September 17, 2020

How to live your passions and grow your career through relationships

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Seema Hyne is the Customer Success Manager for the Australia & New Zealand Regional IT Team at Cisco. After 13 years with the company she says; “It’s a great environment and you get to do a lot of innovative work, but it’s really the people that makes Cisco a great place to work.”

We chatted about using your network to shape your career, and the challenges of being a working mother.

How to champion for your career

Seema joined Cisco in 2007 as a contractor in San Jose, California. After five years in the USA, she moved back to Australia with Cisco in 2012 and has been taking on new challenges ever since. In her current role she works across a range of projects, including the IT Management Program, a 2.5 day conference at Cisco Live Melbourne for Senior IT and Business Leaders. She also is the IT Lead for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics working to support Cisco’s applications and infrastructure during the games.

One of the things she loves is Cisco’s support for individual career development. Your career path and next steps are part of Cisco’s Conscious Culture.

“I’ve always had the opportunity to explore and be really open and candid with my managers about wanting to do new things. It’s been quite refreshing! All of my career moves have been a result of that openness.”

“I’ve been very lucky in my career because my managers have always encouraged me to go and talk with people in other departments at Cisco, because you don’t know what it’s like outside your little bubble without exploring the options. Their attitude is they’d rather keep you in Cisco than lose you to another company.”

Working with colleagues to align on aspirations is key, along with connecting with others to expand your network.

Seema shared some tips that have helped to build her career, which includes tackling networking with peers. Here are some top tips from Seema:

  • Ask for what you want. “My motto is, ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get.’ What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say no and you aren’t any worse off than when you started”
  • Focus on your strengths. “Think about what your good at and what you enjoy doing. When you’re passionate about something you’re working on, you’re most likely to play to your strengths.”
  • Speak to HR. “Start to probe your organisation. I’ve spoken to HR to explore what roles are available and how they align to my skillset.”
  • Connect with people. “Set up informational sessions with people to get a better understanding of the different roles in the organisation.”
  • Get more connections. “Before I leave a meeting, I make sure I’ve been given another contact I can go and talk to.”
  • Have clear objectives. “When I have an informational session with someone, I go in with really clear objectives for the meeting. They’re taking time out to spend with you, so be prepared so you can ask those targeted questions.”

“People say to me, oh gosh you’ve been at Cisco for 13 years. Those 13 years have gone really quickly, and I don’t even think about going anywhere else. There’s something very special about Cisco – it’s given me so many opportunities, not just from a work perspective but it’s allowed me to get involved in areas I’m passionate about.”

Living Your passions and giving back

Seema has passion projects within Cisco and is heavily involved in diversity programs. She is a Core Team member for employee-led organisation Women of Cisco, which aims to attract, develop, retain and celebrate women at Cisco . Key initiatives include providing pathways to introduce women to the technology sector, such as through a mentoring program for students at the university level, MentorMe.

“As a female engineer, I’m really passionate about improving gender diversity in STEM because we still have a lot of work to do. I lead the Cisco MentorMe program across Australia and New Zealand which is a mentoring program for female university students. The program focusses on inspiring and engaging our female talent of tomorrow to think about the opportunities in the technology industry and the roles available to them.”

“Working in technology is a great career for women. There’s flexibility, variety and it pays well so you can be financially independent. I want to encourage young women to explore what is available to them, because you don’t know what you don’t know.”

This program has grown exponentially. Last year was the biggest cohort with over 170 students and this year they are continuing with a virtual program. Find out more, here.

Outside of work, one of Seema’s passions is the Not-for-Profit, A Girl and Her World.

“We help girls in rural Fiji get back to school, and help their families create income-generating projects. Education is really important to me and educating women really does break that cycle of poverty.”

Working remotely to keep balanced

Seema is a mother to three boys aged between 8 and 14, and laughs, “That’s a full-time job in itself!”

As a parent, she says, “You have to evaluate how you want the scales to tip at different points. You’ve got to juggle your personal life, family life and work. How do you maintain harmony and still remain challenged?”

During the pandemic, Cisco’s staff have all worked remotely – enabled using Cisco Webex, the leading global collaboration software platform. Prior to this, Seema worked from home and in the office – it is part of Cisco’s culture to enable flexible working arrangements.

“This gave me a good balance of being in the office and at home. On the days I work from home, the kids can do their extra-curricular activities. The biggest benefit for me with working at Cisco – aside from the financial benefits – is the flexibility to achieve what I need to in all my roles as an employee, a mother, wife, daughter and sister.”

“Being a global company and depending on the role, you can work across different time zones. Cisco’s Webex Technology has played an integral part in enabling that flexibility which is so important to me. It gives me that ability to take calls from the car with Webex Meetings when I’m dropping the kids to school or respond to Webex Teams messages while I’m in the waiting room of doctor’s surgery. This has really helped me to integrate my work with my life and gives me the autonomy and choice to be effective.”*

Support during the pandemic

Cisco has worked to support employees during the pandemic with a range of initiatives.

“We were told, ‘Work your day around what fits best with your family.’ When you’re in the middle of work and you have kids coming up to you to ask questions all the time, it’s tough. If I needed to take a couple of hours off in the morning to support my 8-year-old, then I felt I could do that without being questioned.”

“A lot of emphasis has been placed on our health and wellbeing. We take a lot for granted at Cisco and if I compare what some of my friends in other organizations have access to, we really are well supported.”

“I wake up every morning feeling so grateful to work for such an amazing company that is genuine about their people, transparent on all fronts and openly listens to feedback. Cisco’s principles align to my own core values and this allows me to be my best at work every day.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.