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Honoring Leadership: Advocating for Team Members with Disabilities

Two Cisco leaders were just recognized with high honors for their advocacy of inclusion and diversity at Cisco and within the community – leadership that champions the needs of our team members and friends with disabilities.

Greg Akers, senior vice president of Advanced Security Research and Government, and Mayte Cubino Gonzalez, a technical services manager in Belgium, are co-recipients of this year’s Diversity Best Practices “Above and Beyond” award from the Network & Affinity Leadership Congress (NALC). The NALC Diversity Award for Affinity Group Leadership is given to “individuals whose grit and determination has led to the creation, success and/or turnaround of their network/affinity group.”

One of Cisco’s key business objectives is to recruit, retain, and empower diverse, top talent through a culture of inclusion, diversity and collaboration. As members of the Connected Disability Awareness Network (CDAN) at Cisco, Greg and Mayte have made tangible progress towards this goal. Through their work on global workplace accessibility projects and initiatives, they are empowering people with disabilities and creating awareness of the unique perspectives disabled people bring to the workplace. Read More »

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Preparation, Optimism, Goodness: 3 Pearls of Wisdom + 1 from the Conference for Women (2015) in Philadelphia

Have you heard the expression, “People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel?”  Last week, I had the opportunity to participate with more than 8,000 women (80 from Cisco) — in a one-day conference sponsored by Cisco Systems, Inc. and other companies.  There were many amazing speakers who shared their stories of perseverance, optimism and goodness.  I don’t recall everything these presenters had to say, but I certainly remember how they made me feel.  Here are just a few of the great pearls of wisdom from the event.Carli Lloyd_soccer star

Preparation – It’s what defines champions. @CarliLloyd

Carli Lloyd is a star on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Most Value Player (MVP) of the 2015 Women’s World Cup champion.  She was always the best player on each of her youth soccer teams, but when she reached the collegiate level, she knew she had to step-up her performance if she was to be a leader.  It was her personal coach who told her she needed to not only improve her soccer skills and game technique, but also her character.  Ouch!  This was tough feedback to accept.  Her coach was wise enough to give Carli this needed correction, but also hope and a goal:  If she Read More »

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Changing the Equation

It’s been a little more than a year since we created Cisco’s first Office of Inclusion and Collaboration (OIC).   And it’s been a milestone year.  Today, we’re releasing our annual Corporate Social Responsibility report (CSR), which details Cisco’s high-level priorities for being socially and environmentally responsible, and I’m honored to share the highlights of our progress within Our People section of this amazing document.  As a critical part of Our People Deal, Inclusion and Collaboration are featured prominently in the report.  I invite you to dive in and understand what we’ve accomplished in FY15 and how we’re changing the equation for creating value moving forward.CSR Photo1

What does it mean to change the equation?  For Cisco and the OIC, it means we continue to expand our view on the factors driving inclusion, diversity and collaboration.  It means we leverage fresh perspectives, thought leadership, and data and analytics to gain new insights. It means we use those insights to inform bold new strategies.  We change the way we talk about inclusion, diversity and collaboration, the way we measure our progress, and the way we connect our business strategies and our inclusive practices. And we align with a higher vision of value creation in the work we do to drive transformation through our people.

A Foundational Year with Milestones. Changing the equation was a top priority in this first, foundational year for the OIC. We began by looking at the legacy work of the Global Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) function we were transforming, including over 400 well-intentioned programs designed to support diversity and inclusion across our company.  And while we recognized the progress made through those programs over the years, we knew that more programs would not result in more impact or move us forward in our higher vision of value creation. Read More »

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How Great Quotes Fuel Positive Thinking

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a great quote.  It seems that I’m not the only one – take a look at Twitter and you’ll see a huge number of handles relating to quotes.  Do a quick search on Google and you’ll find endless “Top Quotes” lists. Go to the Forbes home page and you’ll be greeted by the “Quote of the Day.”

Why Do We Love Quotes So Much?

Quite simply, they inspire us.  In a Harvard Business review article, “Why Inspiration Matters,” author Scott Barry Kaufman explains: “In a culture obsessed with measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the important role of inspiration.”

Inspiration isn’t all squishy stuff – it can drive very real results.  Kaufman’s article details studies that prove that inspiration facilitates progress toward goals, promotes creativity, and even increases well-being.

That works for me!  For much of my life, I have turned to quotes when I need inspiration, or a mantra, or to steel myself in challenging situations.  Here are some of my personal favourites and some insight into how they’ve served me.

1.  “It is better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission.”

― Grace Murray Hopper

At school, the pupils who weren’t destined for university were trained as typists.  I wanted to learn how to type but was told I couldn’t.  Luckily the teacher who ran the typing class was also my economics teacher.  She promised to smuggle me into the class and enter me for the exam.  She said, “We won’t ask for permission, we’ll beg forgiveness” when you pass the exam.  Typing turned out to be one of the most useful skills I’ve ever learned.  Not only did I get paid work as a typist at the local hospital during the school holidays, but I can touch-type at speed on a computer keyboard – a very valuable capability in our digital world.

