When I was preparing to return to work from maternity leave it appeared to me at the time that I had a work-life balance choice -- Full time or part time? Career or job? Businesswoman or mother? Financial security or insecurity? I felt torn. I had the career, but now I had the kid too, how on earth was this going to work? I was already an expert at the work-life balance, but this was going to need more. I had jested with friends and colleagues about work-life integration but suddenly I had my first inkling that this might just need to apply to me when I started to work through exactly what this choice was going to mean to my life.
My son cannot be dropped off at nursery before 8am -- But I need to leave earlier than that to be in the office for a 9am meeting.
My son has to be picked up from nursery before 6pm -- But I need to be on a call with US colleagues at 6.30pm.
I really want to take my son to swimming lessons -- But I work full time and I don’t want to burn half my free time at the weekend.
I want to meet with colleagues around the world -- But I cannot keep getting overnight babysitters to allow me to travel.
I want to meet regularly with my team -But I struggle to justify the travel time it will burn.
I want to be able to spend time with other mums as my support network -- But they only meet up on Fridays.
I want to spend more than 30mins in the evening with my son before he goes to bed -- But I want to be successful in my career and achieve my potential in my current job role.
I want to commit enough time to both my work AND my son. Surely this was an impossible task.
Well, it was hard returning, but what materialised quite quickly was one clear thing. I could make it work. I discovered that all the tools and flexibility that Cisco provides that I had previously taken for granted were quickly proving to be the glue that would allow me to do both. Smartphone, Laptop, Webex, Bluetooth car kit, home virtual office, video telephony, video conferencing, Telepresence, instant messaging, presence enabled apps, unified communications, cloud based corporate apps, to name but a few, phew! – all contribute to me truly being able to work from anywhere, anytime.
Sure, sometimes I have the mobile phone on speaker while I bath my son and yes, I spend most of my car journeys on the phone (hands free of course). OK, I often work in the evenings catching up on email and I have to manage my diary with laser precision. But guess what, I am loving my job, I am loving every minute I spend with my son and one year on, the application of technology in my working environment is allowing me to do both. It works, and it works because of the technology, and I didn’t have to choose between mother or career. I chose a third way, to try and do both, and I firmly believe I made the right decision and have achieved a work-life balance that works.
So what I have learnt is that every single one of us has a life outside work and these cool tools we have, and these cool companies that value our output, not our input, are changing our working lives forever. Forever and for the better and allowing us to choose both in a way we have never have before. And I choose to do both, because it is the 21st century so lucky for me, because I can.
One of the things that Cisco prides itself on is its commitment to Inclusion and Diversity and indeed this blog is a small taster of just some of the great work Cisco employees are doing around the world to create an inclusive and diverse environment. We are committed to fully embracing the human network in all its multiplicity, fostering innovation and talent at work. In so doing, we better serve our customers and engage with our partners in the worldwide marketplace with the strength of working together.
The under-representation of women in SET – science, engineering and technology – is still a concern of today. The latest statistics I could find were from 2008 when women were only 12.3 per cent of all employees in SET occupations; this is an increase of 2.0 percentage points since 2003.* Figures from UK-based organisation WISE -- Women into Science, Engineering and Construction – suggest that this figure may have raised to 14% but that is only an increase of less than 2%.
Cisco acknowledges this struggle and that is why we invited 100 teenage girls, aged 15 to 18, to meet nine inspirational women, who now work in the IT sector after scientific studies, and these women shared their experiences, motivations and educational background. The event, was simultaneously held in two places – Cisco France’s headquarters and Cisco France’s Research and Development centre – and the theme of the day was “Digital Generation: I build tomorrow’s world.”
One of these inspirational women was Ellen McArthur who established the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in a yacht record in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds. I have personally had the pleasure of hearing Ellen speak before at a previous Cisco event and I can tell you in all honesty that she epitomises the word “inspiration”. Talking to the girls on TelePresence, she shared her experiences as a sailor and also her dedication to environmental protection through her foundation -- “Ellen MacArthur Foundation -- Rethinking the Future”. One of Ellen’s aims was to encourage the girls to discover that discover that science and technology can transform society in a sustainable way. As someone who started off her career by saving her school dinner money for eight years in order to buy her first boat and went on to break a world record, Ellen illustrated the power of dedication, hard work and most of all belief.
The girls also participated in a number of workshops on the day including an interactive workshop where they could brainstorm with Cisco France employees on the topic “The city of the future” around 5 subjects: waste, food, mobility, education/culture and energy.
