Cisco’s Larry Satterfield has a vision for the company: He wants to use technology to increase diversity, inclusion, and productivity in the workplace. As Video Sales Specialist, Satterfield knows that Cisco is in a perfect position to implement collaboration technology to achieve those goals. With more than 20 years in sales, Satterfield brings his knowledge of technology to Cisco’s sales department.
Can you tell us about your career path at Cisco?
I started my career at Cisco in 2010 as a result of Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg. My initial role was Area Vice President in Telepresence Sales. In the summer of 2012, I left to join Acano, a software and hardware infrastructurestart up. As Acano’s Global Sales leader, I helped to build a business that was doing about $50M in revenue with over 2000 enterprise and federal customers. Then, in the middle of our third year in business, Cisco purchased the company for $700M, and I accepted an offer to return as Area Vice President for Spark video sales.
How do you see technology’s role in influencing corporate culture now and in the future?
Technology will continue to explode and increase productivity in the workplace. The influence on corporate culture will depend on the company. There are those companies that will embrace the new ways of communicating and collaborating, and those are the companies that I believe will thrive with high levels of employee satisfaction. Teams will be able to work and collaborate around the globe without tremendous sacrifice to their families and other interests. Corporate cultures will become globalized in a richer way than just financials. More and more, collaboration solutions are making cross-GEO teams the norm rather than the exception.
How will Cisco technology specifically factor into that future, and how will it drive more inclusion?
Cisco is already enabling inclusion and innovation through our collaboration technology, such as WebEx and TelePresence. And we’re continuing to lead in this area with new solutions like Cisco Spark Board — a digital whiteboard, wireless presentation device, and video unit all in one. Spark Board has the potential to greatly impact inclusion, especially for the K-12 and higher education markets. It will provide diverse students with access to rich technology long before they enter the workforce. And its video capability enables inclusion and collaboration across organizations, regardless of where teams physically reside. At Cisco, we believe a diverse and inclusive work culture is fundamental, but enhanced collaboration is where the ROI is realized.
Can you describe any situations from your own career that involved obstacles or bias you had to overcome and share what you learned from those situations?
My career has been full of roadblocks, but also sponsorship from mentors who took an interest in my potential. As a young African American guy selling technology, I figured out early that building relationships with clients would not be easy. I could not count on familiarity (similar background) and would have to do more to gain the trust of my potential clients. Not only did I have to understand my product and the customers’ needs better than my competitors, I had to execute at a higher level of responsiveness to gain credibility. The social aspect of selling did not appear to be available to me. I recall one of my original sales leaders commenting that my expense reports were always low in comparison to my peers. I did not take clients to lunch or dinner as much as they did. It was eye-opening because I did invite clients out, but for the most part, they preferred to meet in the office. Therefore, social selling was never a great option for me. As I gained credibility with my clients by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the technology and how it would help their environment, I was able to overcome my competitors. At the end of the day, most clients chose what was best for their company over who they were most friendly with. I am sure I lost a few deals because of familiarity, but I think I won more deals due to my credibility and my ability to create trusted relationships as a result of my knowledge and preparation.
As a leader, what general advice do you have for someone just starting out or looking for a new career path?
The most important advice I could give to someone just starting out is to pick something you have a strong aptitude for and where your experience and training provides value. This requires a great deal of self-awareness, which can be developed over time and throughout your career. Second, pick a career that can start you on a journey to financial independence. Third, do not limit yourself to a specific geography. Broaden your scope so your opportunities are more abundant. Finding the right career can be competitive, so the more opportunities you have the better.
How is Cisco supporting inclusion and collaboration in the workplace?
In my 35-year career, there are two companies that truly viewed inclusion as significant to the success of the company achieve revenue and its ability to achieve revenue and profit goals. Cisco is one of those companies. The commitment to diversity and inclusion of women and minorities is on display every day at Cisco. It is seen as strategic to the success of all functions. Cisco’s Multiplier Effect initiative is just one example. Executives take a pledge to sponsor one diverse candidate and challenge three of their peers to do the same. This is a game-changing idea, and one concrete way we can change the stats for diversity in the Tech industry. Sponsorship for career growth has always been the key driver for upward mobility, but in my opinion it’s typically been limited to the white, male population. In my personal career, I have been blessed with this rare sponsorship at least six times, but most of my associates have never experienced it in a meaningful way. They have had multiple mentors, which have helped, but to have a sponsor that makes your success his or her priority is a massive leap forward. Cisco’s CEO, Chuck Robbins, signed the Multiplier Effect Pledge, which will change the landscape at Cisco and significantly increase the opportunities to attract the best and brightest talent around the globe.
How can a culture of inclusion and diversity make Cisco more relevant with customers?
There are two very important ways that inclusion and diversity impact our customers. First, by being diverse we attract the brightest and best talent around the globe. This makes us more innovative and results in the best products and best ideas for solving our customer’s challenges. Second, from a sales standpoint, a diverse workforce helps us appeal to a broader set of clients —and anyone in sales knows that the more opportunities you have, the more revenue you will generate.