Miruna Candea from Cisco: "You can be an introvert and still thrive in a HR career!"
📌 Read the interview with Miruna to find out what is Cisco Get Connected Ambassador and why Cisco is the best place to work.
We hasten to share with you our new interview. Today, our guest is Miruna Candea from Cisco.
Miruna Candea is Romanian originally, but currently living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with her husband and their cat, Minerva. Some of her hobbies include cooking, reading, and playing video games.
She has 7 years of experience in various HR roles, currently working as a Program & Change Manager for the Global Recruiting Operations team in Cisco. Her career started as a Sourcing Recruiter but quickly learned she preferred a more backstage type of role, putting structure to things and working with data. She transitioned into a more operational role, analyzing sources of hires, and building pipeline strategies for the recruiting teams; after that moving into a Project Manager role where she led various projects aimed at optimizing different processes and tools for the recruiting team.
In her present role as a Program & Change Manager, she is working with Global Recruitment Leaders to roll out enterprise-wide programs that nurture the culture of hiring in Cisco and improve the overall candidate experience.
Cisco Systems, Inc. is an American multinational technology conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California, in the center of Silicon Valley. Cisco develops, manufactures and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and other high-technology services and products.
AO: Hello Miruna and welcome to AcademyOcean. We are happy you agreed to give us an interview.
Let's start with our traditional question. Did you work somewhere before becoming an HR professional, why did you decide to become an HR?
MC: My educational background is in linguistics and literature because at that time I wanted to be a journalist. But during my studies, I joined an international student NGO, AIESEC, and this is where I first discovered what HR is. The team there was constructed very similar to what you would find in a corporation, with sub-departments such as Talent Management, Recruitment and Training and so that is where I learned the basics of it all. And I loved the aspect of nurturing people and helping them grow so much, that when it came for me to enter the workforce, I went straight for an HR job.
AO: What have you managed to change at Cisco during your work?
MC: I believe one of my outstanding contributions lies in the way we educate and empower our employees when it comes to our culture of hiring. Currently, I am leading an enterprise-wide program that trains our interviewer and hiring manager population on how to be better interviewers. It tackles subjects such as unconscious bias, fairness in the process and how to overall create a great interview experience for the candidate, as this could make or break the level of interest they might have or gain for the company.
I believe this is such an important step that we took, simply because it is in the responsibility of everyone involved in the hiring process to not only make the candidate feel comfortable but also lead by example when it comes to our conscious culture. We have already started to see improvements in the NPS score, and I am so proud and happy I am able to lead this because I really think this is here to stay.
AO: And how has the company changed over the entire time that you have been working there?
MC: You can imagine that in the span of six years, there were various changes across the board like organizational shifts for example. I think the most notable one that I personally felt was we completely re-arranged our entire HR department last year. There were a lot of teams moved around, new names for most of the teams, some of our scopes suffered as well. And yes at first it might've seemed scary because we as humans are creatures of habits. But it was actually a very exciting time, we were basically aligning ourselves better to what were offering to our stakeholders, and optimizing the way we were collaborating with each other, making us more seamless and agile.
AO: It is great that your company is actively developing, changing and improving many of the processes and structures of the company. Are there any peculiarities of the HR department at Cisco?
MC: Well firstly, our name is People, Policy & Purpose because it encompasses better what we are trying to achieve as an organization.
Employees are not just resources; they are the beating heart of the company and we place them as such.
Secondly, the way we have teams structured is more around the offerings for our stakeholders. For example, if someone would seek out to open a role and hire a new teammate, under the same leader they will find not only the Recruiting Team but also all its adjacent partners, such as Benefits, Compensation and even Recruiting Operations. This not only creates a smooth experience for the stakeholder but also enables us as teams to work more efficiently and in a more agile way.
AO: And how does the onboarding of new employees go into your company?
MC: Currently we have a 100% remote onboarding process because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The onboarding program is called Get Connected and is only the first step in the experience.
Get Connected provides a high-touch virtual onboarding experience by a dynamic team consisting of partners from HR, IT and Operations; it is designed to provide a warm welcome and to enable productivity and a sense of belonging from day one. New hires are automatically registered to take part in sessions during their first days at Cisco.
As part of this program, new hires are welcomed by a Cisco Get Connected Ambassador, hear about Cisco being the Best Place to Work and attend a virtual laptop unboxing and supported setup session on Day 1. They will come back on Day 2 to learn about Cisco tools, our global benefits, and Cisco’s Conscious Culture. Later on, in their second week, they are invited to participate in the New Hire Orientation, a two-day, facilitator-led experience meant to deep dive into the Cisco story, our core values and mission.
