Erin Gertner is Vice-President, Commercial Office at Cisco. As leader of the Commercial Office, Erin is responsible for Cisco’s national go-to-market strategy linking channels, architectures, marketing, and sales to accelerate business across small- and mid-sized organizations. In addition to her passion for technology, Erin is a strong advocate for enabling women in technology across Canada with WCT.
Learn more about Erin in her WCT profile:
When did you start your career path and why did you choose it?
Like many others in technology, I ended up at Cisco by accident. I had done three University co-op terms in the treasury department of a large Canadian company. I enjoyed the experience and intended on returning full time post-graduation. A friend of my moms, who had helped me with the treasury role, insisted I speak to her brother that worked for Cisco before I decided on my path. I interviewed a few weeks later, got the job, moved to North Carolina for a year of training and the rest is history!
What or who helped you get you to where you are today (mentors, sponsors, personal qualities and traits)?
Many people helped me get to where I am today! I was very fortunate to be paired with a mentor my first year in the field who was an incredible teacher and an even better cheerleader. Good mentorship is invaluable I am forever grateful for that opportunity. I also have had the privilege of meeting many people along the way who have taught me, mentored me, sponsored me and always made sure I was taken care of career wise. Our new leader, Rola Dagher, constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone, which has grown both my skills and leadership abilities. Rola always says “comfort and growth do not go hand in hand” and that statement could not be truer.
What are some challenges that you faced in your career? How did you overcome these challenges?
I definitely had some hard moments of reflection and self-doubt. Sales can be a tough but also very rewarding career and I certainly had to work on re-building my confidence at different points. My biggest challenge came last year when several regions were struggling and some senior members of our US team stepped in to help. At first, like many others, I was nervous and incredibly stressed about the optics of the situation. After a few days of reflection, I decided to change my mindset and seize the opportunity to learn from people I would have otherwise never have access to. It turned out to be an amazing experience - fast forward a year and those individuals are my biggest champions and helped me into my current role.
When you look around the room in meetings, do you see enough diversity?
Cisco Canada has done a great job over the years of becoming more diverse. When I started, I was one of very few women in sales and the first female sales leader in Canada. We certainly have room for improvement but we are down the right path. When I left my role as Regional Manager, my sales team was 50% women and almost all early in career. I am a fierce advocate for women in sales as both a leader and mentor, but I think the industry still needs to evolve. A strong, smart woman is the best secret weapon in technology!
What advice would you give your younger self? What advice would you give a young woman considering a career in your field?
I would definitely tell myself to switch roles more often, be less risk adverse, and always believe in my abilities. When my former boss approached me for my sales leader role I never thought I would be considered (I was a female and 15 years younger than my soon to be peers) and very happy as an Account Manager. He saw something in me that I did not see in myself and I am so thankful I took the plunge - I absolutely loved that role and it was truly the beginning of my career.
Advice for young women entering tech: treat people with kindness, network, and take every failure and hard time as a learning opportunity – you never know what is around the next corner. Leadership is a constantly evolving skill, learn every day, and try something that scares you. Lastly, be your authentic self, set your boundaries, have fun. Work hard goes without saying.
What is a quote that you live by?
“When people show you who they are, believe them.”
You can connect with Erin on Twitter @ErinGertner and on LinkedIn.