What's your superpower?

2018-May-14

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photo of Christine with her new hair cut.Christine sporting her new summer hair cut.

Spend five minutes with Christine Heckart and you will know she is a big-picture thinker. You know, the type of executive with a clear and global view of the industry.

So, when asked which one of Cisco’s six culture points most resonates with her, our SVP of Business Entity & Product Marketing doesn’t hesitate. “I’m definitely a ‘change the world’ kind of girl.”

Changing the world, she says, is the reason she came to Cisco in December. She adds that it is the why behind each of her career moves.

“Before I join a company, I always start with the whys. Why does the company exist? Why does it matter in the world? Does it understand its customers’ whys?” she says. “That’s why I wanted to work here. I truly believe we are entering into the age of networks—and Cisco is an icon in the networking industry. It’s clear we have the right vision and the right set of competencies and assets to help customers, cities and governments change the world. We have done it before, and I think we have the opportunity to do it again.”

Career Journey: From Brighton to the Bay Area

Born and raised on a small farm in Brighton, Colorado—located about 25 miles northeast of Denver—Christine developed an appreciation for discipline and hard work early in life. In fact, by the age of 12, she was working more than 40 hours a week in the summer pumping gas and servicing cars (cleaning windows, checking tire pressures and oil levels) at her family’s gas station. She continued working at the service station during summers all the way through college, attending nearby University of Colorado in Boulder.

photo of Christine with her husbandChristine with her husband Doug who have been married for 30 years.

After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics, she went to work as a product manager and marketing manager at Wiltel. While there, she launched the industry’s first frame relay service as well as the first managed internetworking service (ironically, for Cisco). Ultimately, this created what would become a billion-dollar industry. Her first taste of “changing the world.”

Over the next 25 years, Christine would hold senior leadership positions at TeleChoice, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NetApp, ServiceSource and, most recently, Brocade. In 2014 and 2015, she was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Tech by the National Diversity Council. In 2016, she was named one of the Top 100 Silicon Valley Female Leaders by Silicon Valley Business Journal. Last year, she earned the Marketers that Matter Award from The Wall Street Journal.

This experience has enabled Christine to see the networking industry from every angle—software, services, hardware. It has fueled her belief that—as she runs our BE product marketing teams—networks are what matter most today. Not single networks, mind you, but the total. What she calls “network of networks.”

“It’s these networks of networks that enable companies to create value and bring network effects inside their business model,” she says. “They use them to connect their products, customers and partners.”

This, she says, is what you see with industry leaders such as Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and Facebook.

“Cisco is synonymous with networks. We have amazing technologies that simplify and automate infrastructure complexities. And we have the industry’s most valuable sales organizations,” she adds. “All this gives us unprecedented credibility. That’s why our opportunities to change the industries—and change the world—are so great.”

Finding Individuals’ “Superpowers”

While Christine’s ultimate work goal is to change the world, her greatest personal career satisfaction has come from investing in people.

“I’m a strong believer that everybody has one or more superpowers,” she says. “One of mine is seeing the potential in others that they do not see in themselves.”

As such, she has spent much of her career helping young people go to college. In addition to mentoring people in and outside her organization, she often flies youngsters from around the United States to Silicon Valley so they can “at least get a taste” of what’s possible career-wise.

“It’s a passion of mine to invest in individuals’ future and help them see further and think bigger about their own potential than they might otherwise,” she says. “I think seeing younger people you have helped become successful leaders is the greatest motivator.”

In her spare time, Christine enjoys painting, specializing in spray paint sci-fi scenes like this.
She also paints in acrylic for friends, charities and her home gallery.

“You would never know this about Christine but …”

  • Her teenage hero was Star Trek’s James Tiberius Kirk—aka Capt. Kirk of the Starship USS Enterprise.
  • She finds inspiration in humor—particularly cartoons.
  • Her favorite author is Frank Herbert, who wrote the Dune series.
  • If she could have any talent, it would be to be a great singer, because, she says, “I’m really terrible.”
  • She listens to a broad range of music. “I dig everything from Eminem to pop to country and western.”
  • She doesn’t eat wheat, dairy or sugar. “I’m the exact opposite of a foodie. For me, food is only fuel,” says, confessing only to a rare splurge of dark chocolate.
  • She has written and published two technical books, “The Guide to Frame Relay Networking” and “ATM [asynchronous transfer mode] for Dummies.” She has also written a novel titled “Core Truth,” which she hopes to one day get published and turn into a trilogy.

Growing up, she dreamed of becoming an astronaut or a fighter pilot. That was, until she got glasses. Ultimately, she decided on becoming a CEO. “I still have room to grow in that regard,” she laughs.


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