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Diversity Awardee Reveals Hard Work Is Not Enough.

Kimberly Marcelis, Vice President of Strategic Planning at Cisco

We’ve been pondering our collection of inclusion and diversity awards sitting in our San Jose office. Some are inspired and even practical, like the glass bowl with a plaque stating “fill with candy and share”. And then serendipitously, I came across an employee account from our recent participation at the NELI (National Eagle Leadership Institute) Awards that re-ignited the real stories behind the glass ornaments in our awards cabinet. Read More »

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Look Behind the Label

The life story of Caroline Casey, social entrepreneur, will make your heart beat faster.

It really did mine. Here she is in a TED Talk telling it with such passion I recommend you watch the video at least twice.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/caroline_casey_looking_past_limits.html

There are so many incredible things to convey about Casey. The utter self-belief she has. Her conviction she can achieve anything she wants to achieve so long as she truly believes. Her extensive fundraising through The Aisling Foundation. And her dogged promotion of the capacity and capability of people with disabilities. Casey’s mission in life is to get people to look behind the label, something she attributes to her father’s love of the Jonny Cash song ‘A boy named Sue’ and her parents decision not to label her when she was a young girl. You’ll have to watch the video to learn what the potential label was. Like Casey, I suspect had she been given it, she wouldn’t have become the believer and go-getter she is today. Casey is obviously a one-of-a-kind remarkable woman. But she’s determined that everyone else realises their capacity for being remarkable too. To paraphrase her a little, each of us needs to focus on what we can do, not what we can’t, work hard at being the very best of ourselves and take advantage of the fact we’re all extraordinary, different, wonderful people. And stop with the labels that hinder us.

Take 10 minutes from your next lunch break to watch Caroline Casey tell it so much better than me. The experience might just change how you see yourself and others.

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Cisco Black Employee Network (CBEN)

Inclusion and Diversity is fundamental to the culture and success of Cisco because we believe an inclusive and diverse workforce fuels collaboration which drives innovation which helps us meet our customers’ needs. One of the resources we have at Cisco to help us to do this are our Employee Resource Groups (for more information about ERGs please see Jacqueline Munson’s post) and one of these groups is our Cisco Black Employee Network (CBEN). Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Modupe Rouse from CBEN to find out more about CBEN and the opportunities it presents at Cisco.

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Developing Local Talent in Technology

Instanbul is known for many things—impressive architecture, mouth-watering cuisine (in my humble opinion), rich cultural history, and so much more. That’s why I was particularly thrilled when I learned Cisco’s Middle Eastern Diversity and Inclusion (MEDI) group hosted a Developing Local Talent in Technology Workshop (DLTT) at the world’s third oldest technical university that focuses on engineering sciences, Istanbul Technical University.

With a particular emphasis on philanthropic and community outreach, MEDI hopes to increase technology awareness and enhance both technical and soft skills for local talent with the DLTT workshops. During this five-day workshop at Istanbul, 100 participants from education sector, public enterprises, and private companies were divided evenly into four groups. Each group focused on one track from DLTT’s curriculum each day. Imagine spending an entire day learning from network industry experts and discussing relevant topics of interest with like-minded peers on one of the four tracks—IP Telephony, Wireless, Network Security, and Professional Development. Three to four local Systems Engineers and Global Cisco volunteer instructors were assigned to each technical track on a rotational basis.

MEDI has been hosting workshops like this since 2009, so it’s little wonder how students and Cisco volunteers from all over the world who participated in DLTT responded to this well-put together and highly interactive program.

Cisco volunteers and students at MEDI's DLTT-Turkey workshop.

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Guilford meets Nairobi

It does not matter whether you are in Guildford or in Nairobi, it seems that it is never hard to get 10 and 11 year-old girls to chat. Recently I met about 30 of them over TelePresence, (Cisco’s high definition video conferencing). The aim of the meeting was to inspire them to consider careers in IT in the future and was designed to be a question and answer session. Having introduced myself and explained how I got into the IT industry many moons ago, the floor was all theirs.

 

Questions came flooding at me and the pressure was on to make a good impression. Despite the distance between them, I was immediately struck by the similarities of the girls – all in their smart school uniform, all  smiling at me and a few girls gave me a little wave. Their respective teachers introduced the schools and that was where the similarity ended. The girls in Nairobi were from a deprived slum area whilst the girls from Guildford were mainly middle class. The questions they asked however were very different. Yes I was asked the usual questions such as “How did I get into IT?” “Do I like my job?” “What do I do?” etc .  However the girls in Nairobi wanted to know how I got work, how long did it take me to get there, how many hours did I work and then they asked me probably the most poignant question of the session. “Does your technology help people in drug rehabilitation centres?”  Wow, that question was so telling on many levels! By the way I didn’t know the answer but was able to explain how our technology Healthpresence is enabling doctors and hospitals to see more patients remotely and is extending the reach of healthcare..  The question was also in stark contrast from one of the Guildford girls  who wanted to know  what was the colour of my toothbrush! The last question asked was “ What was my most prized possession?” No prizes for guessing which school asked this one but I hope both schools took a few minutes to think about my response. I said “ it is not a possession as such but my answer is my HEALTH”. 

I then left the meeting so the girls could get to know each other better. I felt very privileged to have taken part and very humbled by the girls in Nairobi. I cannot really imagine what their lives are like on a daily basis or whether or not I inspired them but I hope they left the session with something constructive to talk about! The meeting has certainly left it’s footprint on me, more so than I expected. The children were so similar in their openness, friendliness and willingness to participate. However the use of the Cisco office would have sheltered the girls from Guildford from the harsh reality their new friends from Nairobi face each day and would have made it difficult for them to really comprehend their differences. Hopefully this would have been a good thing – the real understanding that we are not that different from each other after all!

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