Working smarter: An interview experience from a (super fun!) virtual team
My virtual team experience
I graduated in May of 2019, and along with my peers I faced the daunting pressure of figuring out my next step. Like many that were in my shoes nine months ago (or still are now), the end of the road in academia didn’t present a clearly defined transition into adulthood. Unless your major led to medical school or law school, graduation looked more like the edge of a cliff, and not the top of a podium.
If the shoe fits…
I scrapped the ‘logical next step’ option and did the next best thing: I looked for a workplace that would have the best environment in which I could grow, learn, and challenge myself. And with luck, I would also love my coworkers, and have fun while achieving all of the above. Yeah – it sounded impossible to me too.
Status update: currently self-appointed CFO (Chief Fun Officer) of new recruits. I’m growing, learning, challenging myself, loving my coworkers, having fun, AND writing this blog. How you ask? It all started with the interview. I knew from my first conversation with Cisco that it would meet what I was looking for.
Ready, set, recruit
My experience was typical – a 5% response rate to job applications: an email here, a link to a video conference there, a phone call. Aside from the occasional email chain, there was no channel for me to communicate with those involved in the recruitment process, let alone a channel to get to know potential team members. In such a time of uncertainty, the lack of visibility added to my stress. There was a clear separation between me and my potential prospective employers. I would just need to wait until someone communicated at me. That’s until I started my interviews with Cisco. Only then did it dawn on me that when a company interviews you, you are interviewing them too; you can’t just want the shoe, it must fit on your foot.
My virtual recruitment adventure
My recruiter and potential team members asked me to create a free Webex Teams account on teams.webex.com. This was unusual, but I was open to this interview process. Immediately, the interviewer leading my interview process began a conversation with me one-on-one and added me to a ‘space’ titled ‘Welcoming Ana Vincenti’ (that’s me) with the other members of her team she would eventually want me to connect with. A space, just for me? I was already feeling special.
Next thing you know, I was welcomed with confetti, gifs, emojis, and enthusiastic messages from the team that they were excited to meet with me. And for the first time in an interview process, I felt (dare I say it) good. Being added to the space made me feel like I was already a part of the team, even if just as a guest for the time being. It removed the walls that I had consistently felt in all other interview processes — it’s like I was invited into the same room where everyone else was, as an equal.
The team continued to use the platform to schedule video meetings with me directly in the Webex Teams app (I was using the online version). Outside of our scheduled interview times, the team made a point to let me know they were available to answer any questions that came up. All I had to do was message them directly on Teams. And the cherry on top of it all? The entire process happened completely remotely. I was traveling for quite some time when this opportunity suddenly popped up. Worried about how it would affect my candidacy, the team said, ‘we’ll meet you wherever you are, whenever you’re available,’ and that’s exactly what they did.
The virtual interview process!
My first interview was with who is now my manager and took place while I was squatting outside in front of a Prada (classy, I know) in Milan, on my phone. I had my video on, looking as one does with the beloved combination of 90-degree heat and humidity. I was candid and let her know it was the only place I could find reliable WIFI. I made it clear that I very much took this opportunity seriously, despite how my video looked. She laughed, inquired about my travels, and we continued with the interview. That right there, was the beginning of what sealed the deal for me. More video interviews, gif exchanges, and messages later, I became a part of the Cisco family.
Once things slowed down, I started thinking about what my day-to-day would look like. The only question I had about integrating into the team was…’so…how tall are all of these people in real life?’ I had not a doubt that I would fit in with them on day one. I already had ample opportunity to connect with them through video, messages, and gifs (usually a clear indicator of one’s personality). By the way, I still don’t know how tall all my coworkers are.
Some of the people I work with weekly are in Europe and Asia. You heard me correctly; I get to work with people across the globe. Not bad for my first job! That was a goal of mine for way later in my career, but Webex Teams has made it possible from the get-go. This technology makes it so exciting to go into work each day. Or rather, not to go into work, because if I don’t want to leave the house, my team and I stay connected through Webex Teams. We trust one another to get our work done no matter where we are.
I took so much away from this experience. Check out some of my takeaways below:
1) Life after college. Six months in, I love my first post-graduate job. Webex Teams made the transition between candidate Ana and employee Ana seamless. I communicate with my team even more closely than I did on day one.
2) Video is key in communication. Video is key in communication. From the first interview — on the floor in 90-degree heat (I wouldn’t recommend this, but desperate times call for desperate measures), I was able to be candid with my future team. Seeing their smiles, make eye contact, and hearing their laughs was pivotal in making me feel comfortable with the team, role, and Cisco as a whole. Ultimately, it allowed me to perform better as a candidate, as I was able to present myself just as I would in a live situation, even though I was far away. It also gave me a much more holistic picture of my future employer and was key in winning me over as a candidate.
3) Be candid, open, and welcoming of new ways to operate (especially when they challenge status quo). This is not a ‘typical’ interview process, or a globally deployed way of working. However the technology is perfectly built to support it and makes for a wonderful experience. I was unsure what this new interview process would look like, nor how I would adapt to having a virtual team. But I embraced it with open arms, was honest about how it was new for me, and the team reciprocated. This a lot of trust between us immediately, which set the foundation for the incredible experience I’m having with the team today.
Adopting collaboration technology is easy and fun
So, business owners (and future employees), if you are still on the fence about adopting collaboration technology, I hope I’ve made the value clear. This easy-to-use platform was key in engaging me from the get-go, and I can guarantee it will have an impact on other millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce. The flexibility, ease, and comfort it provides in communication is a differentiator that businesses must invest in if they plan to engage top talent. And quite simply, it makes people happy. I’ve been able to meet faraway coworkers’ families, stay home when I need to, worked in different locations, and met so many people from all over the globe, all without missing a beat. Technology keeps the work exciting…everywhere, all the time. Let’s make excitement in the workplace the norm.
We’ve created a page with more guidance for end users and people managers on working remotely at https://www.webex.com/webexremotework.html
Feb 25, 2021 — Chris Capasso, Matt Spool, Thomas Vidgar & Damien McCoy
Feb 25, 2021 — Bobby McGonigle & Enrico Conedera