Finding My Place, Part Three: Translating Military Skills to Cybersecurity Leadership

When I left the military, I had some big misconceptions. I thought jumping into a leadership position at a big company like Cisco would be a breeze. I had already led Marines into conflict zones, so how hard could it be?

But, after being turned down several times for leadership positions at several different companies, I had to rethink my strategy. It turned out that I had a lot to learn about the business world, especially the business world of cybersecurity that I was joining.

Travis talking to a group of people.Had I gotten lucky enough to jump into leadership right out of the gate, I likely would have failed. I knew how to lead teams into combat but didn’t know the first thing about a sales cycle, CRM pipeline, or really anything about positioning cybersecurity products in a crowded market. When I started at Cisco in 2021 as a Cybersecurity Sales Specialist (CSS), I was exactly where I needed to be. I was drinking from the firehose and loving every minute of it. I learned about the business, the people, and the processes by which CSSs become successful. Cisco made it so easy for me to learn about my job while at the same time providing me with the opportunities to grow my career. I was aligned with a leadership mentor, provided with coaching, and got the really cool opportunity to write for this blog. I was learning about this new world and loving it — and then it all changed in a good way.

Because of my work as a CSS, I had the opportunity to jump into something new (ish). I was still in the cybersecurity sales world, but was moved into this magical place called “The Channel” as a Sales Business Development Manager (BDM). I had no clue what the channel was and had no idea what the difference was between business development and sales, but, like a good Marine, I knuckled down and learned as much as I could, as quickly as I could. I was now working with Cisco’s largest service provider partners in promoting and selling Cisco cybersecurity through partnerships and business development. Once again, the Spidey-sense-like military mindset kicked in. I was used to partnerships. In the Marines, the work we did with allied and local partners was crucial to the success of any mission we conducted, and the channel was no different. I found that, through our partners, Cisco can extend its cybersecurity reach and protect more people from the ever-advancing cyber threats we face every day.

Travis and his Cisco colleagues.

Once again, I found my place, but I’m starting to think “my place” is a fluid concept. The numerous opportunities I’ve enjoyed within Cisco Security are just part of why Cisco is the #1 Best Workplace in more than twenty countries worldwide — one company, many careers.

So, as things in the cybersecurity business world change, so did my place in it. In December of 2023, I got the opportunity to compete for a leadership role on our Global Security Partner Sales team as the Americas lead, and after a few rounds of panel interviews and discussions, I won the role. I was ecstatic, but also grateful. Grateful for the time I’d put into learning the business and translating military skills into business skills. Grateful for the opportunities Cisco gave me to learn about the role, the company, leadership, and how to best build my network. I was about to hire a brand new team, and I wanted to ensure that I led them as well as I was led and that I created a culture that was a good combination of the best parts of my military skills turned business skills and the best parts of Cisco leadership training. Throughout my interview process and the foundational principles I used to hire my new team, it was all about GRIT.

  • G – Growth: Growth of the business and of our people. We have a job to do and do everything in our power to grow the business we were entrusted with. Our team will exceed expectations. But … we also have to grow as people. Each of us has goals, dreams, and lives outside of Cisco, and it’s the team’s job to encourage everyone to grow in all areas of life.
  • R – Resilience: Adapting to challenges together. We recognize the importance of engaging in challenging conversations with our partners and amongst ourselves. Through honest discussions, we can move through these situations with grace and respect, responding thoughtfully rather than reactively and focusing on constructive outcomes.
  • I – Innovation: Do things differently for a better outcome. At Cisco, we do things differently and transform the way business is done. A culture of creativity and new ideas is not only welcome but encouraged. Working with our partners is an honor, and we welcome all ideas and strategies to increase the growth of Cisco and Cisco Security.
  • T – Trust: Without it, we have nothing else. We will be a trusted team because we put integrity first. We will be a company and a team that keeps our word and will work diligently to solve big problems through hard work, honesty, and integrity rather than cutting corners. If we don’t know the answer, we will find it, and support one another through it all because we also trust each other.

Travis speaking to a room of people.With GRIT, my team and I are building, innovating, leading, making change, and growing along with Cisco Security. A well-respected Army General once told me that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. While I don’t know how my place may take shape in the future, I do know what I’ve learned from my time in uniform and as a Cisconian so far has prepared me well as I move through my Cisco journey.

Are you ready to start your Cisco journey? Explore opportunities now.

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