This quote has served me well throughout my career.  After all, if we play it safe all the time, we might never try something truly innovative.  Given the agile, fast-paced environment that we work in, we often don’t have the time to hold off on decisions until permission has been granted.  That’s not to say that begging for forgiveness hasn’t been tough for a rule-follower like me!  But I’ve found that the reward usually outweighs the risk.

  1. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

―Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”

This quote got me through my toughest mental endurance challenge and my most demanding physical challenge:  getting my doctorate and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  I managed both by telling myself that each step, however small, got me closer to my goal.

When it comes to business, sometimes we set goals for ourselves that seem too enormous and therefore unachievable.  However, by breaking a big task down into bite-sized chunks, we can stay motivated over long distances or periods of time.   Let’s not forget that all achievement comes with hard work.  This is particularly helpful advice to people who are starting their careers and have a long way to go to reach their goal.   Perseverance is key!

  1. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

―John Lennon

Have a direction, not a plan

In work and in life, I believe we should have a direction, not necessarily a plan.  I’ve found that if you set yourself a direction, your brain will work to make it happen in ways that you probably can’t or didn’t imagine.  Plans can be too restrictive and we experience disappointment when they don’t work out.  Instead, if we set a clear direction, we experience joy when circumstances take us down the right path.

For example, years ago I wanted to work in Germany, but was told I needed to “earn my stripes in the UK” before getting a transfer to Germany.  As it turned out, I ended up being sponsored by a Swiss German company at university, getting a work placement with them in Germany during my “gap year,” and making contacts then that eventually led me to starting work in Germany the weekend after I graduated.  I couldn’t have planned or predicted that path, but it perfectly matched my direction.

  1. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

―Steve Jobs

I have made “love what you do” my mantra because life is too short to do a job that doesn’t inspire you or work with people who don’t inspire you.  Loving what you do does wonders for your psyche.  According to a Huffington Post article, loving your job drives engagement which is defined as “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor (high levels of energy and mental resilience), dedication (being strongly involved and challenged by your work), and absorption (when you’re working, you’re in the zone and time passes quickly).”

What if you don’t love your job – should you quit?  Maybe not.  Research shows that great work is produced when people focus on doing work that benefits other people.  A Forbes article, “Do What You Love? Or Love What You Do?” explains this phenomenon:  “The Great Work Study showed that 88% of projects that earned awards began with an employee asking their own version of the question, “What difference could I make that other people would love?”… They were focused on the recipient of their work—their customer, their colleague who depends on them, their leader who trusts in them, the community who expects their support, or others who benefit from their work.”

  1. “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” 

―William James

We all need to feel that what we do makes a difference.  This quote inspires me to trust my knowledge and have confidence in my opinions.  As Chris Dedicoat’s, Cisco’s Executive Vice President for Worldwide Sales, says, “Together, knowledge and confidence give you the foundation to experiment and take risks.”

How do you gain confidence in your career?  When I speak on this topic, I always touch on four key elements.  First, read a lot!  This helps build your knowledge and inform your point of view.  Second, encourage feedback and then act on it. Next, pick good mentors.  Be clear about what you want a mentor for (functional expertise, advancing your career) then pick someone who models that behaviour.  Finally, be self-aware – know what you stand for and build your personal brand.

For me, a quote a day keeps the blues away.  It’s my daily dose of positive psychology – helping me cultivate what is best within myself.

What are your favourite quotes? Find a quote that inspires you and share it in the comments!

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The Power of Interconnected Partnerships – Internally and Externally

Conexion Badge updated2I have always been a passionate believer in The Power of Partnerships to improve diversity in the talent pipeline, the workplace and leadership positions at enterprises everywhere. My experience shows that partnerships must be formed both within the enterprise and outside of it in order to make a real impact on diversity.

This has been made more obvious to me in the last month than at any other time in my 20-year business career. The Power of Partnerships – both internally and externally – can make a difference, and I’ve seen that difference accelerated when these partnerships interconnect to advance Hispanic  representation in the high-tech industry.

For example, on Oct. 21, Conexión, the Latino Employee Resource Organization (ERO) at Cisco, recognized its corporate history of progress, innovation and impact with a Cisco TV broadcast featuring presentations by Cisco leaders such as Guillermo Diaz Jr., Cisco’s CIO; Shari Slate, our Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer; and, Maria Dincel, a Marketing director who oversees Cisco’s sponsorship of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. We also invited Gina Rudan, a Leadership Coach at Google, who inspired everyone with her insights on how each of us can unleash our “inner genius” by combining our specific skills and experience with our unique passion in life. Read More »

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