Claiming Our Seat at the Table: One Woman’s Story of Business Empowerment

Guest post by Janine Kurnoff, founder of The Presentation Company.

As of January of this year, there are an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses just in the United States alone. This is an impressive stat, given recent discussions on women in the workplace, our roles and how we support one another. In light of this and being a member of this “girl power” collective of business owners, I wanted to share my story to perhaps inspire another woman who has a desire to fearlessly pursue her business dreams.

From Flying Solo to Soaring Together…

I’ve always had a passion and a knack for helping people tell their stories, which led me to form The Presentation Company in 2001. When I joined the ranks of millions of women entrepreneurs, I was a one-woman show focused on presentation consulting.  But even then, I knew flying solo would only get me so far. Thankfully, six months in, my sister (and now business partner) Lee joined me, bringing her amazing market research and branding skills with her. And we haven’t looked back since.

People tend to be a bit amazed that Lee and I are not only sisters, but successful female entrepreneurs who make things work at work. And though we like to joke that we’re “twins” and have been known to tap into a telepathic “sister” thing, the reality is that finding a partner who shares your passion, is trustworthy, has your back and one who can represent you is the foundation of a successful brand. We have and never will get bogged down with stereotypes about women not being able to work together. Rather, we believe women can soar with another entrepreneur whose goals are as lofty as their own.

 

 

Cheerleaders Aren’t Just for a Big Game…

There is something to be said about having a team of “cheerleaders” in your corner. For me, those cheerleaders were my mom and dad.

Our parents immigrated from England, with two young girls in tow, arriving in 1978 at San Francisco’s Pier 35. I often think about what a risk it was for them to leave the familiar to go after their American dreams. Early on, my dad told me “find your passion and the money will follow.” And my mom always encouraged me to believe that I deserved to “have a seat at the table.” Together Lee and I found that passion and confidence. It came in the form of helping talented people tell authentic business stories.

We embraced, honed and followed this vision and our parents were our earliest – and most enthusiastic – cheering force. And their belief in us pushed our belief in ourselves.

Whoever encourages their dreams in the face of the seemingly impossible – these are the people I advise women to surround themselves with to help keep their entrepreneurial fires burning.

 

Because Mentorship Matters…

As business founders, Lee and I both feel honored to be in our roles. We take pride in empowering the talented women (and men!) on our team. Why? Because the same passion for our work and desire to help brands tell their most authentic stories in the most meaningful way – we see that in them. We’ve witnessed team members blossom before us as we pour into them, growing confident enough to own rooms and command audiences. It’s in these small ways that we mentor and influence other women.

And that doesn’t stop, no matter what professional heights you reach. In many ways, my sister is my mentor; indirectly, we’ve done that for each other. And we are constantly learning from the host of compelling women we meet. For a woman to surround herself with other powerfully productive women in the workplace, it’s empowering and encouraging.

As women, we must believe that we have every right to succeed and not downplay, our talents, abilities and accomplishments. We have to communicate who we are and define our own paths with a clear vision. And because I have daughters, I believe we have to share our stories and show other women and young girls not to “fake it until they make it.” But rather, “fake it until they become it” as Amy Cuddy says. Because they, and all of us, deserve seats at the professional tables of their choice.

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Weatherproof Your Work Life

From iced-over bridges to snow-covered highways, Old Man Winter has had a firm grip on most of the country recently. And while that may mean a snow day for some, for many, the work day must go on.

Thankfully, remote work tools like WebEx and Cisco Spark are available to keep teams connected and work moving forward. And even though snow is a rarity in San Jose, over the years, I’ve learned lots of work life “weatherproofing” tips that keep productivity up when inclement weather keeps you away from the office.

Morning Consistency is Key

It’s totally understandable how blustery weather would make you want to stay bundled up in your PJs or work from your laptop in bed. But if you’re working remotely due to the weather, keeping to your morning routine as much as possible can mentally set the stage for a more productive work day.

If you normally exercise outside in the mornings, but can’t, do a quick workout in your living room to maintain your normal pre-work routine. Go to your closet and get dressed, even if you’re just going down the hallway to your home office. Whatever it is that you do to kick off your work day, do it! It will kick start your mind into work mode.

