Cisco Systems, Inc.
Senior Manager Global Events Business Operations, Strategic Meetings and Technologies
Hometown: San Jose
College: San Jose State University
"We're always testing and bringing out the latest and greatest on the bleeding edge of event technologies."
As a child going on family vacations, Carolyn Pund remembers there being two distinct sides of the back seat of the family wagon—divided by suitcases.
“My side had all my Barbies and my stuffed toys just lined up, and I’d lay in the middle so it wouldn’t mess anything up,” Pund says. “It was nice and perfect.”
Her sister’s side, on the other hand, looked like chaos, all pillows and toys “laying everywhere.”
“She was enjoying her space and I was making sure everything was in order,” Pund laughs.
In other words, some people are just born to plan.
Like many in the business, Pund didn’t go to school thinking she’d become a planner, let alone a global events business operations manager for a company as large and prestigious as San Jose-based Cisco Systems, Inc.
In fact, her career didn’t really exist yet. Pund and others like her were instrumental in developing the field of event planning. For Pund, it was a natural fit. She was drawn to events and in turn, they were drawn to her.
She was given her first planning assignment in college when she took a job running an apple blossom festival. Her manager “sat me down my first day and he had a binder—a big event binder,” she says. “He said ‘I’m going to show you how to manage an event.’” He did, and she was hooked.
“When you have an inclination for it, you get so lost in it that it doesn’t feel like work,” Pund says. “You just keep doing it because you’re driven to get it done.”
Pund has worked at several high-tech telecom/networking companies in Silicon Valley, with roles in travel, procurement, corporate meetings and event planning.
When she joined Cisco in 2008, charged with developing a global strategic meetings management program, she asked how much Cisco spent on meetings and events.
“They couldn’t give me a number,” she recalls.
So she got busy organizing. She looked at what her team did versus what the teams did in events and marketing. “There was so much alignment and overlap, and a duality of job roles, that we said, ‘Why are we sitting in two different organizations?’” she says. “We should put our two teams together and become the core of excellence for Cisco events. And that’s what we did.”
She also worked with the finance department to revise general ledger codes to identify all meetings and events spend across the company.
Today, Pund’s department can identify where all conferences are taking place at any one time, which has a dual purpose in addition to spend reporting in the event of any major health, weather or economic issue that could impact their events.
And that makes a big difference when measuring the effectiveness of Cisco’s events, which range from intimate white-glove-delivery customer advisory boards to Cisco-Live!, the education and training event that some affectionately refer to as “nerdvana.” (It drew 27,000 participants last year.)
After Cisco-Live! last year, Deutsche Bank upgraded Cisco’s stock rating and its stock rose, she says.
“It had a lot of measurable successes,” resulting in sales-qualified leads, Pund says.
In the time Pund has been at Cisco, a lot has changed. Events are much more targeted. “There’s a lot more strategy placed in why we go to events and why we spend the money. There’s much more governance in doing things the Cisco way,” she says.
Her department has “put in place true business partners” referred to as 360 Partners because Cisco has a full-circle relationship with its vendors. That way vendors, such as hotels, understand Cisco’s policies and events run more smoothly.
The joint partnerships “make events come to life,” she says.
Today, Cisco hosts meetings and events in 140 countries and most continents. (There isn’t much action in Antarctica.)
Pund still loves her job. She loves the fact that her weekly meetings take place on a conference call with employees in several different countries; she loves mentoring her people and watching them get kudos; and she loves the variety.
“The one thing that is so dynamic about events is that every event is different,” she says. “You’re never delivering the same product. We focus on aligning our events to meet company objectives, and in addition to creating the most strategic engagements, we are accountable to measure both the spend and business value of each event.”
As organizational manager for events, she sees the direct results of what she does at a company level.
“You’re making a difference,” Pund says. “You’re not making widgets day after day. You’re not just transporting people. You’re doing things that are making a difference in the business outcomes. I think that’s probably my biggest satisfaction.”