Overall the event was a great success. Feedback from the girls was extremely positive – “just amazing”, “loads of idea for our future”, “I was very fond of Ellen MacArthur’s speech” and “the speakers were very interesting and fascinating”. The team is ready for the 6th edition next year.
This spring, Cisco hosted the Disability Matters Conference at company headquarters in San Jose with Springboard Consulting and Northrop Grumman. I sat down with Pamela Dirks Burke, the Cisco lead organizer, to find out what her team did to prepare:
If someone was preparing to host a similar event, what should they know?
When you host a conference centered around disabilities, you have to build-in assistive technologies rather than respond to requests. For the Disability Matters Conference, we arranged for CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) technologies, a real time captioning service, as well as sign language interpreters. There were multiple digital displays that displayed the captioning, the interpreters and the speakers.
What are the subtleties around arranging these aids?
You want to find transcriptionists and interpreters who are familiar with the meeting subject matter--particularly if it’s technical or if there are a lot of acronyms. For Disability Matters, Read More »
I love this video. It conveys so simply how our choice of words can radically change how people react to us.
It also shows how difficult it is to make an impact when we’re stuck in a rut of talking a particular way.
The way we use language in the technology sector is a funny old business. At one end of the scale we have acronyms galore, a list as long as my arm that I’m forever trying [and failing] to work my way through. At the other we have company names becoming common parlance verbs. Today there are millions of people around the world who Facebook, Google and Twitter.
The murky in-between is a mixture of techy specifications containing bits and bytes, or else roll-off-the-tongue phrases like broadband, plug-and-play and cloud computing that only a tiny minority of the world’s population truly understand. For many, the technology sector is amongst the worst for language that doesn’t invite people in.
This hasn’t stopped the relentless rise in the use of technology. But whilst the e-comfortable click ahead, those left behind just want to be talked to in a language they understand.
I have the pleasure of sharing with you a YouTube video of the “Printemps des Femmes”/”Women’s Spring Forum” a gender diversity event, initiated by Cisco and co-organized by 9 companies which took place in France on March 21, 2011.
The idea for this event came from Cisco. Sandy Beky, a Business Operations Manager in Cisco’s European Services organisation and an Inclusion and Diversity Ambassador, attended the 2010 edition of the Women’s Forum Global Meeting where she met many diversity leads from other corporations. Sandy felt that these diversity events often attracted the same attendees and wanted to create an event to provide women (who contribute to gender diversity related employee resource groups) the opportunity to network with other women to share and exchange their corporate best practices in the area of gender inclusion and diversity.
In true diversity style, nine different companies -- Areva, Bain&Company, Cap Gemini, Cisco, Deloitte, Lathams&Watkins, Nissan, Orange et Sodexo – worked together to virtually organise the Women’s Spring Forum. Between 10 to 15 female representations from these companies attended the afternoon event, which began with a plenary session facilitated by a well known speaker in France; Veronique Preaux Cobti, Founder and Managing Director of DIAFORA which specialises in promoting gender diversity in corporations. Veronique gave her audience top tips on how they can widen their professional and personal network, explained about the importance of networking and the barriers women can impose on themselves. This plenary session also gave women hints and tips on effective networking; for example how to introduce oneself at the event and how to continue networking after attending an event like this one, and Veronique encouraged women to practice this both during the event and after the event too.
Following this session, attendees were encouraged to attend practical workshops on the following topics: Personal Branding, Mentoring, Telecommuting, Assertiveness and Leadership. Each workshop gave women tools that they could immediately implement and take back into their everyday life. Feedback from the event was extremely positive – 88% of the women scored the event 4 or 5 on a scale from 1-5.
As a young female employee of Cisco, I cannot stress enough the importance of networking events like the Women’s Spring Forum. Cisco is founded on the principle of networking -- Welcome To The Human Network after all! And although women make up approximately 60% of graduates, there is still a shortage of women going into the technology sector. Networking events like the Women’s Spring Forum show the opportunities technology companies like Cisco can offer to women. I myself do not have an engineering degree and if you asked me to fix your computer or explain to you how a computer works, I wouldn’t be very useful! However, Cisco has provided me the opportunity to not only put my strength -- including creativity, interpersonal skills and being able to take a complex idea and make it simple – to good use but also do what I love the most – communications. And Cisco has also opened my eyes to new opportunities like Inclusion and Diversity. It is one of my goals in Cisco to share my experiences with other young women and to encourage more females to apply for jobs in technology.