 Keep Your Desk Ready-to-Go

Speaking of your home office, the moment you hear bad weather may keep you housebound is the time to ensure your work space is work ready. National Clean Up Your Desk Day was great inspiration for me to take a few moments to declutter my home office space. Everything is now in its place, which saves me a rush cleaning job when impromptu WebEx meetings have to happen. An added bonus? Studies show that a decluttered workspace leads to more productivity.

Check Your Tech

One minute before a remote meeting or conference call begins is not the time to discover your technology has gone on the fritz.  If weather is keeping you housebound, you’ll need to rely on your tech tools to stay connected, so make it a habit to ensure any and all technology software and hardware you use is online and ready to go when you need it.

Plan B & C & D Location

If bad weather knocks your power or causes internet connectivity issues for example, having a nearby location to work from is a must.

A nearby coffee shop or even a library are just a couple of options. Wifi is often free and nothing beats a hot cup of coffee if you’re forced to travel to another location.

Set Expectations and Boundaries

You know when you’re working from home that you’re actually working. But does everyone else?

When bad weather keeps people who do not work remotely inside, it’s easy to see how they may not understand how you could be carrying on your work day as normal. If you have children, they’re probably home with you if the weather is bad and may not understand that yes – you have real work to do. In these instances, set boundaries and expectations early so everyone understands that even though you’re physically at home, you have to remain focused.

There is definitely something to be said about maintaining a work-life balance, so be open and communicate to your children or friends when you can chit-chat, play games or watch a movie with them.

Has bad weather kept you in the house recently? Share how you’ve been able to stay in work mode with me on Twitter @WebEx, with #WinterWork.

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Easy annual planning for remote teams

 It’s that time of the year again! The days are shorter. The weather is cooling down.  And your manager is asking to see your team’s 2018 plan ASAP.

When there’s a lot on your plate between work and home, staying productive and efficient is non-negotiable. Add in the logistics of coordinating a remote team and the stress can add up quickly. But those end-of-year deadlines don’t have to bring your team down. Follow this simple guide for streamlining your workflow to get that annual plan wrapped up. Hint: the key is collaboration.

Step 1: Create a work space

First things first, you need to assemble your key players together in one place. And I don’t mean a conference room.

To work together fluidly, you need a virtual workspace. Create a Cisco Spark room and include everyone who will contribute to the planning process. You can use it to chat about updates in real time, share documents, review feedback, and even add bots to help you with scheduling and project management. Label the room and ask your team to use it for annual planning only, so conversations stay focused and on-task.

Step 2: The kickoff

Next, schedule a WebEx session to kick things off. Share an agenda in advance to keep the meeting structured. Ask your team to turn on their video – having some face-time can go a long way in rallying everyone around a common goal and help ensure you’re all on the same page.

Consider preparing a few slides with an outline of the plan and share your screen during the meeting. Have everyone weigh in with initial ideas about what’s been working, what’s not, and what the priorities should be for the next year.

Before you close the meeting, be clear about the expectations and next steps. What should be included in the plan? What are the deadlines? Recap team assignments so everyone can divide and conquer.

Step 3: Sharing is caring

Now it’s time to get to work. After your meeting, share a recap in the Cisco Spark room to reinforce the next steps and deadlines.

As each member of your team fulfills their assignments, have them share updates and documents in Cisco Spark. It’s a lot simpler than searching through lengthy email chains to find attachments or links.

Collaborate in real-time via chat or call team members directly, all within Cisco Spark. Bouncing ideas around in as they come up will help move things forward quickly, and you can keep your team in-the-know if things change.

Step 4: Review and revise

Once your plan is drafted, it’s time to start editing. Set up another meeting with your team to review the plan together as a group. Ask yourself a few essential questions along the way. Does the presentation tell a clear story? Did we accomplish what we set out to do? Is our data presented in an impactful way?

Make edits in real-time during the meeting, and continue any follow up via Cisco Spark if you need to add finishing touches.

Step 5: The final presentation

This is where all of the team collaboration will pay off. It’s Showtime!

