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5,6,7,8… Cisco Step Challenge – encouraging UK employees to get involved in the Olympics

Two weeks ago I shared my interview with Sue Hunt, Director of Strategic Programmes at London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games on the subject of Inclusion and Diversity – what Inclusion and Diversity means to LOCOG and how they encourage it while faced with the challenge of an immovable deadline.

As part of our role as proud supporter and network infrastructure provider of London 2012, Cisco UK is involved in a couple of internal activities to encourage its employees to get involved in the Games. One of these activities is the Cisco Step Challenge, a 4-week challenge to encourage people to take the internationally recommended 10,000 steps per day. Providing you walked the minimum 70,000 steps per week, you were put into the prize draw for a pair of tickets to see a Paralympic Games event.

Employees across the UK joined together to formed teams and participated in the challenge. It wasn’t about fundraising or getting sweaty and struggling to find time to fit in extra exercise. It was about participation, improving your health and well being, team work and above all, having fun. A Facebook page and internal community was set up for participants to share words of encouragement and “top tips” for their fellow steppers such as park further away from your office building, use the stairs and not the lift, dancing burns more calories than walking and if you walk with children you walk more steps as you have to go back to get them every 200 yards!

The Step Challenge was very successful in engaging a large number of employees across the UK to participate in a sports challenge and raising awareness about how far you have to walk to achieve the recommended average of 10,000 steps. And one of the great things about it was that you could participate regardless of your age, gender, fitness levels, ethnicity, religion and belief or sexual orientation.

Inclusion and Diversity is a key component of Cisco’s culture and we believe that a truly inclusive and diverse workforce is critical to the success of our company and our people. The Step Challenge was advertised as “a challenge for everyone” and strongly encourage that everyone who wished to attend did so. Unfortunately we did not have anyone with a visual disability participate in the challenge and the team intends to look into this as a key area of focus for us next year. I think this is a real lesson for us all, that it’s not enough to open an opportunity to everyone – we need to actively encourage Inclusion and Diversity and incorporate it into our strategy for success.

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Interview with London 2012 Committee on Inclusion and Diversity

Cisco is the proud supporter and network infrastructure provider of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The 2012 Games aim to be the most connected games to date and Cisco are supplying the routing, switching, firewall, IP telephony and Software as a Service platform to fulfil this aim and transform the Olympic experience for the global audience. Click here to access Cisco’s London 2012 page.

The strong and collaborative partnership Cisco has with LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) is not just confined to a business relationship. We are both fully committed to Inclusion and Diversity – understanding the importance of diversity and the value it brings and embracing difference whether that’s age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief or sexual orientation (you may recall my previous blog post on this topic).

And we aren’t just talking about fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce – it’s also about using Inclusive and Diverse practices to better serve our global customers and partners. For LOCOG, this means all the people around the world who will be flying into London, one of the most diverse cities in the world. And LOCOG is up against an additional challenge – its immovable deadline.

I decided to find out a bit more about this topic and reached out to Sue Hunt, Director of Strategic Programmes at LOCOG. If you have any comments about this post, please post them below.

Cisco UK is also involved in a number of internal activities to encourage its employees to get involved in the London 2012 Olympics. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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Doing Both – The Life of a 21st Century Working Parent

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.

Building the Female Talent of Tomorrow’s World

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.


Disability Matters with Pamela Dirks Burke

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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