A Foot in the Door: Visiting Cisco during the Rady School’s Annual MBA Bay Area Trek
In January, the Rady School Bay Area Trek gave me and other MBA students the opportunity to tour many highly ranked tech companies, including Cisco. Upon our arrival (and after the shock of the sheer size of the campus wore off) I was able to meet the HR Recruitment team and listen to a panel of new hires and managers speak about their experience working at Cisco. Initially, I felt small as a potential baby intern in an organization with nearly 100,000 employees, but after the panel enlightened us on the limitless opportunities available as an employee there, I knew Cisco was a company I wanted to pursue.
Pictured on top right: Me working at Cisco Systems with colleague, Ken Estep.
The Cisco Internship Experience
I accepted a summer internship offer in an Operations-centric role as an MBA Business Analyst within Cisco’s Services strategic business unit. Service’s vision is to create value for Cisco customers by providing outcomes that solve key business challenges. Its strategy for materializing this vision is to drive and invest in global customer growth by executing on its Internet of Everything (IoE) Solutions, Cloud & Managed Services, Security Services, Consulting Services, and Analytics Software Services. Its mantra? Operational Excellence and Agility. Within Services, an organization called Customer and Partner Assurance (CPA) was created that essentially acts as the front-end organization that interfaces directly with Cisco’s Customers and Partners while driving growth for the organization.
Within CPA, I was assigned to the Product Compliance & Certifications team. Essentially, this team ensures that all of Cisco’s products meet various regulatory standards and safety requirements prior to being sold to customers around the world. Located near our team there are amazing things going on such as:
- Engineers in lab facilities using altitude pressure chambers simulating being tens of thousands of feet in the air and observing product performance.
- Massive radio-frequency anechoic chambers that enabled engineers to measure radio-frequency output and other aligned variables in wireless technologies. Eerie acoustic test chambers built to measure decibel output from various products.
- There was even an earthquake platform simulator (I kid you not!) that tested product performance in the event of an earthquake.
- Temperature chambers that test product stability in extreme heat or cold.
When my internship started, I hit the ground running. In the first week I was assigned a crucial project to analyze the group’s processes, map them and determine areas for improvement. The team uses various software toolsets that connect into databases linked to hardware engineering systems which pull product data. Then pieces of that information, such as country-specific compliance certificates or product test reports, are sent to customers and partners who request it. My goal is to assess these software tools, observe how they impact overall operational processes of the team and also determine how to enhance them to increase process efficiency. After completing my internship, I hope to have achieved proposing fully vetted process enhancement recommendations that could potentially save the organization tens of thousands of dollars in yearly costs.
Maximizing Results with a Rady School MBA Education
My MBA education at the Rady School prepared me to take a role focused on operations, information systems and data analysis with confidence and credibility. During my first year, I learned operations, quantitative analysis, leadership skills and elements from many other core courses and electives that were directly relatable to my role at Cisco. For example, my Operations course taught me how to assess end to end processes and how to locate and alleviate bottlenecks to increase overall process throughput. This is very important for success at Cisco because before products can be shipped internationally, the customer essentially waits on our team’s confirmation that products are approved for use within specific countries. This wait is dependent on how quickly the team can acquire product information using the given tools, and then send it to the inquiring agency, customer or partner. Reducing this wait time is critical, given that each minute waiting is a minute that a partnered business or customer could be using Cisco’s products for economic benefit.
The Rady School’s Quantitative Analysis course helped me determine how to measure and present the metrics I was capturing. More importantly, it gave me the knowledge to determine whether or not my recommendations toward process changes had a statistically significant effect on overall process times. Also, because I worked with a team of many people, I had to be able to work effectively with each of them to succeed in the role.
My Leadership Skills, Values, and Teamwork in Technology Firms MBA course gave me the intellectual capacity to learn, participate, and grow within my team as well as understand the organizational culture of Cisco and how to succeed within it.
Concepts I learned in the Creativity and Innovation course influenced my ability to come up with and materialize ideas with my team for process improvement. For example, what I found effective in the idea generation process is to meet with people individually first to capture ideas, and then establish a group meeting afterward to validate already captured ideas and generate even more ideas.
Pictured: Me with my Manager, Jonathan Ward.
Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I am very grateful for my experience at Cisco Systems, Inc. I’ve learned a great deal about the company’s operations and its vision in changing the way we work, live, play, and learn. I have listened to both exiting CEO John Chambers and incoming CEO Chuck Robbins discuss the future of Cisco and its leadership in the Internet of Everything, the Cloud environment and how the organization represents the brightest beacon in the connected world. I’ve met and worked with extremely smart, empathetic, and humble people who have been more than willing to provide their time in helping me learn and grow in these few months. And to top it all off, I’ve been fortunate to experience the Bay Area’s many beautiful sights and fun activities. I truly believe the Rady School of Management has prepared me for success at Cisco and beyond.
Pictured: Nice view of Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, CA.
P.S. Just for fun, here is Cisco’s research and latest predictions of where the Internet is headed; an intense collection of data only an MBA would love…
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Nicholas Bernard (’16) is an MBA candidate at the Rady School. He is currently interning in an operations-centric role as an MBA Business Analyst within Cisco’s Services strategic business unit in San Jose, CA.