Schedule a meeting with your manager/stakeholders over WebEx. Have everyone fire up their video and share your deck (just be sure to share your application instead of your entire screen to avoid any distracting notifications). And don’t forget to record the meeting – you can send out a link so anyone who missed out on the presentation can catch up.

Step 6: Celebrate! And keep the conversation going

After you’ve nailed your presentation, congratulate your team and pat yourself on the back. Now that your annual plan is in place, you can keep the work moving in Cisco Spark. Create new rooms for individual projects and initiatives once your plan is approved, and check back in throughout the year.

Having the best collaboration tools makes a big difference when it comes to planning, and every team has a different style that works for them. How does your team approach planning and workflows? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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Keep your team conversations going

The weekly update. The customer presentation. The on-the-fly team meeting.  Every type of meeting has its own purpose, but how can you tackle them efficiently and effectively every time? The key is to keep the conversation going.

If you work remotely, you know this can be especially hard. When your team is spread out, you need a strategy to keep everyone connected before, during and after each meeting. And with the right tools, your projects can move forward and everyone can stay connected.

Not sure where to start? Check out our handy guide for using Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx to keep your team collaborating, whether you’re giving a big presentation over video conference or sharing daily updates over chat.

Have your own collaboration tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Debunking Remote Work Myths

Work from home. Telecommuting. Remote workers. They’re all just fancy words for people that work in pajamas with dogs at their sides, right? Well, while my lab Fletch sometimes makes a surprise appearance on a video call, remote work is burdened with misconceptions that I set out to debunk:

Misconception 1 – “Are they even working?”

Remote workers are often accused of “phoning it in,” only half listening to meeting conversation as they surf the internet, watch television or answer other emails. The truth is, studies show remote workers report being more productive – 91% in one study – than their office-dwelling peers. Working remotely also encourages having more detailed communication with managers and team members to clarify objectives, which is not the mark of a lazy person.

Misconception 2 – “Is that even a real job?”

Just because remote workers are surrounded by the comforts of home when they work doesn’t mean that they’re not working a “real” job.

Cisco and many other respected brands, including Amazon, Dell, Apple and Wells Fargo, support remote work. And this trend is growing; a survey by Global Workplace Analytics found that 40% more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago.

Misconception 3 – “Do you ever leave your house?”

The beautiful reality of being a remote worker is that – well, we can work remotely from wherever our happy work spot may be.

I do have a home office and it where I work from most often. But tools like WebEx and Cisco Spark provide flexibility that gives me the freedom to hunker down in my favorite local coffee shop to work and even attend meetings.

Misconception 4 – “That must be really lonely.”

Though remote workers may be physically alone when they do their work, video conferencing enable us to become expert collaborators, connecting with teams in real-time.

Personally, I love the interactive drawing and whiteboard feature offered by Cisco Spark. Our team uses it to share graphics and outline concepts, all in real-time. And whatever devices we’re all using – cell phone, lap top, tablet – Cisco Spark allows us to share files and message one another and engage in occasional “virtual” water cooler talk. Again, all in real-time.

Misconception 5 – “You must find it hard to turn off.”

In the age of collaboration (rolling over first thing in the morning to check emails, anyone?), this is an issue that we are all working on. Regardless of your work environment, work-life balance is critical. Though this can seem like a challenge if your home is your office like mine, it’s not impossible. It’s all about pacing.

What works for me is creating barriers between “work-mode” and “family-mode”. For example, I don’t work during dinner time and I don’t check emails until I’ve dropped my kids off at school. For you, it may be designated a certain area of your home as a place you don’t enter until it’s time to work.

What do you enjoy most about being a remote worker? Share with our community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

 

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The Evolution of a Serial Entrepreneur and How to Manage a Remote Team

Cisco WebEx and Influencive are teaming up to bring you real-world tips for taking your remote business to the next level. Check out the advice below or and don’t miss our Facebook Live discussion at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to build and manage a remote team effectively.

Operating a business is so different today than it used to be. When I first entered the world of entrepreneurship as a 16 year-old entrepreneur in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur.

I was selling products on Ebay as a way to make money because I didn’t want to work at a grocery store, but after a while someone told me that I had started a business and I didn’t even realize it necessarily. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

Ever since my eBay days I have went on to build, grow, and exit multiple businesses which have led me to founding Influencive.

