Debbie Gross, Chief Executive Assistant to John T. Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco, learned of the Star Achievement Series® through an administrative peer. She took advantage of the opportunity to take the Star Achievement Series® Levels I and II classes, which was created and facilitated by Office Dynamics International Founder and CEO, Joan Burge. Energized and inspired by the courses, Ms. Gross knew she had to find a way to bring this program to the Cisco administrative team.
Cisco has a vast professional development library which is available to employees, but there were no courses at that time that specifically addressed the skills needed to improve and advance for employees on the administrative support team.
Challenges in communications between administrative team members and supervisor(s), lack of collaboration across departments of the organization, the inconsistent level of professionalism, and a sometimes an evident apathy to development—were some of the major roadblocks to bringing the team up to the level of support required to augment the success of managers and the overall organization. Time management issues, the prioritization of projects and an aversion to working outside one’s department to resolve issues were also evidence of an inefficient administrative support team.
Realizing her administrative team was capable of so much more, Debbie Gross drew up a strategic plan to bring the Star Achievement Series® to Cisco. In 2006, Ms. Gross became the first Certified Trainer of the Star Achievement Series® Level I course at Cisco and began the determined effort to bring the program to Cisco’s Learning and Development Group within the Human Resources Department. It took approximately one year to convince the Learning and Development group to approve the program. After the program ran successfully for several years, the Star Achievement Series® (Level I and Level II) was formally folded into the Learning and Development program offerings for employees.
Cisco employees wishing to enroll in the Star Achievement Series® must meet two specific and stringent criteria before receiving approval.
- Employees must receive their manager’s approval to pursue the course.
- Employees must receive a rating of ‘Strong’ in the employee rating system.
Debbie Gross teaches one Star Achievement Series® per year, and limits the course to no more than 30 employees per class.
Measuring Value and Success
The Star Achievement Series® curriculum developed by Joan Burge, Founder and CEO of Office Dynamics International, has positively impacted the role and perception of administrative professionals in the Cisco workforce.
When asked why Cisco chose the Star Achievement Series®, Debbie Gross, CEA stated, “There’s no other comprehensive curriculum available for executive assistants. Joan’s curriculum is always relevant and has continued to evolve with our roles.” As of 2013, 369 administrative professionals at Cisco had completed Level I of Star Achievement Series®.