Leader insights: Rebecca Smith on embracing change
Who knew from growing up on a family-owned and operated peach farm in the small agricultural town of Vineland, Ontario, Canada, Rebecca Smith would eventually find her way to Marketing in the technology industry.
Growing up in this idyllic setting, Rebecca Smith (pictured left), Ciena’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications, was first inspired to become an Urban Planner.
“In high school, I really wanted to become an Urban Planner,” said Rebecca. “I thought it would be so cool to design the next great urban landscape.”
When the time came, she set off to apply to Canada’s best university for Urban Planning, only to find out there had been a mistake on her application and the wrong code had been submitted.
Rebecca didn’t let this set her back and she quickly pivoted to pursue a degree in Economics at McMaster University. While completing her studies, Rebecca became a research assistant for one of her professors, who was working on a book at the time. Ultimately, the research and analysis that Rebecca helped with got published with credit to her name.
“I knew through my Economics degree that there were aspects of business that intrigued me,” said Rebecca. “I had enough exposure to business that it made me curious, so I decided to pursue an MBA focusing on Management of Innovation.”
As Rebecca was working toward her MBA, she landed an internship at Nortel Networks in the Finance department. At this time, the telecommunications industry was taking off. It piqued Rebecca’s interest as she followed up her Nortel experience with co-op placements at Sprint Canada, working in Product Management.
Upon completing her MBA, Rebecca was offered an Associate Brand Manager role at Kraft Foods, working on the Kraft Salad Dressing side of the business. In her first year with Kraft, Rebecca, and all the new Marketing hires, were put through an immersive training program – basically "Marketing 101" – taught by industry-leading practitioners in marketing strategy, advertising, and even the chefs at the Kraft test kitchen.
“When I was offered the opportunity at Kraft, I thought: this could be how I really start to learn Marketing,” said Rebecca. “Although I learned the theory of Marketing at university, I learned the practical application of Marketing strategy at Kraft."
But, after two years of working at Kraft, Rebecca longed to be back working in the technology industry.
“I missed the high-tech world and the opportunity to be a part of something that could fundamentally change how people and businesses connect," said Rebecca.
Soon, she found herself working in marketing at Solect, a small IP billing startup. Amdocs soon acquired that company. “Solect’s marketing team essentially became the nucleus of Amdocs’ Marketing function at the time, so we had to evolve and scale as the company grew,” said Rebecca. “It was the best thing for me because I was young in my career and got to learn and try a lot of different things. It gave me an early appreciation for different roles in Marketing and empathy for the challenges of the different functions.”
From there, Rebecca ran the Portfolio Marketing team at Amdocs and later moved to its sales organization. From Amdocs, Rebecca joined Ciena, becoming a key member of our Marketing team, working as Vice President of Global Portfolio and Programs Marketing, and now our Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications.
Looking back on her career journey, Rebecca would tell herself and others early in their careers to 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,” explains Rebecca. “It’s hard to see when you’re in the moment, but all those pivots I made led me to where I am today. If I had just planned everything in a straight line, I don’t think I would have the breadth of experience that I do now.” - Rebecca Smith, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Communications
In her leadership role, Rebecca gets motivation from helping her teams be the best they can be.
“As a manager, it’s the opportunity to lift someone up to realize their full potential,” said Rebecca. “As an organizational leader, it’s most rewarding when I can bring different teams together to collaborate and achieve a common goal."
Outside of her working life, Rebecca finds the greatest joy in spending time with her family, friends, and of course, her two dogs.
At Ciena, Rebecca has also been an active member and leader in our Women at Ciena employee resource group. She is currently our executive sponsor, helping empower women in the workplace and promoting allyship throughout our company.
We are pleased to have Rebecca as a tenacious leader who strives to help others succeed. Her drive to view unexpected change as an opportunity to learn and grow, and not as a setback to your career journey is an inspiration to us all.