With the way that technology continues to advance, the way that us entrepreneurs conduct our day-to-day activities also continue to evolve. Ten years ago, social media and networking online is nothing like what it is today. Now, you barely meet people in person first anymore because it happens online. The first impressions you give someone are online and are even more important today than they have ever been.

Social media and networking has evolved immensely over the past few years but an area that has allowed entrepreneurs like myself to build and manage a remote team is through software tools and apps like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark.

Without technology, I don’t think I would be nearly as “successful” as I have been. These types of tools are used by my team and I use them to communicate on a regular basis, but also use them for meeting clients. Having apps like this on my desktop or mobile are important for me to stay in the loop and in communication with team members as needed.

At Influencive and my other companies, most of the team members are remote. Managing a remote team can be tricky. Here are 3 ways to help you manage a remote team.

1. Have Open Lines of Communication

When you have a team spread out over time zones and countries, it’s important from day one to set expectations that your team is able to communicate with each other. The days of telling your employees and co-workers to just email each other are dwindling by the day. If you do this, you are going to create more work than necessary. I don’t know about you, but I get more spam than ever before and it’s increasingly difficult to find important emails.

What we do at Influencive to help minimize our daily emails to each other, is we have a chat group that we communicate and message each other in. This helps increase our productivity almost tenfold because we can ask questions right away, send documents, and can even do calls as needed. We know that if we want to contact anyone, we can just send them a message. Then people can reply on their own time instead of being constantly interrupted with in-person water cooler talk and other shenanigans that has been proven to reduce productivity.

If you are still relying on your email inbox for communication, find a messaging platform or chat group you can use with your team to help minimize the amount of emails you send.

2. Implement Weekly Check-In’s

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to get away from actually holding meetings with my teams. We all have 1000’s of thoughts going through our brains at any given time and holding meetings daily with your team usually only hurts them because most meetings aren’t very productive.

As a matter of fact, most 1 hour meetings could be done in under 10 minutes. Crazy right?

When you have a remote team, one way to set expectations and maintain order and productivity is to implement weekly check-ins with your team. Everyone has different schedules and work better during different hours of the day.

For that reason, sometimes a scheduled meeting is pointless because schedules shift, people are on sales calls, in-person meetings and etc. I’m not a big fan of set weekly meetings for that reason.

Instead, all communications can be done through Cisco Spark. And the check-ins can happen when and if they are needed rather than having meetings just to have meetings. This saves the team time and money.

3. Promote Autonomy

One of the benefits of having a remote team in the first place is not having a team member be location dependent. You can pick people to be a part of your team no matter where they live. This is a major advantage to have.

Rather than relying on the uber competitive talent pool in the city of the founders, you can look elsewhere to add to your team.

Something that you need to implement from day one is that you want to give all employees autonomy. They all need to feel a part of the team, but they also need to feel that freedom to make mistakes and take risks. Now, this doesn’t mean go out there and make the company look bad, it just means employees need to feel that they can make some decisions and their boss isn’t looking over their every move.

A quote I really like is:

“If you don’t trust your employees to work from anywhere, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.”

This is so true. You need to trust your team to get the job done and if you don’t trust them to work from the beaches in Bali or from the coffee shop down the street then you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Allow them autonomy and the ability to do their job from wherever they want. Just make sure that they actually get their work done. If they get their work done, and are the best at what they do, then you shouldn’t have anything to complain about.

With the power of the internet and remote collaboration tools like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark, location is irrelevant so stop using location as an excuse and instead use it as an advantage.

Want to know more? Check out our live discussion from the WebEx Facebook page below.

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3 Moments of Clarity through Video Meetings

Sometimes you get so used to things just working that you forget about the amazing convenience of the tools we now have at our fingertips. As part of the Cisco WebEx team, I experience that more than most when it comes to video meetings. On a daily basis, I collaborate with people located across town, across the country, and also across the world. Of course, with video, we’re able to connect face-to-face, which helps develop our relationships and we can make decisions faster – not to mention we cut down on travel costs. This is when I had a few moments of clarity – at the airport, where I was able to appreciate the tools at my fingertips that helped me look like a professional.

