Article

Career and Leadership Tips From a Long Career in STEM


WORK180Oct 28, 2019

Nairi Adamian has spent 20 years in the technology industry across a range of roles at Cisco, currently as the Manager for Systems Engineering Sales.

With a career that spans experience including technical support operations in Australia leading the Sydney Technical Assistance Centre (TAC) and a team of 135, she took a leap of faith to move into a new position in Sales Engineering.

She’s excited about learning and growing in her new role in which Nairi is responsible for a team of Systems Engineers and Architects. This sales engineering role offers her a chance to get to know more about the end-to-end customer experience.

20 Years at Cisco

We asked Nairi what has made her stay at Cisco for two decades, and she quickly responded;

“Number one, it's the people. After 20 years you have lifelong friends.”

She also mentions the Cisco culture which embraces work-life balance, flexibility, career development and providing leadership opportunities. One of the culture traits identified and valued by employees is Cisco’s culture of kindness and of giving.

“When you add those things up, it is a pretty special place,” she adds.

Gaining Industry Recognition

In 2011, Nairi helped Cisco secure their first global Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) award for Support Staff Excellence. They held onto that award for the subsequent three years. It is a prestigious technology services industry award that recognises technical capability, operational efficiency and organisational culture. Nairi was flown to Las Vegas to receive the award on behalf of the Sydney TAC.

Nairi spent an entire year going through the nomination process for the award including training more than a hundred engineers and managers and measuring customer-satisfaction improvement, leading Cisco’s Sydney TAC to be the first and only technical centre globally to achieve this award.

“For us as a team here in Sydney it was a huge achievement. For me, this is something I started from beginning to end for 12 months to get it across the line, and it was very, very big for me.”

Wellness at Work

Beyond the technical work she does every day, Nairi is passionate about mental health and wellness support at work. She runs monthly Fit Friday activities such as going for a walk, yoga classes, hiring a basketball court and getting people moving.

She says it’s not just about work, “it’s about being a better version of ourselves.”

Nairi knows from her own personal experience that if we don’t look after ourselves physically then we aren’t our best mentally and she also enjoys bringing people together to build relationships.

“If you do something as a team, it's not just about going outside for a walk. You get a coffee on the way back and you talk; it’s an opportunity to get to know each other better. It’s one way of bringing a team together.”

Students and STEM

Nairi led the formation of the CSIRO STEM partnership with Galstaun College where students participate in coding workshops at Cisco’s office. Galstaun College is a co-educational institution where students are of predominantly Armenian heritage, and the school strives to relay the essence of 3,000 years of Armenian culture.

Nairi also hosted the “Girls Power Tech” events in 2017 and 2018. Girls Power Tech is a global program that brings in female high school students to find out more about STEM and technology.

For younger women (and men) considering a degree or career in STEM, Nairi says;

“STEM isn't just coding. It’s so much more than that!”

For Nairi, it’s important to share the impact technology can have on any field. She challenges her two daughters to think about how technology can help them succeed in the areas they are passionate about.

“How can technology help you in that field? It's not about coding or being a geek. Tech can change any industry and impact any job. It can actually give you opportunities to do jobs that don’t even exist yet.”

Career Advice

When asked for career advice that she would pass on from her successful career, Nairi shares;

  1. “Be yourself, bring your authentic self”

  2. “Speak up. I used to be a lot more reserved in meetings and one of my mentors said, ‘Nairi, you don't say much in meetings but when you do everybody listens, because you've already worked it all out.’ But I didn't have confidence then. Now, I just say things.”

  3. Feedback is not personal, and what you do with it is up to you. “It’s always a gift. It is yours to learn from if you choose to.”

Strong Leadership

Having operated at Senior manager level since 2016, Nairi has leadership tips for people further along their career path, as well. The key traits of a good leader are;

  1. Trust. You need to have both trust in the team, and the trust of the team.

  2. Respect. Lead by example, treat people with respect and make yourself part of the team rather than separate from it as the leader.

  3. Communication. Being open and transparent in communication builds trust. It’s also important to be honest when you don’t know something.

When discussing the company values, Nairi tells us;

“We all believe in the culture of the company and the principles, but how do you bring it to life? That's our job as leaders - to inspire our team to live by those principles.”

“At the end of the day, it's not the company you work for that gives meaning to your life or your work, it’s people - your family, your friends and your team. I've worked for Cisco for 20 years and I don't know if I'd work elsewhere. I've never even looked because I've always had everything I wanted here.”

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