How Meraki Set Me Up for Success
Igniting Passion in New Hires from Day One
No matter how old you are or what stage of your career you’re in, starting a new job inevitably evokes a combination of excitement and trepidation. After all, you’re leaving a familiar place and familiar processes for a new, unknown environment. Good companies recognize that a stellar onboarding experience involves more than simply handing new employees a shiny new computer, showing them to their desk, and making them get to work.
That’s why at Cisco Meraki, we do our very best to set new hires up for success by having every new recruit undergo a comprehensive two-week training program, which we call Ignite. Having just been through the program about two months ago, my (fond) memories of Ignite are still fresh, and I can confidently say that Ignite has set a great stage for my new career. Here are just a few ways Meraki made me feel at home as soon as I started.
1. Making training and onboarding a priority
Everyone in my new hire class would definitely agree on one thing: our first two weeks were a whirlwind. The topics discussed in Ignite ran the gamut — we covered everything from networking fundamentals and product training to overviews of our finance and support teams. More than once, I heard references to “drinking from a firehose.” Thankfully, my manager knew how important these first two weeks were and mercifully refrained from dumping a full workload on my lap starting on day 1. The emphasis during this time was on learning, not on “earning my paycheck” (though to be clear, we all were paid our normal salaries).
While many of the Ignite training sessions made sense for everyone in our hiring class, others were tailored for specific audiences, like the sales team. Fortunately, Meraki made sure to make the program flexible by letting new hires attend only those sessions most relevant to their roles. I worked directly with my manager to choose the sessions that would benefit me the most and made sure to attend those. For example, I was able to attend a Sales Roundtable, normally a sales-only session, to ask veteran salespeople what types of content they’d like me to prioritize in order to drive high quality leads. As a new hire, I appreciated this flexibility because it made me much better prepared to tackle challenges head-on once I truly started in my role.
2. Providing a warm welcome to the team
Most new hires have a few weeks’ gap between when they sign the job offer and their first day at work. It’s easy for the euphoria around the new opportunity to somewhat fizzle during this time, so Meraki made sure to provide my fellow recruits and I with a genuinely fun welcome to the company. Our 20-strong new hire class got to enjoy an introductory “welcome to Meraki” speech from Meraki’s General Manager, Todd Nightingale; a tour around our beautiful office; endless amounts of swag (a Meraki tradition); and my personal favorite, a new hire happy hour on our perennially sunny deck.
Because we were all grouped together in a single class regardless of office location or team, I had the chance to meet colleagues who would go on to work in Sydney, London, or San Francisco, and across different departments including sales, product, and engineering. It almost felt like the first few weeks of college, when everyone around you is new and excited to socialize with one another, and it was a great way to make some awesome friends.
3. Giving us an overview of the Meraki structure and teams
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Meraki was a tiny startup where everyone could sit around a single table and see one another work. Though Meraki has grown much larger since its humble beginnings, what hasn’t changed is our collaborative approach to everything we do. A large part of sustaining this culture is being intimately familiar with everyone’s scope of work.
During Ignite, we had the opportunity to hear from representatives of nearly every department, including channel sales, event marketing, brand, people ops, and supply chain, just to name a few. We learned not only what every department does, but more importantly, why we might reach out to each one. This point is critical; for example, as a marketer, it’s good for me to know that I should check with the supply chain team before running a marketing campaign promoting free access points (APs) to ensure that we have those APs in stock. Ultimately, learning about the entire organization — not just the department any one employee works in — fosters a cooperative and connected culture, which I believe has helped make Meraki so successful.
4. Educating us about the Meraki #fullstack
It may seem strange, but many new Merakians outside of engineering have little to no background in networking. Meraki mostly focuses on aptitude, rather than high levels of technical knowledge, when recruiting and hiring new employees. Indeed, on my first day, I knew nothing about technologies like SD-WAN, hub-and-spoke VPN, or automatic RF optimization. To this end, one of the biggest focuses of Ignite was product and technical training.
During Ignite, product managers and engineers gave us presentations on Meraki’s full stack of solutions, ensuring that no matter our team or our job responsibilities, we had a solid foundation of product knowledge. The real learning came, however, when we were given hands-on time in Meraki’s product lab and were guided step-by-step on setting up and configuring an actual network of our own. Since all Meraki products are managed from a single dashboard, this gave me a peek into how the different products work in concert with one another.
Finally, our Ignite experience was bookended by a certification and demo. In order to “pass” training, we all had to complete a written test and give a 30-minute live demo of the Meraki Dashboard. While somewhat nerve-wracking, these evaluations gave a real sense of importance to the whole process and provided us with a sense of accomplishment at the end of the two weeks.
5. Leaving nothing up to chance
New hires universally loathe HR-related administrative tasks, like setting up payroll, signing up for health benefits, and configuring computer passwords. Luckily, Meraki’s wonderful HR and IT folks scheduled time to cover these normally yawn-inducing topics and helped us get all set up. Whether it was helping us configure 9 different accounts (with 9 different passwords), giving us an overview of the “radical candor” model for workplace interaction, or educating us about the intricacies of our 401K plan (spoiler: it’s pretty generous), nothing was left up to chance. The result: after our two weeks of Ignite were complete, my fellow new recruits and I could focus on bringing value to Meraki, rather than worrying about how to sign up for commuter benefits.
While every organization will have its own unique onboarding processes, I was impressed by the thoughtfulness that went into Meraki’s training program. I believe that any company, large or small, could learn from what we do here at Meraki.
If you’d like to join the team and experience Ignite for yourself, check out the Meraki jobs page!