequate. During other occasions, the people on the other side of the table were uninvested in my success, or perhaps grappling with their own challenges and having a bad day. Whether it wasn’t the right job for me, or I needed to be better prepared, it’s all a learning experience that builds my work ethic and resilience. 

Drawing courage from physical challenges 

The experiences and lessons from my personal life have provided me with the courage to pursue my professional goals boldly. I’ve undertaken many physical endurance challenges that have helped me realize our capabilities as human beings.

As a fitness fanatic, I regularly do spin, rocket yoga, and weight training. I also participate in yearly physical challenges. I’ve completed the 100K Jurassic Coast Challenge and Ride London, a 100-mile route, to raise money for charity.

Through those challenges, I know you need to go through a level of pain and discomfort to reach the moment of elation. The endurance and resilience developed during these challenges have translated into my work life, allowing me to prioritize growth over comfort during pivotal moments in my career.

If not you, then who?

While I found many of the roles I’ve held at Cisco rewarding, the career highlight that I’m most proud of has been serving on the Board for Women of Cisco UK&I, where I’ve led impactful initiatives like the Women’s Health Webinar Series called, Let’s Talk About It, which focused on topics like depression & anxiety, menopause, infertility, etc. From the series, I received feedback from individuals who were personally impacted in a positive way, which felt like a gratifying achievement.

For those looking to be courageous in their career, I ask you one question: If not you, then who?  Feel the fear and do it anyway. Don’t feel like you need to match a job specification line by line.

A willingness to work hard, learn, and adopt an adaptive attitude are valuable assets in today's dynamic work environment, and it's what teams look for.

Looking ahead, I am excited about the future opportunities at Outshift. I am eager to continue my journey, embrace new challenges, and contribute to the growth and success of Cisco. There’s much more to come!

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