Lorrissa Horton On Why You Shouldn’t Get In Your Own Way of Success
Lorrissa Horton On Why You Shouldn’t Get In Your Own Way of Success
We are excited to feature our first guest of the new Women-In-Technology (WIT) Blog Series, Lorrissa Horton!
Lorrissa won Aragon Research’s Women-In-Technology Award for Operations back in 2019. She also participated in our 7 Questions series in 2020. We are happy to have her back to discuss her experiences in the technology industry and how it’s changed, her thoughts on today’s workplace, and how we can help advance other women-in-technology.
Before we get started with the Q&A, here is some background on Lorrissa Horton and her accomplishments.
Get to Know Lorrissa Horton
Lorrissa’s main inspiration is her mother, a software developer, whose encouragement drove her into the field of Technology. Lorrissa entered the technology industry by starting at Microsoft, where she focused on productivity, AI, Data and Insights and enterprise resource planning. She then joined Cisco to run webex.com and the Webex app.
This all led Lorrissa to today, where she is SVP/GM and Chief Product Officer for Webex Software group at Cisco. She drives product strategy for hybrid work and customer experience. Across both areas, she continues to focus on AI while building new features for the future.
Alongside her work at Webex, Lorrissa continues to be a strong advocate for women in business and STEM and is an active leader for the PAN Asian community.
It’s Q&A Time!
Q: We’re excited to have you back for our revamped Women-In-Technology series! Since you participated back in 2020, what are some of the changes you have seen in tech and in your career? What’s new?
Since 2020, clearly the pandemic has reshaped the world we live in and created new developments in tech.
One development has been hybrid work. As many people were sent home to work remotely, at some point we all started to return to the office. Today, hybrid work has become well recognized by many companies and is part of the plan for the future. At Cisco, we had the opportunity to help solve hybrid work by creating inclusive experiences with our technology so employees could work from anywhere with confidence which has been very exciting to be a part of.
A second development has been around customer experience and how people engage with businesses. The pandemic made us, as consumers, much more open to leveraging technology as part of our personal experiences whether it was purchasing something online, driving up to pick up at a store or scheduling a doctor’s appointment via an app. Digital transformation has been well underway and this has had a direct impact on contact centers. Businesses are reimagining what customer experience looks like with both digital and human interactions for customers. While Contact Centers have already been a growing space, it has gone into another gear where the growth is much faster than anyone ever anticipated. This is exciting to see because customers are demanding a better experience from every brand that they engage with.
A third development is around Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s not that this technology hasn’t been around, but the openness to adopting it has accelerated with the introduction of things like chatGPT. At Cisco, we’re already seeing sparked interest across the enterprises due to its innate ability to enhance hybrid work and customer experience. An example would be how AI is already creating smart self-service and proactive experiences for users. And, for me personally, AI has now made it easier to work from home or to be involved with any work decisions because of our AI features like background noise removal. As we move forward, I am sure that AI will continue to be top of mind for many business leaders as we collectively figure out the most effective and responsible ways to use it to solve problems in everyday life.
Given what I just shared with you; all these developments have opened new doors in my career over the past couple of years. Since 2020, I’ve managed to have another baby, get promoted to SVP and am now the Chief Product Officer for Webex by Cisco. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the technology that we have built since I was able to increase my impact and contribution regardless of my physical limitations during a pandemic. While I am grateful for this career progression – I am even more excited about what lies ahead in the future for tech and the new problems we’ll be able to solve!
Q: We know that as women, we sometimes have unconventional paths to success. What’s been your path?
People always assume that I am hyper ambitious, and a very planned person who got into the role that I am in today. And yet, I’m not nearly as planned as people might give me credit for. Naturally I have a growth mindset and every year I seek out new knowledge and skills. I hold myself accountable to what I want to learn about myself, for a job, about an industry while making sure I get exposure to those things. Now, it doesn’t always mean that every one of those learnings is a step forward and up. Some of those learnings could be what I don’t like doing which is equally useful for me. I think people always assume that every learning opportunity must lead to new greatness, and it should help you elevate.
Throughout my career, I have been incredibly lucky to work with really great people. I think the one thing that has been different for me is that I have had this magical courage to go solve almost any problem that I see whether it is officially in my role or not. As long as I can get my passion around that and an openness to help whoever’s problem it is. I found that this approach has really helped me acquire both experience and expertise in so many different areas. And that’s what’s really has set me up for success to be an executive.
Q: Looking back in your career as a VP, what is the first factor that allowed you to succeed? Would you say that is still a relevant factor for someone like myself who is an up and coming professional in today’s modern workplace. If not, what would your advice be?
