To get that piece of information that you weren't expecting, that 'aha' moment, means that you can't just talk to your customers.

- Karen Sanders

Leading Learners

Tech Giant Invests in Product Managers to Stay Ahead

Cisco Systems enables people to make powerful connections—whether in business, education, philanthropy, or creativity. Cisco hardware, software, and service offerings help create internet solutions that make networks possible—providing easy access to information anywhere, at any time. Cisco specializes in routing and switching and advanced technologies like home networking, IP telephony, optical networking, security, storage area networking, and wireless technology. In 2015, they generated $49.2 billion in revenue and employed more than 70,000 people.

Cisco has made considerable investments in its learning capability and in growing a culture of learning and intellectual curiosity. Karen Sanders is at the forefront of that shift. Sanders is helping to transform how the company approaches product management while keeping the company as relevant, innovative, and forward thinking as possible in a rapidly changing technology landscape. Cisco learns constantly from its customers and business partners about how to do what they do best, and they rely on outside expertise to form their opinions by strengthening their understandings. Product managers in Cisco’s Enterprise Academy have direct access to GLG to gather, understand, and synthesize new information for the company’s engineers. Adding unexpected insight from outside perspectives illuminates Cisco’s needs and opportunities – for engineers and business decision makers.

I’m Karen Sanders. I am a director in our Enterprise Strategy Group at Cisco.

Cisco is not only an infrastructure company. It’s the pipes and the tubes and the waves that allow us to communicate how we do on a regular basis. If you are using your cell phone, if you are using your computer at work, chances are you are using a Cisco network somewhere along the way.

The Enterprise Strategy and Operations Team at Cisco is really defined as the team that’s helping transform how we do product management for our Enterprise Business. It is three fourths of Cisco’s revenue that we are responsible for.

My job is helping build the capability of our product managers and help find the right people to join our organization,

Product management in technology companies here in the valley in particular…it’s different, and it’s evolving.

And one of the things that we aspire to is a culture of intellectual curiosity that fuels innovation.

And one of the ways that we’re doing that is by partnering with GLG.

We have 10,000 plus engineers working on our portfolio on a daily basis. Fingers on keyboards is what we want from those engineers, which means our product managers have to go find those nuggets of information about our portfolio and arrange it in a way that makes a lot of sense for us to get maximum value out of that portfolio.

And when we do that, it’s golden.

We employ a ton of people who have a ton of conversations with our customers every day. We have a huge partner ecosystem.

Sometimes, though, to get to the best outcome, to get to that piece of information that you weren’t expecting… that ‘ah-ha’ moment, means that you can’t just talk to our customers. You have to talk to people who are knowledgeable about the industry and about the field. You have to be able to triangulate all of that information into an opinion. That set of people is not necessarily easy for us to come by on our own. And where GLG comes into play is helping identify that perfect set of people.

The conversation with GLG started as part of our Enterprise Academy. It’s about making sure that our product managers have direct access to GLG and GLG has direct access to them.

Nothing can displace the richness of a really good conversation. Whether that’s peer to peer, whether that’s manager to employee, where that’s company to company.

For us learning is about examining the whole landscape of possibilities.

And our projects range from very known markets for us like switching, to very sort of unknown markets or unformed markets like dev ops.

It’s helping us take that very narrow margin of having a leg up on the competition, or the industry, or the trend. It’s allowing us to operate in that margin a hundred times better than we could do on our own.