AO: Cisco has a very cool onboarding process and this is commendable.
Let's now talk about special activities at your company. What traditions Cisco has and what is your favorite one?
MC: Cisco puts a lot of emphasis on volunteer work and offers all employees 5 days per year to invest in different volunteering activities. This has spanned various events across the organizations, including HR.
Every year we either have a dedicated day in which the entire vertical is out to do volunteering, or we have a time span in which we do the same. I've participated in them since I joined Cisco and it is by far my favorite tradition that we have here mainly because I love volunteering in general, and also every time I have the chance to do something else with different colleagues. So far, I have sorted food in a sanctuary for rescued bears, cooked meals for the less fortunate, and helped clean up the forest.
AO: Great! We wish there would be more socially responsible companies in the world.
Miruna, how would you describe Cisco’s corporate culture?
MC: Well, we have been voted Forbes's #1 Best Place to Work globally two years in a row, so I would say pretty great 😊
Cisco cares deeply about creating a positive experience for all. We have a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone feels welcomed and celebrated, we are encouraged to embrace what makes us unique and are empowered to take bold steps and show leadership, no matter the position we are working from.
Our entire mantra of Conscious Culture reinforces that every single employee owns the culture, they play a big role in it and need to be aware of what they see around them.
This enables about not only the environment we have, but the one we want, and the experience that we desire in our day-to-day work. If you were to ask employees now to list the reasons they love working for Cisco, without a doubt, on that list will be the "people". Which is a testament that truly, employees are at the heart of this company.
AO: If the company you work on now were a person, what kind of person would it be?
MC: That's a very interesting question! I could see Cisco as that geeky kid from high school that's super into technology and sits at the cool kid's table. I would also see them as someone who doesn't necessarily follow trends but sets them. And whenever you talk to them, it would feel like an old but new friend at the same time.
AO: Miruna, can you name one (or several) HR experts whose work do you highly appreciate or take as an example?
MC: First that comes to mind is Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Not only because of the grounds she broke by being the first woman of color to lead a basketball team, but also because of her empathic approach to things and how she rose in her career on compassion, her motto is "Leading with Heart". What I also admire dearly about her is that she is so authentic that you simply are mesmerized in the first 5 minutes of hearing her talk.
Another one is Glen Cathey, SVP Digital Strategy at Randstad. I attended a session he led at LinkedIn Talent Connect in 2019, about introversion in the workplace that was phenomenal. It was the first time I personally felt heard and represented in an environment like that, and I’ve been following him and his work ever since.
AO: We have two more questions for you, Miruna.
What is the most valuable professional development advice you have ever gotten?
MC: To come as I am and not sacrifice my personality in the workplace. Authenticity is more appreciated and will help you form the right connections and so organically, the right opportunities will follow. Historically, individuals working in HR fall more in the "social butterfly" category and take their energy from multiple interactions with people.
And when I first started working, I thought this type of behavior will set me up for success, that I must become an extrovert to have a career in this field, even though my values and my way of being overall were completely opposite. But throughout the different roles, I had over my career I learned to play to my strengths: my natural tendency to listen rather than talk, my analytical skills and love to plan and build things helped me thrive in operational roles, but still in the field I know and love so dearly.
The conclusion that I draw is that you can be an introvert and still thrive in an HR career.
AO: And the last one. What was the funniest/most unusual incident during your HR practice?
MC: Oh, I have a bunch of stories from when I was a Recruiter, but one stood out because at that time I found it to be a very bizarre and simultaneously funny experience.
We all know that when it comes to interviewing, one of the top tips that we receive is to research who we will be talking to prior to the interview. Well, I had one candidate that took this to the next level. The interview started rather normal, talking about past working experience and skills, then we moved on to the soft skills discussion, and this is where it got weird. Their answers started to be oddly specific to some things I have been sharing on my personal Facebook profile; I finally figured out they looked me up on other social media channels when they quoted something I had on my Instagram account.
In the end, we decided to not go further with them in the process for multiple reasons, and when I gave them the feedback, they funnily replied with "So the Instagram thing was a bit too much, right?"
AO: Thanks a lot Miruna, for such an amazing interview. AcademyOcean wishes you good luck in your career and all the best!
That's all for today, friends. See you at the next interview!
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