Gerri Elliott is a woman on the move, both literally and figuratively. In any given week, Cisco’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer is visiting customers and teams in Asia, Europe, or South America. That kind of schedule may exhaust most people, but not Gerri. “I get energy from my team. I get energy from my customers,” Gerri explained with her trademark enthusiasm. “If I’m having a bad day I just go out to my customers or spend time with my sales team and that totally changes my perspective.”
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Once she accepted the job in April of 2018, Gerri hasn’t looked back and has been blazing a trail of successes. Among her proudest accomplishments is seeing her leadership team step up to the challenges of transforming to more software and subscription- based business models. “This team has passion, they have energy, and they’re committed,” Gerri says. “Almost ninety percent of them came from this company and so they bring this history and this legacy, and this appreciation of the journey that Cisco has been on for the last 34 years.”
Gerri made history when she took on the role, becoming the company’s first-ever EVP and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. She was ready for the job, after spending an entire career in sales at IBM, Microsoft, and Juniper Networks.
Gerri says she’s had plenty of mentors and sponsors throughout her career who helped get to where she is today and is quick to point out the difference between the two. “Mentors coach, counsel and give you advice. Sponsors advocate for you when you're not in the room.”
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Gerri says she’s been lucky enough in her career to have both. She admits when people would suggest her for new roles, her initial reaction was to recommend others for the position. “It’s because of those sponsors and mentors who believed in me and pushed me when I needed it – sometimes they had to kick me quite frankly – that helped me get to the next level,” Gerri says. She’s committed to paying it forward and advocating for others, just like others did for her.
Gerri doesn’t take any of the opportunities she’s had in her career for granted and lives by a motto her mom used to tell her. “Bloom where you’re planted. Whatever job you’re doing, wherever you are, just double down on it.” She has passed that advice onto her two grown children and Gerri credits her husband of 33 years for being a great role model for her and her children. “I married the best guy on the planet and the best dad. Our kids think so too, which is pretty cool!”