Women In Comms

Cisco's Rebecca Jacoby: 'Define Success on Your Own Terms'

Rebecca Jacoby's job is making sure the lights stay on at Cisco. Literally.

As senior VP of operations, keeping the lights on is a minor part of her job. Her responsibilities include IT, managing Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s global supply chain and business services such as payroll, procurement and order management. Her organization manages the company business architecture, including documenting business processes. She oversees security. And, oh, yes, she also oversees buildings and workplace resources (which is where the lights come in).

Jacoby was promoted to senior VP operations in July by new CEO Chuck Robbins. She was previously CIO. She joined Cisco in 1995 and has worked in operations, manufacturing and IT. (See New Cisco Leadership Favors Diversity.)

We talked with Jacoby about defining success, the value of diversity, the advantages of being a woman in comms and more.

Keeping It Running
Rebecca Jacoby, senior VP operations, Cisco
Rebecca Jacoby, senior VP operations, Cisco

Light Reading's Women in Comms is now a not-for-profit, independent initiative providing information, networking, mentorship, access to jobs and support for women in the next-gen communications industry. Visit Women in Comms and get in touch to learn more!

Light Reading: What is the number one challenge for women in comms that is different from the challenges faced by men? What was your biggest hurdle?

Rebecca Jacoby: The challenges are different at different stages of your career. I'm not sure the challenges are really different for men and women.

Early in your career, you're trying to figure out what you really want. I don't think it's very different for men and women. Most people early in their career aren't really that self-aware and comfortable with what they want to do.

Early in your career, you think that's a challenge. Later in your career, you figure it was an advantage. You pick up different skill sets and those are the skill sets you need to be successful later in your career.

Start with self-awareness, and awareness of the group you want to associate with and what you want to accomplish. That's how you achieve success over time.

The challenge everyone faces is putting that together earlier in your career and making it work later in your career.

Probably the best career advice I give people is to know yourself, be self-aware and define success on your own terms.

LR: Is anything different for women there?

RJ: The more diversity you have on your team, the more you have an innovative and open conversation. Not just for women: If you're a minority in a situation, you probably have a different normal for conversations. While all women aren't the same and all men aren't the same, when you're in a group you have a standard norm. When you're not in the majority, you have to struggle your way through the communication style people use and get stuff done.

Men and women communicate differently. Once you're comfortable with that you have some fun with it. You learn different styles of communication, look at problems with different angles and have different ideas at the table.

I'm an operations person. Operations is all about getting things done. Execution. If you really execute well in operations, you contribute to a great environment in innovation.

Next Page: Women's Advantage

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Mitch Wagner 1/11/2016 | 5:09:59 PM
Re: Cisco & WiC Glad to hear Cisco is joining Women in Comms!
danielcawrey 1/11/2016 | 12:50:08 PM
Re: Cisco & WiC Great advice on the career front. It's amazing to me to consider the skills I gained earlier in my career that are really helpful now. Work is a learning experience if you let it be, I also think that kind of mentality is crucially important to progess in any job or organization. 
Sarah Thomas 1/11/2016 | 10:26:56 AM
Cisco & WiC Cisco will soon have a seventh initiative to highlight -- our own Women in Comms non-profit. We are thrilled to have them coming on board and supporting our mission! As a company, they really "walk the walk" with a number of impressive female leaders and important internal and external ways they are tackling the issues. See our past Mentor Monday with Liz Centoni and one upcoming one with Yvette Kanouff for more examples of how.
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