Channel Women Of Cisco On Building Up The Resilience Muscle

At Channel Company’s Women of the Channel West 2023 event, three Cisco channel leaders shared their own stories of resilience and how to build a resilience framework.


(From L-R) Alexandra Zagury, Suzanne Vereschagin and Christine Otts

There’s a lot to be said about the importance of building up resilience both in work settings and personal lives, but resilience can take many forms and definitions. For some, it’s about being flexible in difficult or unexpected situations. For others, it’s the ability to bounce back quickly after a mistake or misstep. There’s no one size fits all approach to resilience, but it’s safe to say that it’s important to determine what resilience looks like and how it can be applied in our own lives and careers.

At Channel Company’s Women of the Channel West 2023 event, three Cisco channel leaders talked about what women’s resilience can look like in response to the challenges and opportunities at work. The panelists shared stories of times in their lives and in their careers that demanded resilience, and the specific, practical methods of developing and demonstrating resilience.

What follows are excerpts from the three Cisco panelists at the event in California this week.

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Suzanne Vereschagin, VP, Global Partner and Routes to Market Sales Finance, Cisco, on resilience after a mistake

At Cisco, I had a role in Corporate FP&A, which is high level and big ideas. I [then] rotated to a manager job in Supply Chain. My mistake was that I failed to recognize that supply chain [is] very different than Corporate FP&A. And so it seemed: “Oh, that seems to be getting into the minutiae” when I first rotated over and I didn’t necessarily get down into all the details. And that was a big mistake. So, my takeaway that I share and discuss is when you make a rotation, whether it’s to another company or within your company, take those first few weeks and get in there and talk to people and ask a million questions, especially with subordinates. That not only gives you a chance to learn what you’re going to be leading really well, but it gives you a chance to build that relationship with the subordinates and show humility and respect to them. So, that’s a key thing for being able to have a strategic input in a role like mine in finance, or something like legal where we’re supporting other sales or engineering teams. It’s also very important to get in there on the technical details that are not necessarily natural. When I hear smart people talking about all these technologies, I am just glued and I’m listening and trying so hard to learn from a technical perspective, things that would not be natural for me. But then I can combine what I can learn from my peers — I can combine their technical understanding with my technical leadership and my finance world — and then together we can have some really transformational solutions. That’s really fun.

When you have these learnings in your life, you need to share them with people you care about like your kids, your subordinates, your peers, because you can make them resilient without them having to go through the pain. It was hard — my mistake in the supply chain situation. It took me quite a long time to recover. But I can share that with people around me. And then they realize: “Oh, wow. I’m not going to make a mistake.”

Christine Otts, Director, Global Marketing Velocity and Partner Program Marketing and Communications, Cisco, on resilience with help from your community

Change is constant. As women, we can talk about what goes on at work every day, but it’s not just about work. It’s about what goes on personally as well and how you have to show up, knowing what’s going on with your kids, knowing what’s going on with your parents, [wondering] if you’re going to make it to the gym and not knowing what fire drill you’re going to encounter for the day. When you wake up in the morning, sometimes you think you’re going in one direction, and you have to be resilient enough to course correct and come back to be able to do what you need to get done for the day. And that is often challenging. So, how do I overcome that? We build connections. Who is in your lifeboat with you? Who are those people that you are going to bring along the way as you’re in this constancy of change? You tap into your family, your friends and your colleagues — those people that are going to be real with you.

[Sometimes, a situation] is not as overwhelming as you think. There are people experiencing the same thing. So, you bring these people along with you, you tap into them and they tell you when they have to be real with you. They [might say] “Listen, you’ve got to change” or they build you up and they help you be better. I think it’s important that we all break that glass ceiling and there are those who want to follow us along the way to help us get through it.

Alexandra Zagury, VP, Partner Managed and as-a-Service Sales, Cisco, on a building a resilience framework and passing on resilience to others

I have this framework. There are [three] things that you must build up to be resilient. The first one is really about purpose. I really believe that when you have purpose, you have a mission. It’s embedded in you that you’ve got to become resilient because you’ve got that goal to go towards. The second one is fearlessness. So, if you really just say: “What’s the worst that can happen? If I do this, if I ask for that, or if I go for that new role and I interview and I don’t get it.” So being really fearless in your approach. The third one is discernment. And this is all about knowing yourself and being really self-aware and having that knowledge so that you can act with intent and purpose.

Sometimes, the biggest inhibitors to women are other women. If we really lift each other up and if we help each other, that is a really good muscle to create resilience. We as women are hardwired — there’s actually a lot of science around this — to compete with each other. So, part of getting this resilience is really helping each other to be resilient in those situations.