As I mentioned earlier, a growth mindset has been a big part of who I am and has led to much of my success. I have taken on so many different types of roles instead of worrying about whether I’m giving up a current one or a promotion in the existing role that I’m already good at, and instead potentially taking on a role or a job that will slow down my upward trajectory.
A growth mindset has helped me know myself on so many different levels. It has helped me harness my craft even further, so I know what things I really love doing versus things that I do not like doing. It also makes me aware of what areas I want to continue to learn about or what do I want control over versus influence on? And that’s helped me shape the kinds of roles and jobs that I want to grow into or, pursue. I think that was relevant in how I became a VP.
For other women who are up and coming professionals in today’s modern workplace, I would encourage them to have confidence and don’t let fear prevent you from growing. And remember that sometimes we think that taking one step back is bad for our careers – and not realizing that it may be the step that takes you forward. Because, every time we take a step back, we just feel like we’re further away from everything, but there have been so many job changes that I took, whether it was from a lead to an IC, or I became Javed’s COO and I had no experience in them. That has really helped me become a better leader today and it’s probably what positioned me well for some of the opportunities that came after that.
Q: What do you think is the best way of helping advance other women into leadership roles?
1. Make sure for any leadership role – you are looking at diverse candidates. Often, we go to people we know. You need to look at the entire network of available talent.
2.Women have to apply and try for a role. There are instances where women feel inherently like they aren’t qualified for a role and don’t want to take risks.
Recently, there was an open role at our company. I remember calling all the women up and saying “Hey, did you apply?” And there were some that were interested and some that weren’t, which is fine. But for the ones that were interested, it came down to, they didn’t apply because they didn’t have every single item on the requirements list.
Yet, all of the candidates who were moving forward and interviewed also didn’t have every single thing on the requirements list. The difference is the men applied fully knowing that they didn’t have everything, and the women didn’t even apply. Because the women were like, well, I don’t know, I can’t do all of it yet. So, I guess I shouldn’t even try it. My message to women is…”you have to at least apply and try for the role”.
3. As women, we need to spend more time recognizing our leadership skills to feel more confident about the value we can bring as leaders. It’s interesting when I look at women, especially moms and how much natural leadership capabilities they actually have. And yet, many of them will say things like, well, I’ve never been a leader. So, that’s why I’m not applying for this role. It’s like, no, but you lead an entire family.
As moms, you get lots of curveballs and you must deal with ambiguity. Every day you deal with emotional breakdowns and a constantly changing landscape. As moms, there’s a lot of these skills that you have that would make you a really natural and good leader of people in a team. You have emotional empathy; you have emotional intelligence because you care and have learned how to care for another person and their outcome without necessarily being tied to your own success. Right? Like, these are all skills that are good for a leader. And yet, we never think about them as, like, maybe I could be a good leader.
Q: What do we need to do to inspire more male advocates to help and accelerate change in the workplace?
Men can help accelerate change in the workplace by learning how to provide constructive feedback to women and helping them grow in their careers. Because women naturally take on more on their shoulders and tend to be more critical about their performance so women might interpret male feedback differently. By men learning how to provide that feedback to women – this will help them grow in their roles while building their confidence at the same time.
Q: As an executive, how do you leave the workday behind?
- I am clear about my priorities and family is super important!
- I block my calendar every day to ensure I have family time with them.
- Self-reflection helps me continuously look at priorities and where to spend my time outside of the office.
Q: Everyone should continue to expand their knowledge, what’s a good book you recommend to other women-in-tech?
While I don’t get to read as many books as I’d like given my busy schedule as a Cisco exec and mom of three young children … I do have a few books that I’ve read and can recommend.
- The Design of Everyday Things
- The Story Factor
- How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci – This book is super interesting since it talks about how to capture and explore thoughts. It does mind mapping vs. linear and suggests that when you have a creative idea, you immediately write it down.
The reality is that most of my reading is micro reading and things happening in the industry or things I can learn to help improve myself like in a 5-minute period. Some examples would be Harvard business reviews, articles, and blogs.
That’s a wrap on our Q&A with Lorrissa Horton!
A special thank you so much to Lorrissa for taking the time to provide these very detailed and honest experiences and advice for women and men in the technology industry. We also want to thank her team, especially Cybil Alexander, for coordinating everything to make this Q&A happen.
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Our Transform 2023 event is filled with thought leadership from our expert analysts, esteemed guest panel members, and award-winning organizations.
This hybrid event kicks off with a morning of virtual sessions. To start, our analysts will share an insightful keynote presentation–which will include market predictions for 2024. We will then invite our executive guest panel to the virtual stage. Finally, our 2023 Hot Vendor award winners will be announced.
In the evening, we will host an invitation-only networking dinner. Guests will enjoy engaging conversation, dinner, a LIVE women-in-technology guest panel, and our 2023 Innovation and Women-In-Technology award ceremony.