& cplSiteName &

Cisco's Centoni Shares Guiding Career Themes

Sarah Thomas
5/17/2017
50%
50%

AUSTIN, Texas -- WiC at Big Communications Event -- The fact that Liz Centoni has carved out a nearly 20-year career at only one employer, Cisco, says a lot about her and about Cisco.

Centoni is the senior vice president and general manager of the Computing System Product Group at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), where she sets the business and engineering direction and strategy for Cisco's Data Center Compute business and the Unified Computing Services (UCS) and HyperFlex product families. She's been with the company since 2000 and worked her way up the engineering chain over the course of six promotions. (See Mentor Monday: Cisco's Liz Centoni.)

Centoni says she has gotten to where she is today through a combination of strong female role models, starting with her mom, a willingness to tackle new challenges and accept sometimes painful criticism along the way.

In the series of decisions she's made over the course of her career, perhaps the most important one she made was to work at Cisco in the first place. Finding an employer that fit her values and a company culture that supported her was as important as the job title and pay, she said. (See Cisco's Kanouff Kick-Starts the Multiplier Effect.)

In her keynote address at Monday's Women in Comms conference, Centoni shared the four themes that have shaped her career in comms, advising women to be purposeful and choose wisely, make use of mentors, accept feedback and stick to her north star. (See Intel GM: 5G Opens Up New Era for Women.)

Centoni shares a picture of her mom who encouraged her to take the non-traditional path. She was her first mentor and the woman she thanks for her strong, ambitious and fierce personality.
Centoni shares a picture of her mom who encouraged her to take the non-traditional path. She was her first mentor and the woman she thanks for her strong, ambitious and fierce personality.

Be purposeful and choose wisely
As important -- if not more so -- than picking your job is picking your company, Centoni said. When it comes to deciding where to work, consider a company's culture to ensure you're choosing a place where you'll thrive and be passionate about your work and that values what is important to you. There's a reason Centoni has been at Cisco for 20 years even as she's changed positions six times.

"Especially being a woman in tech, a place that accepts my leadership and communication style and sees it as an asset was so important -- the strong part, aggressive part, driving, hard-charging ways, caring about the team," Centoni said, adding, "It's not about conforming to the company, but does the company conform to you?"

Mentors are a must
No single person got to where they are today without someone helping them, according to Centoni. If they tell you otherwise? "I call bullshit," she said. Mentoring, something she does for both in and outside of Cisco, is so important, not just for women but for men too. Centoni called on the men in attendance to be advocates for women, which she said is absolutely critical to retain women in the industry.


For more advice and perspectives on women in comms, check out our past Mentor Monday profiles here on Light Reading.


Feedback is a gift
But not all feedback, of course. Some, like being told to smile more -- which Centoni has heard -- can be thrown right away. Other feedback, even if critical, should be taken to heart. Reframe it, to think of it as a gift, Centoni said. Doing so lets you stop personalizing it and look at it more clinically.

"We do take it personally, but take it as a gift and separate out the ones that matter from the ones you can throw away," she said.

Find your north star
Finding your north star and always staying focused on it was advice that resonated with the other executives on the "Future of Tech" panel at this session. For Centoni, that north star is growth, customers and the team. If she keeps them in mind, it makes big business decisions easier to make by drowning out the noise and distractions. Engineers, for example, can often get caught up in doing technology for technology's sake, but always refocusing on key priorities helps you lead with purpose and clarity.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/17/2017 | 3:53:59 PM
What's your north star?
Liz had some excellent advice to share. I thought her fourth theme about finding your north star was particularly poignant. It is easy to get distracted and lose focus but if you always keep your mission and #1 priorities in mind at work as with anything in life, you can make decisions much more easily. 

I also thought her story about feedback was an important reminder. It's also easy to get caught up in doing your best work without thinking about the bigger picture or how others are effected. Feedback, even when negative, is extremely valuable. it helps when it is communicated well with good intentions too.
Women in Comms Audio
Archived Audio
Twitter Feed
Women's Watercooler
Discussion Boards
December 22, 2017 3:58:57 PM
UN Women HeForShe
spc_Dunphy
October 24, 2017 7:10:11 AM
Better Online Communication Makes Organization Sense
shirawinget
April 27, 2017 1:54:38 PM
Do you know women in tech?
Sarah Thomas
March 5, 2017 12:08:01 PM
Swedish Mansplaining
ErynLeavens
March 3, 2017 3:24:50 PM
Women's History Month
Sarah Thomas
February 24, 2017 12:15:59 PM
The career-break penalty
Sarah Thomas
February 17, 2017 10:25:33 AM
Risk taking differences
Sarah Thomas
February 17, 2017 9:51:21 AM
Upcoming WiC Events!
Sarah Thomas
Contribute Here
Women in Comms Poll
WOMEN IN COMMS: SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US
WiC wants to hear your stories, experiences and impressions of the comms industry.

