The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Lisa Richardson, Vice President, Solutions Sales, Cisco Canada

Name: Lisa Richardson

Job Title: Vice President, Solutions Sales, Cisco Canada

Years in the industry: 15

The Quote That Most Inspires You: A friend once told me, “When a woman holds a place of power, they’re responsible for using their influence to make meaningful change.”

What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?

Initially, I didn’t have my sights set on the technology industry. With a political science and economics background, my instinct was to pursue law school. But the technology industry intrigued me – it presented an opportunity to join something that was constantly evolving and fast-paced, with its sights set on the future.

I had always wanted to work with people to help them solve their business needs, and technology sales was a natural fit. Over these 15 years, I’ve had ample opportunities for personal and professional growth, honing my sales and leadership skills to take on a larger role at Cisco. It’s an industry that’s always growing and changing – I love that every day is different from the next.

Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?

No, my opinion is that gender is a positive differentiator. I believe women have a competitive advantage – not only do they have the hard skills to problem solve or sell a product, but they generally also have very strong soft skills that they can bring to the table. They are effective communicators, detail-oriented and can execute. I think people are quite refreshed working with a woman in an industry that is traditionally male-dominated.

What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?

Women are great connectors and naturally foster collaboration – I tap into these strengths to create an environment that breaks down silos and works seamlessly to deliver stronger results for our customers and partners.

I’m also a big believer in the power of relationship building and ending a project on a positive note. You never know when you’ll be working with someone again in the future.

Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?

Women in tech today have a responsibility to inform and recruit more women by leveraging their circle of influence and encouraging others to do the same. We all have to work together and do the heavy lifting to attract more women to the industry.

The other way I actively do this internally at Cisco is through sponsorship. By identifying those smart, hardworking and driven up-and-comers in the organization, I foster their growth and development to see them into their next opportunity. Everyone needs a champion in their corner and I’ve found this to be a rewarding way of supporting my team and building our talent pipeline.

If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?

Opportunity! This is an industry that is constantly in flux and transforming the way we do business. There is a great deal of conversation right now about how we can all work to engage more women in STEM and bring them into tech.

Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you? 

There are so many. Cisco Canada’s President and CEO Rola Dagher has been a huge inspiration. She is an incredibly strong leader with a passion for growing and supporting women at Cisco, elevating more women into positions of leadership.

Another woman I admire is Jessica Lee, a partner at Sequoia Capital. She is a vocal champion of women in business, adding a strong female voice to the venture capital space which has historically been male-dominated.

What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?

One major misconception is that you have to be an engineer to be successful in the technology industry. From sales and marketing, to finance and HR, we are always looking for smart, driven women to contribute to the growth of our organization. The more women working in different areas of technology, the more opportunities we’ll have to expand our network and attract new talent.

What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?

I think the technology industry on the whole has done a poor job of attracting young and/or diverse talent. Either through the recruitment process, failure to broaden our networks, or expand our circle of influence, we haven’t done a great job of tapping into these two audiences.

Cisco’s Women of Cisco initiative seeks to change this by attracting, developing, retaining, and celebrating talented women as part of a competitive and diverse workforce. We’re putting a lot of focus and resources towards this initiative from the top down, so that we can build a pipeline of talented women to lead the company forward in the future.

Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?

I’m excited for what’s to come – especially the future of this industry. We’re on the verge of a major shift in how technology is perceived as a crucial business driver. We’re moving away from solutions that use technology to “help” run businesses to leveraging technology to transform business.