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In lieu of a twin

I love using Open Minds to profile remarkable people whose achievements can’t help but enthrall us all. Often they’re people with backgrounds or characteristics that mean they’re wrongly overlooked, or certainly not nurtured to their full potential.

Not so, the incredible 9-year old twins, Peter and Paula Imafidon, who are the youngest children in the highest-achieving family in the history of Great Britain’s education system. They made history as the youngest students ever to enter high school and astounded veteran experts of academia when they became the youngest ever to pass the University of Cambridge’s advanced mathematics exam.

With a set of older super-gifted siblings in the Imafidon family too, it’s not surprising they’ve been asked if they share a ‘genius gene’. “Not so”, came the reply of Chris Imafidon, the children’s father. He credits his children’s success to the UK’s Excellence in Education program for disadvantaged inner city children.

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Disability and Technical Expertise from Cisco interns

“When I first got here, the [intern] orientation was talking about all business stuff…supply chain..and I’m a computer science major, and I was thinking, uh-oh, I’m in the wrong place.” Kelley Duran said as we settled down to talk about her internship here at Cisco.  Her classmate Samuel Sandoval had the same reaction: Honestly, I thought I was in [the] wrong group since I’m in IT [information technology]”

Internships are a great way for students to make the connection between their studies and the business world.  Combining education with practical application through internships means an easier transition into the workforce after college.  Even better is when education and personal expertise are both channeled into the right internship.

Kelley and Samuel are studying Computer Science and Information Technology respectively at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I sat down with Kelley, Samuel and their Cisco mentor Shraddha Chaplot to get their thoughts on how to create a successful internship program for college students with hearing disabilities.

Samuel Sandoval, Shraddha Chaplot and Kelley Duran spell Cisco in American Sign Language at Cisco Headquarters

Internship Projects

Samuel and Kelley interned for 11 weeks in Cisco’s Software Engineering Accessibility team.  The Cisco Accessibility team is focused on ensuring Cisco products are accessible and usable by people with disabilities, whether by design or through compatible use with assistive technology.

Samuel worked as a lead developer for real time text chat on the Read More »

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All I am asking

Is a little respect…

On Valentine’s Day 1967, as the Vietnam War was consuming news headlines worldwide, and the civil rights and women’s movements were mobilizing across the States, a young African-American woman entered Atlantic Records and opened a piano

What happened next forged its way into contemporary musical history, making a worldwide star of its protagonist.

Aretha Franklin was just 25 when she exploded onto the music scene. The song was Respect.

I’ll bet that, whatever  your age, wherever  you are from, within seconds of hearing the opening bars of this song, your feet will be tapping in recognition, your fingers drumming on your laptop.

Respect is one of those enduringly popular anthems:  the potency of Franklin’s voice, the rhythm, melody, and the universality of a message that seem to withstand the march of time. Forty years later, this song still has the power to stir emotion wherever, whenever.

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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.

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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