Janey Hoe, Vice President of Cisco Investments, thrives on connections. Whether it’s connecting companies with Cisco Investments or making connections for more diversity in tech, Janey is seen as a leader. Focus Magazine recently sat down with Janey to find out how she got her career started and what continues to drive her.
Focus Magazine: Tell me how you started with Cisco.
Janey Hoe: I was at a dinner with some college friends and one of them worked at Cisco. The friend asked me ‘how would you like to work at Cisco in mergers and acquisitions? I get a referral bonus if you get hired.’ At the time, I was at McKinsey & Company. I interviewed, received an offer, and took the job.
Focus Magazine: What was your first job at Cisco?
Janey Hoe: I was hired as a business development manager in Corporate Development when there were only 4-5 people on the team. That was eighteen years ago, a long time ago! I literally grew up here at Cisco! That’s the first role I took. I ventured into other parts of the business, where I could learn more about the products and operations and spent a decade across Cisco’s different product lines from Switching to Collaboration.
Focus Magazine: What was the most interesting product you worked on?
Janey Hoe: The Catalyst 6500…At that time, we were working on converging L4-7 services on to the switching platform. It was my first product role after being in M&A, and I jumped into the deep end and worked with the customers and the team to introduce new innovations to the platform.
Focus Magazine: You’ve been in very different roles. What led you to your current role?
Janey Hoe: I originally came to talk to Rob Salvagno, Head of Corporate Development, to get his advice on an external offer I was considering, and instead, he engaged me in a conversation about what we needed to do to take Cisco Investments to the next level. It was a new role that developed out of those conversations. It didn’t have a playbook and had a lot of possibilities to drive impact. That is what ultimately attracted me to the role.
Cisco has always taken a very open stance towards innovation with our long standing strategy of build, buy, partner, invest, and co-create. The reason it’s important to have that mindset is because you can’t manage or predict innovationFocus Magazine: Tell me why portfolio investments are so important to Cisco?
Janey Hoe: Cisco has always taken a very open stance towards innovation with our long standing strategy of build, buy, partner, invest, and co-create. The reason it’s important to have that mindset is because you can’t manage or predict innovation. You really want to see things coming ahead of time and be able to embrace that and capture those opportunities for the company. Cisco Investments is an important part of that strategy.
Focus Magazine: Tell me about some of the companies that Cisco has invested in?
Janey Hoe: We have more than 100 investments. A recent investment from my team is Cohesity, which is a new disruptive company in secondary storage. It was recently projected by Forbes as the next generation of the $1B unicorns, and they were named as a top start-up to work for by Business Insider. It’s an exciting company with a great team and leader, and we just have a ton of confidence in that company.
There are also a number of new investments in new verticals of IoT, artificial intelligence, and AR and VR. So stay tuned.
Focus Magazine: Is Cisco investing all over the world?
Janey Hoe: Yes. Our current portfolio is distributed over 25 countries. I don’t think every corporate venture takes this approach, but it’s something that we insist on because Cisco is a global company.
Focus Magazine: Can you tell me what you do in terms of mentorship and advice for companies you invest in?
Janey Hoe: Our team often sits on the boards of our portfolio companies. In addition, one focus Cisco Investments Portfolio Development has is to connect portfolio companies to Cisco’s go-to market engine and help them accelerate their businesses. That means connecting them to our sales teams, customers, and partners.
Focus Magazine: It’s like the networking company helping companies in their portfolio network.
Janey Hoe: Right! It helps them get to their end customer. We help them figure out how to get the product into the market in the same way we do for our own products, so it’s not difficult for us to do.
Focus Magazine: You’re in a unique position because there aren’t a whole lot of female executives who are leading the finance tech industry. Tell me what that’s like and what we can do to bring more women into the fold.
Janey Hoe: In college, I was one of 8 women in the electrical engineering and computer science major of 200+ students. When I graduated, I think there were only three of us left standing. Now, from time to time, I will find myself to be the only woman in a meeting.
You need diversity so you can see a problem from different perspectives. When you have diversity, you get better answers- guaranteed.
In terms of how to drive diversity, I think it’s a really tough problem, otherwise we’d see much better numbers. Our team is pretty diverse. For Corporate Development, we insist on having a diverse interview panel and a diverse candidate pool for every position. I think it starts there- “diversity begets diversity”. I think that tends to work pretty well in our environment, so then the question is how do we expand it more broadly.
Recently, Cisco Investments has taken a stance to invest in diversity- outstanding funds and companies founded by diverse founders. Stay tuned.
Focus Magazine: How do you balance everything – as a wife and mother of two, climbing up the corporate ladder at Cisco and getting to the position you’re in now? It’s not easy!
Janey Hoe: I would never pretend it’s easy. It’s super hard. I think you really have to have a supportive family and ask for a lot of help at home! People talk about “work life balance,” but you have to accept there is no balance sometimes. Some days you’re going to be the best mom and wife ever, and some days you’re going to be your best professionally. You can’t be the best at everything all the time. I give myself a longer time horizon, over months, to find that elusive “work life balance”. It is more realistic that way.
Focus Magazine: What are some of the things you’ve done in this current role that make you most proud?
Janey Hoe: I’m always really proud when the company makes strategic decisions that it would not have made otherwise based on our team’s work. I am also most proud when our impact is recognized directly by our customers.
Focus Magazine: People pitch you all the time. What’s the one piece of advice you give people who are pitching.
Janey Hoe: Make sure you have a clear pitch about the problem you are solving- why the solution is a must-have, not just a nice-to-have and why it is differentiated. Also, early startups are all about the team- building the right team is half of a good start.