Jeff Sharritts, Cisco’s SVP of Americas Sales Organization, lives by the Steve Jobs quote, “We’re here to make a dent in the universe.” Growing up in Southern Ohio to working-class parents, he may not have known what dent he was going to make, but even at a young age, he had the wherewithal to know he had to take certain steps and the confidence to make it happen.
Sharritts’ path to Ohio State University is a perfect example. His parents told him they couldn’t afford to send him away to school, but he didn’t let that stop him from achieving his college dream. “I decided I’d figure out how to get there and worked my way through college over the next four years,” Sharritts explained.
His college diploma opened doors and various career experiences. “I worked for a manufacturing company running a production team on the shop floor,” Sharritts said. It was a good job, but after working there for a few years, he realized it wasn’t for him. “One day I just up and quit and I started to pursue this thing called sales.”
His path to Cisco didn’t come immediately. Sharritts first worked as a door-to-door salesman, selling windows, before selling wine and beer to retail stores. He eventually moved into B2B sales and quickly became enamored with technology companies. “I just started cold calling all these different companies and trying to get an interview with many of them, and actually landed an opportunity with Cisco,” Sharritts said. That was nineteen years ago, and the rest is history. Sharritts believes taking calculated risks throughout his life got him to where he is today.
He’s had six different roles in those nineteen years at Cisco, but Sharritts says he’s learned as much in the promotions he got as the ones he didn’t. “I interviewed for an area vice president job three times before I actually got the job, and I interviewed for a first line leader position two times before I ended up getting that role,” Sharritts recalls. “Having a passion for the company and having a passion for the work you do every day allowed me to stick with it.”
That and his competitive streak. These days, however, he gets intense satisfaction seeing his teams succeed. “As I’ve gotten older it’s really more fun to watch a team come together, compete, and then win,” Sharritts says with pride. “Seeing my teams come together around a challenging problem and then competing against others in the industry, and then winning at the end of the day, that’s one of the greatest joys of what I do every day.”
As head of Americas sales, winning deals is important, but just as important for him is doing good in the world. “It’s about working hard, but it’s also about playing hard and giving back to the community,” Sharritts says. One way the Americas team gives back is by building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Cisco volunteers recently finished building the first America’s house in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this year. “It’s one-hundred percent built by Cisco, from the first nail into the board until I handed over the keys to the Stevens family. It was an incredible experience,” Sharritts says. “It reminded me that there’s a lot of folks in need around the world and we can do a lot more.”
Sharritts also credits his wife, Carissa, for much of his success. "These jobs are pretty demanding and you're on the road quite a bit and if you don't have a spouse or significant other to help out when you have a large family, it's going to be very difficult to be successful," Sharritts explained. He has four children, and he tries to instill in all of them the need to take risks and chase your dreams, just like he did.