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India: Transforming Promise into Performance

Seven years ago, many people (including my mother-in-law) thought I had made a career-ending decision to accept a high-risk assignment and relocate to India. My mission:  build from the ground up Cisco’s second headquarters, a Globalization Centre East in Bangalore focused on innovation, talent and partner development that envisioned 10,000 employees in three years, including the top 10% of worldwide talent. My charter included developing a world-class technology campus that also served as a showcase for incubating and advancing Smart City services worldwide, and to become the most relevant ICT company in India.

Was it the right decision?

Wim #1Although half a world away from Cisco’s corporate headquarters in the Silicon Valley, I thought the new job was still full of great promise. India was and still is the world’s largest democracy, had a growing talent pool, a zest for innovation, a co-operative government, aspirational middle class and a potentially huge economy purring along at 8% annual growth.

In four years, we partnered with national and local governments as well as an ecosystem of commercial businesses to architect and develop a fully networked campus.The Smart + Connected Community inBangalore integrated building systems with IT systems and applications onto one IP network, enveloped by artfully designed buildings and collaborative work spaces.

Today, the 1-million-square-foot Globalization Centre East campus employs more than 11,000 people, houses Cisco’s Research and Development, IT and customer support teams with the best talent in industry. The campus also meets my original charter Wim #2as the incubator for validating our industry-leading Smart + Connected Communities, especially Smart Cities, which today has projects on nearly every continent worldwide, encompassing more than 90 engagements.

All that has been extremely rewarding to see, but was it the right decision?

We achieved every critical objective except one: growing ICT technology throughout India itself. In my four years of living in India and after a number of subsequent trips revisiting there, I now realize that the promise and opportunity of India can be unpredictable.  After several years of nearly double digit growth, India’s economy spiraled down, experienced high inflation, a weakening rupee, allegations of government corruption and financial policy decisions that spooked the international investment community.

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Why Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Matters for Girls

I am writing this blog as the 2014 recipient of the IEEE Women in Engineering Region 8 Clementina Saduwa Award named after an amazing woman whose life was cut short in 2007. On a personal level, I am extremely passionate about the possibilities that technology presents for young girls and aspiring women. As a CTO for Cisco Services, my own role is concentrated on the use of technologies to develop architectures that will delight our customers. Why is technology interesting to me?  It’s what one can do with the technology as an enabler to solving problems and to creating opportunities.

I became interested in technology because of my curiosity and encouragement from wonderful individuals who helped pave the way for me. My personal career highlights are numerous where risk taking and passion for making a difference in this world are common attributes. Our world needs young girls to create their own career path in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). A career in technology can be fun!

My mother was role model and encouraged me to be the person I want to be. Coming together to solve a problem and to create opportunities – we can rise above gender discrimination -- but it’s about being bold in the process and having the courage to do so -make no doubt about this fact.  I dream of a society where such a topic is no longer an issue but so engrained in our DNA !

What is Cisco doing?

Cisco has been very active in the ITU’s Girls in ICT initiative, where girls from secondary schools or universities are invited to spend the day at the office of ICT companies and government agencies so they better understand the opportunities the ICT sector holds for their future see.

ITU will have a live webcast on April 15 2014 at 12:30 CET.

Cisco wants to encourage girls to consider ICT as a valuable career option. We understand the value of diversity in the workforce and it is our aspiration to build a gender -balanced workforce. At Cisco, two of the top technology positions are held by women: both the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of Cisco are female. “If you cannot see it, you cannot be it!”

At Cisco, we take our commitment to making ICT career opportunities open to all seriously. We understand the value of a diverse workforce and believe that many more girls would pursue careers in ICT if they were better informed about the many different types of jobs available within the sector. By 2020 there will be approximately 50 billion things connected to the Internet. At its essence, the Internet of Everything is the networked connection of people, process, data and things…and is set to create an unprecedented level of disruption across industries, globally.

In fact,  Cisco offices around the world are getting ready to host #GirlsInICT Day 2014! Girls to create ICT jobs of tomorrow #STEM #GirlsInIC

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Cisco Celebrates International Girls in ICT Day

April 7, 2014 at 11:18 am PST

Women earn 57% of all U.S. undergraduate degrees but only 18% of undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees, according to the National Center for Women in Technology. Yet according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates, more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings will exist by 2020, with only enough computer degree graduates to fill 30% of them.

And globally, women comprise less than a third of workers in the computer science, engineering, and physics fields in some of the world’s key emerging economies, according to a report by Women in Global Science & Technology.

Attracting more girls and women to the technology field benefits women, their families, their communities, and the businesses they work for. Women are powerful catalysts for change in any society: When women are able to earn an income, they typically reinvest 90 percent of it back into their families and communities.

To help tap this valuable talent pool and attract more women to careers in the information and communications technology (ICT) field, Cisco is participating in Girls in ICT Day – an international event organized by the by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

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Educause: Bringing Together Technology and Education to Invest in Our Future

It’s amazing to think about the way a traditional classroom operated only a few years ago.  As Renee Patton recently pointed out in her blog post, there were rules, there were barriers, and they were all kept within the confines of an educational institution.  As technology has advanced, those rules have been challenged, barriers overcome, and an entirely new era of learning has emerged.

The collaborative nature of education, educators and learners has allowed new technologies to thrive and innovation to accelerate.  We’re flipping classrooms, implementing mobile learning programs and developing entirely new ways for students to connect and engage.  And we’re looking with excitement toward a future that will continually change the way we teach and learn. Read More »

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Cisco’s Palestine Investment Commitment Featured in Forbes Magazine

August 13, 2013 at 7:30 am PST

The August 12 issue of Forbes magazine features Cisco’s investment to fuel job creation and economic development in the Palestinian information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

Cisco CEO John Chambers on the cover of Forbes

After visiting Ramallah in 2008, Cisco CEO John Chambers pledged to help develop the ICT sector in the Palestinian Territories.

“We do this because we want to change the world. And we don’t do it on a small scale. It’s nice to help a village, but the key is how do you help a country?” Cisco CEO John Chambers says in Forbes.

In 2008, Cisco began outsourcing projects from its Israeli office to three companies in the Palestine Territories. Those firms have since reported a 65 percent increase in their workforces.

Forbes contributor Richard Behar writes, “Cisco’s efforts created a ripple effect, bringing in other American tech giants, which also use their Israel offices to work across the border. And as U.S. companies got Palestinian companies comfortable with working with entities based in Israel, large Israeli tech companies have been able to establish relationships, too. … HP now outsources some of its research and development to the West Bank. Microsoft Israel has started putting Palestinian engineers in Ramallah on its payroll.”

Indeed, according to a June 2012 report on the Palestinian Investment Commitment by Mission Measurement, Palestinian ICT firms reported a 64 percent increase in international client work from 2009 to 2012.

Cisco ultimately contributed US$15 million to the initiative, including millions of dollars in incubation, venture capital, and equity funding for ICT companies, and a capacity building program for entrepreneurs.

Read the complete Forbes article featuring Cisco’s Palestine Investment Commitment.

In a separate piece, Behar describes Cisco’s Tamkeen.net capacity building program for Palestinian entrepreneurs, which provides training and mentoring for CEOs and managers. Behar attended two of the training sessions “in rooms filled with Palestinian CEOs and mid-level managers being coached by Israeli Jewish tech experts.” Seventy Palestinians from 24 different companies have participated in 100 days of trainings since 2011.

Read about the Tamkeen.net capacity building program in Forbes.

The video below features Tareq Maayah, founder of Ramallah-based Exalt Technologies, one of the three companies that undertook outsourcing work from Cisco.

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