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Disability Matters with Pamela Dirks Burke

June 2, 2011 at 10:05 am PST

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 »

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Change your language

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.

Read More »

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Check out the video for Cisco’s Women’s Spring Forum Gender Diversity Event

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.

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YOU are your own best Business Card

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Cisco Connected Women’s event “YOU are your own best Business Card” presented by Guest Speaker Laurel Herman, Founder and Managing Director of Positive Presence. Based on the premise that as you walk through the door, it is you who wins the deal, the job -- or whatever else is at stake, Laurel’s session provided women (and men too) with top tips on how to present a positive presence and maximise their impact. Read More »

Taking Risks

Feel the fear and do it anyway is a commonly used phrase when trying to persuade someone to try something new. It may seem like a cliché but taking risks can actually bring great rewards.

A friend of mine has recently returned from volunteering in Asia. Someone who is normally afraid of spiders at home chose to live and work in the middle of the jungle. She slept in a hammock, had to regularly check her sleeping bag for scorpions and lived side-by-side with a whole host of dangerous insects and animals with only 12 other people around her.  The task was not only physical but mentally very challenging as well.

I’m pleased to report that she survived, and not only that, she loved it! She wasn’t the only one taking on the new challenge, people from several countries and all walks of life chose to volunteer and work together as part of a team. They went into the unknown, becoming friends with people they would never normally meet back home and putting their all into whatever work was presented to them. The results, my friend says, were remarkable and the experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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