I was scheduled to return from a conference on the same morning that I was leading a quarterly project meeting with the global team.  While it would be a busy day, I should have had enough time after landing to get to the office and lead the presentation from one of the conference rooms.

As you may have guessed, that’s not how things worked out. My morning layover flight wasn’t delayed — it was cancelled. I knew I couldn’t reschedule the meeting — it had to happen that day. I knew I’d be fine, though, presenting from my mobile phone from the airport.

 

Moment of clarity number 1: Confidence in my meeting tool
It could have been a major setback. It would have been a major setback if it hadn’t been for the ease of using Cisco WebEx. I had zero anxiety about a situation that would surely be ulcer-inducing for most.

While I sat in the terminal, I noticed a man a couple of seats away who seemed to be having a work-related conversation. There he was, preparing to join a meeting from the airport. And he wasn’t using Cisco WebEx. Things went OK. His meeting got started a few minutes late because he couldn’t find the meeting codes, another participant had to download a plug-in, and he said he couldn’t share his video from his mobile phone, but overall it wasn’t too bad.

Moment of clarity number 2.  Makes me look professional
This guy was trying to position his new one-man design shop as an established, trusted company. It was almost time for my meeting to start, so I couldn’t stick around to find out how it went. As I went to find my own quiet space, I had a renewed pride that I get to work with Cisco WebEx. It’s a reliable product that comes with a reputation of professionalism, so I could depend on it.

Moment of clarity number 3. Simplicity – Started the meeting on time
I joined the meeting with a click of a button in my phone app — not just on time, but a few minutes early!  For my meetings with Cisco WebEx, I don’t have to worry about those issues. It just works.

One of our partners in London, Sheila, entered the meeting from her Skype for Business account, because Cisco WebEx meetings integrates seamlessly with the third-party solution.

Shameless plug: Cisco WebEx is built to provide excellent audio and high quality video, so — even though I was at the airport on my mobile phone — it felt like I was presenting in person. The team joining from the office was able to start my meeting in my personal room before I even joined because I gave them alternate host privilege. It was easy to see everyone’s expressions, so I could tell when I needed to provide additional detail or clarification.

While I didn’t enjoy the delay flying home, the experience allowed me to appreciate what I take for granted so often. Whether your team is spread across the globe or sitting in separate corners of the same city, an established video conferencing tool that provides reliable and secure service is important to look like a true professional. Cisco WebEx is simple. I connected to my meeting smoothly in a single click, so I could focus on what matters: Leading a successful meeting for my colleagues.

Learn more about Cisco WebEx video meeting capabilities.

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#CiscoChat: Lead Your Team into the Future of Collaboration

Business magic happens when teams have the freedom and space to bring their best work to life.  When you have great meetings, brilliant ideas are shared, plans are made, and work moves forward. That’s what we like to call #MeetBrilliant.

But to make all this happen, you need a strategy. During our @WebEx #CiscoChat on Twitter in July,  Cisco’s own Jens Meggers, talk about the future of business collaboration, shared tips on getting mobile meetings right, and discussed the importance of creating a great user experience for employees.

As Cisco’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Cloud Collaboration Technology Group (CCTG), Jens is responsible for managing Cisco’s cloud-focused portfolio of voice, video, and web conferencing that delivers a robust and scalable infrastructure to millions of customers.

Jens believes that great leaders understand that their job is enable their teams to be successful and produce great results, not the other way around. By adopting this new mode of thinking, leaders can bring their business into the future of collaboration. One where technology is seamless, automated and intelligent technology connects helps employees get their job done without getting in the way.

Check Jens’ unique perspective in his Two Minute Take video and catch the highlights from our #CiscoChat in the recap below! Have your own brilliant meeting tips? Share them in the comments or give us a shout at @WebEx on Twitter.

 

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Meeting Place. Workspace.

Project management is all about bringing people together to get things done. But when dealing with your collaboration technology seems like a separate job in itself, moving a project forward can feel impossible.

Thankfully, Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark make the process of working together easier (and more fun). Project managers can make one space for teams to meet, collaborate and even whiteboard. That way, everyone can spend less time connecting to meetings and more time working toward the finish line together.

