Jason Pernell is the enthusiastic and energetic Worldwide Vice President of Sales at Cisco Meraki, the American-based IT company that aims to make IT easier, faster, and smarter for everyone. Pernell’s 15-year tenure started in college at a Cisco job fair presentation. The seminar effectively changed his life and he graduated within three years to secure his first position as a Sales Specialist with the company. Pernell then moved on from sales specialist to an account manager role and after six years, he was ready for leadership and took on-field regional manager (RM), leading the number one team in the US. After that, he took a data center leadership role as a specialist.
Finally, he was offered a position as WW VP of Meraki Sales at Cisco Meraki, a completely new role that yields a ton of responsibility. Though this would be something new to him, with the support of his mentors, sponsors, and board of directors, Pernell was encouraged and empowered to think exponentially and not linearly, rising to lead one of the company’s superstar teams. Now, he leads a team of over 900 employees that supports more than 600K customers worldwide, working to simplify technology so passionate people can focus on their mission.
Learn more about Pernell’s journey and how his upbeat and solution-oriented approach is helping drive Cisco Meraki to the forefront of internet technology.
BYP: What are some key takeaways from your experience?
Pernell: More than the business results, I love the culture I was able to build with my teams over time. The diversity we have built within the organization, with gender, race, geography, and backgrounds make us better.
The key takeaways I have learned from my journey are to challenge yourself to think exponentially and not linearly. You also have to pick skills that you want to enhance. For me, leading by influence was key – together, we go further.
BYP: What about your achievements and key milestones?
Pernell: As VP of Sales for Meraki, I was able to lead us to the best quarter and year to date! Cisco also helped me achieve my dream of adopting baby Tamia in November 2020. It was truly one of the most fulfilling and beautiful experiences of my life. Every child deserves a chance to grow up in a safe and loving family, so I strive to continuously raise awareness for the ongoing need for adoptive families.
BYP: Were there any challenging moments in your career, and if so, how did you deal with them?
Pernell: I’ve faced many challenging moments in my career. When I was in the process of building a previous team, I received some pushback to hire more employees closer to headquarters thinking that would help drive better results. However, I believed that focusing on building a team with [a] full spectrum of skills, no matter their location or background would lead to greater results. I went with my gut, and we were immensely successful as a team. At the end of the day, I was holding myself accountable for the success I needed to drive. Advice is good, but sometimes the best guidance comes from trusting yourself and your journey.
BYP: What are your hobbies or volunteering experiences?
Pernell: I played basketball growing up and I coach my son’s basketball team now. Continuing this passion allows me to combine my love for sports and inspiring local teams. When I was in the eighth grade, I was recruited by a local private school during a championship game and that opened an amazing opportunity for me to attend that school.
I care deeply about giving back to the community. Giving back can give you a sense of purpose and a chance to better the lives of the people around us. Recently, my team and I at Meraki hosted a sleep out for Covenant House and raised funds to support youth experiencing homelessness. Coming together to create this positive impact was truly fulfilling.
BYP: What is a personal motto that drives you professionally?
Pernell: We founded a philosophy called ‘Best Time in Career,’ where our goal is to have our employees reflect on their time in Meraki as the best time in their career. We provide professional development programs for our employees and encourage growth within our teams. I am also a big proponent of making your own opportunity, instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you.
BYP: What inspires you?
Pernell: Family inspires me. Coming from humble beginnings in Tucson Arizona, my family taught me sacrifice. My father John was black, and my mother Anna is Mexican. I had an amazing sister, Alicia, who is no longer with us, but I carry with me every day in my heart. We leaned on each other, and I am continuously inspired by my parents for their grit and the sacrifices they’ve made for us. It is a testament and reminder of where I come from. Currently, I reside in Houston, TX with my beautiful wife, two sons, and a daughter. Growing and raising a family has given me some of the most enriching moments in my life. Every day, I am inspired by them to be the best I can be. They encourage me to be creative, allow me to view life from new perspectives, and spread so much joy and laughter in my day-to-day. Most importantly, they have inspired me to be a better leader. Spending time with family has always been a priority for me, and I am grateful to be at an organization that puts work-life balance at its forefront.
I am also inspired by the people at Meraki. I have been so fortunate to work with and lead some of the best teams I could ever wish for. Every day, I am blown away by the passion and relentless “can-do” attitude that Merakians bring to the table. Their drive and commitment to our mission is the reason for our success, and I will always be deeply inspired and energized by them.
BYP: How do you process/celebrate your accomplishments?
Pernell: I credit my team, above myself, for my accomplishments. I like to celebrate my accomplishments with my family and friends and of course my team. I know that without them embracing and trusting what I do, I would not be able to achieve the outcomes I want to drive. It is important to me that I share my accomplishments with my people – family, friends, team, community.
BYP: Did you receive assistance from mentors/senior leadership?
Pernell: Yes, all the time – I still do today! Behind every great leader is a great mentor. I believe that mentorship is a two-way street – leaders can learn from their mentees just as much as their mentees can learn from them. I like to have two mentors within the company and two mentors outside of the company.
BYP: Name some of the ways you invest in yourself to continuously improve your craft.
Pernell: I continue to train and enable myself in leadership, professional salesmanship, etc. by listening to Blinkist and reading consistently. Learning never stops! I continue to invest in my ability to connect with others. I believe in nourishing my holistic self, so mental and physical health is very important to me.
BYP: What are some of the strategies in place to further representation within senior spaces in your establishment?
Pernell: As an Executive Sponsor for Connected Black Professionals, an employee resource organization at Cisco, I am a strong advocate for networking and recruiting candidates from diverse communities and ensuring diverse interview panels. But it doesn’t stop there. Once they are in the company, we need to make sure those voices are heard and represented and create an environment where they feel they belong. The best teams I’ve led in my career have been the most diverse ones. When you bring people together from different backgrounds and experiences, you have the ability to create something truly meaningful.
BYP: Are there any books that have inspired you (both fiction & non-fiction) regarding self-development that you would recommend to our network members?
Pernell: Power of Positive Leadership by John Gordon and The Energy Bus by John Gordon.
BYP: What legacy would you like to leave behind and why?
Pernell: As the first African American VP of Sales at Cisco, I want to have an imprint on the business and our people. In my current role, I was able to make an imprint by leading Cisco’s cloud networking organization to the lead motion for Cisco. On the people front, I want to influence and inspire in real-time. I believe in being present for my team and that small gestures make a big difference – whether it is celebrating milestones in life or encouraging passions and hobbies. I want to impact my people in a positive way.