Success in Human Resources.
Q&A with Christine Bastian, Vice President of Human Resources for Engineering, Cisco.
By Gloria Romano-Barrera.
Christine Bastian, Vice President of Human Resources for Engineering at Cisco, is a visionary leader with more than 20 years of experience. Bastian leads HR for the 28,000-person Engineering Organization, supporting Senior Vice President David Goeckeler. Responsible for all HR business consulting, partnering and service delivery for the function, Bastian is known for her expertise in organizational design, leadership development, consulting, and for driving high performance in teams across large organizations. She brings strong thought leadership and experience to transformational business engagements across numerous technologies. In addition to her role, Bastian is the Executive Sponsor for the Connected Women Employee Resource Organization and Co-Executive, Cisco Sponsor for the Grace Hopper Conference. Bastian provides unique insights as well as valuable advice that comes only from experience.
LS: What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in HR?
CB: In my family, the value of education and hard work was instilled in all of us, and I carried that with me as a teenager working for a family farming operation. I learned about payroll responsibilities and saw firsthand how the discipline of risk management, workers’ compensation and human resources were core to the farming business. I was even more fortunate that they saw my potential and asked me to help build their training, health, and safety practices, applying my Spanish writing and speaking skills. My learnings from that experience continued to serve me well, first at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and later when I transitioned from the agriculture industry to high tech. I have had an incredible path, evolving my generalist HR capabilities to become a more strategic HR Partner. While HR continues to evolve, the core focus is on people. This is my passion and why I chose the path of HR. What drives me every day is the opportunity to have significant impact in helping individuals realize their own potential.
LS: Did you overcome any obstacles or barriers as a result of being a woman or Latina? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them?
CB: I think there are always going to be times along our journey where we experience self-doubt, and sometimes feel like we are a victim of circumstances. I was very fortunate to have mentors who encouraged me to achieve my dreams and goals, gave me constructive feedback and insight, and told me how important it was to push myself out of my comfort zone and be OK with change. By mentoring others I can share my own learnings and inspire others. I am a strong believer in taking risks and being willing to put yourself out there, regardless of your upbringing or background. Find your own mentors and ask questions. If you choose to learn from your experiences and use them to lift and teach, a barrier is never a disadvantage unless you allow it to be.
LS: What attracts candidates to the culture at Cisco?
CB: If you want to be challenged, if you want to think out of the box, if you want to have impact, Cisco provides that culture. When I meet candidates, I ask them if they have the desire to go outside of their comfort zone, to learn, explore and try new things, and to influence and create a following. These are key characteristics in this dynamic world we all live and work in today. At our core is Our People Deal, which is reflected through Cisco’s belief that innovation and changing the world through what we do with technology is only accomplished through our people. We drive outcomes and solutions through teams— where people collaborate to get things done. With so much change, we need to not only do the hard work and have the desire to win, but we also want to innovate, every day and everywhere. In HR, we are helping drive that change by breaking, innovating and reinventing ourselves in new ways.
LS: What advice would you give to anyone seeking opportunities at Cisco?
CB: What I appreciate so much about Cisco is our commitment to inclusion and collaboration. Every voice is heard and every perspective is important. Convey your passions: for technology, for serving the greater good, and having the willingness to be agile while bringing your best self. Always be open to constant learning, to sharing both positive and negative experiences, and to reinventing yourself. Most of all, while you are working hard, always remember to have fun too. Your journey is your journey.
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