Rebecca Smith constantly pushes boundaries by applying innovative marketing approaches that are designed to drive results – the perfect mindset for her job as Ciena's Senior Vice President of Global Marketing & Communications.
Rebecca has more than 25 years of industry experience and has built her career in technology with a focus on software and networking in the telecom sector. However, the beginnings of this impressive career came in an unusual way.
Rebecca grew up in Vineland, Ontario, a small agricultural town. She was raised on a peach farm that her family owned and operated. In high school, Rebecca had initially set her sights on becoming an Urban Planner.
“I thought it would be so cool to design the next great urban landscape,” she said. “In my senior year of high school, I was applying for universities, and through a twist of fate, my guidance counselor made a mistake on my application – and I ended up not applying to the university I had hoped to attend for Urban Planning. Instead, I landed in a completely different university studying Economics.”
Her undergrad degree in Economics at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, led her to an MBA from McMaster and a series of internship placements, with her first being at Nortel Networks' head office in its finance department.
“This is where I got my first exposure to the tech industry and telecom, and I was sold,” she said.
While an internship during business school gave Rebecca her first exposure to the tech industry, her first job upon completing her MBA as an Associate Brand Manager at Kraft Foods solidified her love of marketing.
“Kraft had an amazing program for its marketing new hires. We were essentially put through Consumer Goods Marketing 101 over 12 months,” she said. “We weren't taught by our marketing managers but rather by industry-leading practitioners. Advertising execs, packaging designers, persona marketers, photographers and graphic designers, integrated campaign strategists, and even the chefs in the Kraft test kitchens!”
But, after two years working on Kraft’s salad dressing business, Rebecca realized she missed technology and the telecom industry, and the opportunity to be part of marketing innovations that fundamentally changed how people and businesses connect. This eventually led her to senior customer-facing roles within Amdocs, including Vice President of Product and Solutions Marketing and Vice President of Sales for its North American Division, and later to Ciena as Vice President of Global Portfolio and Programs Marketing.
In her current role as a member of Ciena's Executive Leadership Team, Rebecca has global responsibility for all aspects of Ciena’s marketing, branding, and thought leadership initiatives. She is also responsible for driving engagement across key stakeholder groups, including customers, partners, and employees.
A natural-born mentor, Rebecca is motivated by the opportunity to lift others up so that they can realize their full potential. Something she is committed to as the executive sponsor for the Women at Ciena employee resource group. And she has a knack for bringing different teams together to successfully collaborate and focus on a common goal. She also believes that investing in the development of emotional intelligence is key. “As you move up in an organization, this can make or break a person's progression,” she said.
Her ultimate career advice?
“Be open to change. Your career is not a perfect plan, and change is inevitable. Be ready to pivot, or you might miss the best opportunities. And look for leaders who you aspire to be. I have been fortunate in my career to have had amazing managers – people who model the type of leader I want to be.”
Rebecca says her friends, family, and of course her two dogs, give her pure joy every day. And in her spare time, she gets her greatest fulfillment from travel, exploring new cultures, and reading.
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