On Monday we welcomed Alistair Wildman, Senior Vice President of Cisco and Governor of the College, to talk to students about his career and work.
Of this year's 70 Cisco degree apprenticeship places, 7 of them are held by students from The Henley College, so as a Henley local and the SVP of Cisco Alistair said he was “excited to be working in partnership with The Henley College”.
The Henley College Principal, Satwant Deol said: “We are incredibly pleased to be working in partnership with Cisco, one of the best organisations in the world to work for. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students and is in alignment with our core values of Question, Seek, Grow.”
Everyone who works at Cisco has 5 days a year which they can use to “give back”. Pre-Covid 19, staff would go to places such as Kenya to volunteer with building schools or community projects, but as travel restrictions continue, Cisco have created a curriculum specifically for the College, whereby people from all different departments will use their 5 days to come and meet our students and share their experiences and knowledge to help enhance our students development and future employability.
Alistair spoke about his early career working for Microsoft and how in 2004 he procured a deal to sell technology to the NHS, worth £800,000,000. This was the biggest deal to take place at the time, and it caught the attention of Bill Gates, who asked specifically to meet him. This relationship with Gates helped him work successfully with MPs and the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Over the course of Alistair’s career he has learnt two important lessons - people want to buy from people they like, especially if they can make them smile; and always surround yourself with very clever people. So his advice to our students was even if you’re not a tech person yourself, being personable will stand you in good stead in your career.
He also stressed the importance of having a good mentor and finding people who are going to help you, and revealed that he has worked for the same female Executive Vice President, Maria Martinez in the last 3 of his roles, covering a 17 year period.
Alistair also spoke about how one of the biggest challenges in his line of work is hiring good people and then keeping them, but he noted that Cisco, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are all very similar as they understand the importance of their staff and they look after them, with excellent on-boarding, for example, and they really invest in their development.
His top tips for getting a job at Cisco were to do your research and know the history of the company you’re going to interview with and the job description; make yourself stand out by thinking about what your edge is, your story and what makes you different, and be genuine.
Rijuvani Shrestha who is studying BTEC Level 3 Business, has successfully secured her placement at Cisco, and she’ll be spending 2 days a week there for 3-12 months. Rijuvani said: “Alistair gave a really helpful insight into what kind of candidates Cisco are looking for, not just in terms of education but the kind of attributes a person needs. I’m really pleased about being selected for the placement as it will be incredibly beneficial to my career in the future.”
IT Level 3 student Krystian Pobudkiewicz said: “[This was] a very useful opportunity and it’s widened my knowledge and helped me gain an insight into Cisco.”
Megan Belsham who is studying A level Economics, History and English Literature and Language said about the talk “Alistair was very inspirational and certainly opened my eyes to a lot of different career paths. The relationship with Cisco and the College is a fantastic opportunity for students and not one you’ll find elsewhere.”
Vice Principal Eamonn Egan said: “It’s great to see the students learning directly from such a top professional.”