Marleese Attilakos is the Commercial State Sales Manager for Cisco Australia and New Zealand, based in Melbourne.  Marleese has been in the ICT industry for 20 years, with a diverse set of skills under her belt as an analyst, sales executive and sales leader, as well as working in operations and the channel. She was recently promoted to Regional Sales Manager and recently won the Shining Star award at the ARN Women in ICT Awards.

Marleese shared some insights from her career in ICT with us over a virtual coffee.

How did you come to work in IT/technology? A friend’s sister started a job at a global technology firm. At the time I thought the technology industry was a place for technical roles, and lab coats. I was surprised when I saw her wearing a power suit, and realised there was a lot I didn’t yet know. I was so intrigued when I uncovered her role encompassed strategy, technology and relationship building, rather than being technically focused. A role came up in the industry and I was all in, starting my own journey and a few of my own power suits! I have never looked back.

What makes you proud to work in the technology industry?

Technology is life changing. I have worked with customers who have used technology to create better health outcomes for people, as well as cases where technology has facilitated connectivity during times of need. This makes me proud to have a role in an industry with the power to create change. The access we have by working in technology is life changing.

What has surprised you most about working in the industry?

The opportunities to give back to the community. This includes the time and financial investment we are able to share, and at Cisco this includes a broad range of inspiring initiatives such as the Networking Academy, helping to train the next generation. It’s not just about the products, people play such a crucial role in enabling innovation and you don’t have to be technical as many skills are transferable across industries.

What tips can you share with others looking to join ICT?

I have been fortunate enough to have amazing managers and mentors during my career. For many years I was the only female in my team or only female in the customer room. I didn’t focus on the difference, I spoke up and participated using my difference to bring different point of views. My advice is to be yourself, don’t try to emulate someone else. And find yourself a mentor and sponsor!

As a shining star, what are some traits or skills that have helped you to succeed?

Continue to adapt, educate and reinvent – never be comfortable, stay curious and continue to learn. Recently, I completed the Cyber Security Management course at Swinburne University to upskill myself. When building relationships, always work to make the conversation about the customer and demonstrate empathy – they will be a customer for life and your relationship will evolve. Be there for the hard conversations as well as the wins. Get comfortable talking about your achievements and skills. Showing vulnerability makes us human and relatable. I urge you to right down all your achievements in life, you will surprise yourself!

Looking back at the start of your career, what’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself

Don’t feel like you have to earn the right to speak up, especially if you are early in your career. New ideas and diverse thought should be embraced and welcomed irrelevant of age and experience. Always have an elevator pitch ready, you never know who you will bump into and don’t want to miss an opportunity to introduce yourself.

“Continue to adapt, educate and reinvent – never be comfortable, stay curious and continue to learn.”