Cisco CTO Monique Morrow Relates Her Inspiring Career Story in New IEEE-USA E-BOOK

Cisco CTO Monique Morrow Relates Her Inspiring Career Story in New IEEE-USA E-BOOK

BY Helen Horwitz Posted: 6 Mar 2017

When Monique Morrow was studying in the late 1970s for her undergraduate degree at San Jose State University, she wanted to be a career diplomat. Today, long after she graduated, people who have worked with this internationally known and respected technology innovator agree that her diplomacy talents set her apart.

It’s a remarkable example of transferring one’s core skills to a successful career. Diplomacy is critical in setting technology policy--a key component of what this warm and affable senior executive now does.

Currently Chief Technology Officer – Evangelist for Cisco Systems’ New Frontiers Development and Engineering, Morrow developed her passion for engineering and technology only after she graduated from college. How she developed her career is now the subject of the newest volume in the award-winning IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) e-book series. Becoming an Engineer--Accidentally, by Monique Morrow, is the 14th work in the series.

Except for the first book, which is an overview of STEM occupations, each volume is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist became interested in technology, obtained her education and developed a productive, satisfying career.

"Each author in IEEE-USA’s award-winning Women in Engineering E-Book Series was selected because she is an exceptional role model for girls and women interested in a technological career," said IEEE-USA E-BOOKS Editorial Board Chair, Leslie Martinich. Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager, and Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-books, adds, “As a group, they offer a diverse cross-section of backgrounds, and each author has a unique story to tell.”

In her e-book, Morrow recalls how her love of learning and reading propelled her through her undergraduate studies. Her education included a year at the Sorbonne, in Paris. After her graduation in 1980, and a brief stint in a check-printing factory, she took a family friend’s advice and applied for a job at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). She went to work in the company’s Engineering Data Center, where she fell in love with technology and the then-emerging internet. This new-found fascination inspired her to pursue graduate studies in information systems and telecommunications.

In 1990, thinking she wanted to live abroad for five years, Morrow accepted a position in network technology in Switzerland. Now, 27 years later, she’s still there; still an American citizen; and the frequent recipient of honors that recognize her significant contributions to information technology and social change.

With frankness, she writes about how she learned to balance the American tendency toward practicality and her fast, “just do it” approach, with her Swiss colleagues’ misperception of her as aggressive. Her boss at the time also loaned her a book titled The Little Machiavellians, a parody about leadership in Switzerland. After realizing its message--that women could not lead--Morrow threw the book at him. Then, he explained that although he considered her a change agent, he had shared it with her to show what she was up against.

Morrow’s takeaway advice about entering a new work environment, especially when it involves a different culture, is to remember to be humble, and to be open to working in ambiguous circumstances.

“There will be many moments when clarity isn’t available to you,” she warns.

The author proudly writes about what she considers one of her greatest career achievements: in 1999-2000, while with Unisource Carrier Services, she led the creation and implementation for Swisscom of what is perhaps the world’s first Multiprotocol Label Switching Network (MPLS). It’s a mechanism in high-performance telecommunication networks that avoids complex lookups, thus increasing reliability and improving performance. 

Morrow acknowledges that shortly after she joined Cisco Systems in 2000, the dot-com bubble started to burst--and with it, career opportunities. She managed to find a new place within the company, and as both the industry and Cisco settled down again, she began to advance.

“Throughout my career,” she writes, “I believe that five key qualities have been critical to my professional growth: adaptability, curiosity, persistence, humility and a multidisciplinary background.”

This e-book doesn’t focus on just looking back; as one of Cisco’s futurists, Morrow is excited about what lies ahead, and she is passionate about working with a humanitarian purpose. “This is what makes me get out of bed every morning,” she writes, “knowing that I can use technology to change the world!”

Becoming an Engineer Accidentally by Monique Morrow is available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org, at the IEEE member price of $7.99; non-members can purchase the volume for $9.99 each.

Two more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering series will be published in 2017.  Other recent e-books are:

All 13 of the preceding volumes are also available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org/and are also priced at $7.99 for members and $9.99 for non-IEEE members.

Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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