Take our short survey here!
Infographics
AppDynamics highlights the tech segments where women are the most prevalent and showcases a few making a big difference in their field.
Women in Comms Video
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Hollywood Producer Talks Cosby, Caution & Cable

4|25|18   |   5:16   |   (0) comments


Executive Producer Janet Leahy shares her story with WiC, offers advice for the cable industry to better support women and gives us a sneak preview of what she's working on next.
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon on Drag & Drop Automation

4|23|18   |   03:40   |   (0) comments


DALLAS -- Automation Everywhere -- Srilakshmi Valisammagari, senior technologist & strategist - SDN/NFV Innovations for Verizon, addresses the operators' efforts to deliver automation to enterprise customers via Verizon Service Designer. Valisammagari says Verizon Service Designer simplifies the process flow -- from service design to implementation to provisioning ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Women of Wall Street CEO Offers Discrimination Solutions

4|18|18   |   6:15   |   (0) comments


Blind hiring, raising awareness, encouraging dialogue and ending binding arbitration agreements are a few ways the industry can thwart gender discrimination, says former Wall Street executive Karen MacFarlane, who saw first hand how pervasive it was in the financial industry.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Bohling: Have the Conversation to End Harassment

4|11|18   |   5:05   |   (0) comments


Gender consultant and author Wendy Bohling shares her thoughts on why we need to create an atmosphere of transparency, authenticity and accountability to make sure the #metoo movement doesn't ultimately backfire.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Why Telstra's COO Thinks Diversity of Thought Matters Most

4|4|18   |   6:09   |   (0) comments


Diversity of thought may be the most important in an industry that depends on innovation, according to Telstra COO and Tesla Board Member Robyn Denholm, who advises women to "just go for it" when it comes to building a career here.
LRTV Documentaries
New Orleans: Unique in Jazz, Coastline & Broadband

4|3|18   |     |   (0) comments


KANSAS CITY -- Light Reading's Mari Silbey interviews New Orleans CIO Kimberly LaGrue about investing in the city's network infrastructure and how broadband will form the foundation for smart city initiatives in the future. The interview takes place during the Smart Cities, Dumb Pipes ...
LRTV Documentaries
Come to BCE 2018: It's a Smart Move

4|2|18   |   01:24   |   (0) comments


Among the many great reasons to join us at BCE 2018 in Austin, Texas, are the educational workshops, panels and show floor demos. To find out more about Light Reading's Big Communications Event (BCE),
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Small Cell Forum CEO: Women on Boards Set the Tone

3|28|18   |   4:07   |   (0) comments


Female representation on company boards can set the tone for company culture and help companies perform better, but there's still few women on boards, Small Cell Forum CEO Sue Monahan tells Light Reading.
Shades of Ray
Why You Need to Join Me in Austin for BCE

3|27|18   |     |   (0) comments


Austin, Texas, is the place to be May 14-16 when Light Reading will host BCE 2018 and dig deep into automation, security, machine learning, the impact of open source, intent-based networking, 'the edge', SD-WAN, IoT and more... oh, and hand out some awards and have the industry's best ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
EY Leader Talks Customer Centricity, Culture & Comfort

3|21|18   |   7:55   |   (1) comment


Technology is the easy part of transformation, Janet Balis, global advisory leader for Ernst & Young's Media & Entertainment division, tells Light Reading. Coexistence, culture, diversity, inclusion and a sense of purpose also play a critical role.
LRTV Documentaries
The Telecoms.com Podcast: Virtually Interesting

3|14|18   |     |   (0) comments


Iain, Jamie and Scott move on from the rigors of MWC by reflecting on some of the conversations they had in Barcelona about how much progress we have made with NFV. The answer seems to vary wildly according to who you speak to and it seems clear that industry consensus remains elusive. Jamie then talks us through some of the highlights of the next version of ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Matrixx Software Founder: Digital Transformation Lends Itself to Diversification

3|14|18   |   4:00   |   (1) comment


Matrixx Software Founder and VP of Marketing, Jennifer Kyriakakis, explains why digital transformation goes hand-in-hand with diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Jennifer shares how Matrixx Software has made both a priority.