In Personal Board of Directors, top business leaders talk about the people they turn to for advice, and how those people have shaped their perspective and helped them succeed. Previous installments from the series are here.
Jeetu Patel, a top executive for Cisco Systems Inc., got highly unusual help from a mentor that ignited his early career trajectory.
Mr. Patel was a 23-year-old assistant analyst at a startup called Doculabs Inc. when a bank chairman lent him $250,000—based on the banker’s belief in aiding young people with fire in their bellies. Mr. Patel used the money to join Doculabs founders in buying out an investor in the firm.
That mentor’s sizable generosity especially exhilarated Mr. Patel because “such an experienced businessman believed in me,” he remembers. “Mentors are like coaches who are really invested in you and your career success,” observes the executive, now 49.
Successful management stints at Doculabs and other technology companies prompted Cisco to hire Mr. Patel as a senior vice president in August 2020. He reports to Chuck Robbins, chief executive of the networking equipment giant headquartered in San Jose, Calif.