Ally Taylor is a project manager specializing in employee communication for IoT and apps at Cisco. In the fast-moving world of tech business, Ally has to stay on top of updates from multiple teams in real-time.  Go behind-the-scenes to see how this busy project manager rocks her work day.

 

Learn more about how Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark work together.

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Work Smarter On-the-Go

Staying in the loop with work can sometimes be a challenge. And if you work on-the-go, it can be even harder to stay on top of email, attend every meeting, and get face time with your team. But if you have the right technology, being mobile doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

James Cho, our inside sales manager, gives his own Two Minute Take on how he stays productive when bouncing from meeting to meeting throughout the work week. He uses Cisco Spark and WebEx to connect with his team – with his pup Scooter in tow.

Learn how world travelers, commuters and remote workers can stay up-to-date with Cisco Spark from anywhere.

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How to Unplug on Your Summer Vacation

It’s a yearly tradition in our family. We pack up our camping gear and make one last frantic run through the local grocery store before we head into High Sierra Music Festival. Bring your sleeping bag and join our family to disconnect from your 9-5 responsibilities. Oh, and don’t worry about bringing your phone; you won’t need it out here.

I treasure this annual chance to disconnect, but I also understand the hesitation to do so. The business world is more connected than ever before. I know the feeling of not wanting to miss a thing, especially with how face-paced today’s work world can be – “What if I miss a cool marketing opportunity with my team?” It’s like work FOMO.

But the technology that tempts us to constantly connect also gives us the freedom to take a break:

  • Collaboration tools mean that I can trust my team to jump on any time-sensitive opportunities without missing a beat.
  • With the right tools, everything will be waiting for you when you return. Your teams can record meetings with WebEx so you can jump in without missing a beat.
  • With Cisco Spark, everything you need to catch up is in one place. Find where you left off and scroll down – it’s that easy to get up to speed.

It might seem like even if you can step away from work, your mind will always be at the office. Check out these tips to overcome the temptation to take the worries of work with you.

Before you go:

  • Communicate with your team. Let them know when you’ll be heading out and getting back.
  • Recap and fill your teams in on the status of your projects.
  • Leave contact information to connect people who may need to find the right resource.
  • Make a note about your trip in the Cisco Spark space associated with those campaigns. It’ll be easy to pick up where you left off.
  • Set your ‘out of office’ in email and in Cisco Spark. Be sure to include when you’ll return and a contact to answer any immediate questions.

When you get back:

  • Block off an hour of time to get caught up. Reserve time on your own calendar to read emails, scroll through Cisco Spark, and watch any recorded WebEx meetings.
  • Connect with your teams for any high priority messages.
  • Let your Cisco Spark spaces know you’re back and catching up. Use this time to ease back into work.
  • Keep your vacation photos handy! Take breaks during the day to remember the great times with your family.

Being able to relax, recharge and get a new perspective is going to help you a lot more than chiming in on small things during your time off. Be brave and don’t check email; maybe even turn off your phone!

Enjoy the show, enjoy the music. You literally earned it.

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Faster Collaboration for Global Teams

When an opportunity presents itself, great teams know that collaboration is essential to bringing the best work to life. But when your team is located across the globe, staying on the same page can feel like an uphill battle.

Nate Franklin, a product marketing manager, works with an integrated global team on cutting-edge, fast-paced projects. In his Two Minute Take, Nate talks about how the right technology tools keep work-streams moving quickly, and his team’s unique culture alive.

Learn how to bring teams closer together with real-time connections through Cisco Spark and WebEx, so you can work seamlessly with people across the world.

 

Learn more about how Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark work together.

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Small Changes, Big Productivity

If your team needs a big boost in productivity, you don’t have to overhaul all your tools to get results. Finding small changes in the way you collaborate and communicate can make a big impact.

In her Two Minute Take, technical adviser Mackenzie Guy shares simple advice on combining your collaboration apps to keep everything in one place. Instead of spending time learning new skills or replacing entire systems, your team can focus on work and let the app do the heavy-lifting.

A few simple tweaks can go a long way when it comes to productivity. Cisco Spark lets you keep what works, and unify your collaboration experience.

 

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