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Deloitte Ride Across Britain – Creating a Human Network to Help our GB Paralympics Team Get to the 2012 Games

Last month, 60 Cisco employees from across the UK & Ireland took part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, an epic and challenging 9 day cycle ride starting at the most northerly point in the UK (John O’Groats in Scotland) and finishing at the most southerly point in the UK (Lands End in England). The aim of the event was to raise money to help our Great Britain’s Paralympics team get to the Games in 2012.

For me, this event has a great “Inclusion and Diversity” story threaded through it. With 60 Cisco employees taking their bikes out on the road there was a wide cross section of people involved – men and women of different ages, with a range of cycling experience between them from beginner to expert, from different Cisco offices across the UK.

And one of the great aspects of the event was that participants were able to choose how far they wanted to cycle. We had three cyclists who were able to complete the full 9 days covering a total distance of 974 miles, a relay team of 3 completed each day with 2 out of the 3 of them being on the road at all times, 3 riders cycled for 5 days and several riders who conquered Scotland. But the event was also opened up to a wider group of participants who weren’t open to take on such distances and just wanted to cycle 1 leg of 1 day, about 35 miles.

There were also 3 disabled riders who participated in the cycling challenge, including acclaimed Paralympian Danny Crates. One gentleman became the first hand-cyclist to take part in Ride Across Britain and his determination to complete the full 9 days was a real inspiration to the other riders.  

In addition to our 60 road cyclists, there were also 10 virtual teams competing against each other for the most miles cycled, the most money raised and the best team name. As you can see from the photo, a TechnoGym exercise bike was set up in every Cisco UK&I office and together the teams rode 2216 miles, raised £2230 which is equivalent to over £1 per mile!

The 60 riders created a true “Human Network”. There was no hierarchy; everyone was on a level playing field and like a flock of geese, the riders at the front created an “uplift” for the other riders to cycle quicker and easier because they were travelling on the thrust of another. Those “geese” that fell back through tiredness or injury were supported by other “geese” who stayed with them until help came. Using Mapmytracks we were able to connect our road riders with our virtual riders and the various social networking feed, which further connected and enhanced our Human Network.

Feedback from the event was extremely positive. Our riders really enjoyed the employee engagement the event created and felt truly part of the Cisco family. They enjoyed connecting with people they had never met or worked with before and sharing a life-changing experience. Once riders completed their ride they would hug each other and celebrate their amazing achievement.

For me, Inclusion and Diversity is about opening up opportunities to everyone regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief or sexual orientation; it’s about creating a non-hierarchal, diverse, open culture to foster growth and innovation and creating a Human Network. I think the Ride Across is a great best practice of how we can encourage Inclusion and Diversity in our own workforces.

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A geek is a geek wherever you are: TechWomen 2011

“This trip was worth everything I left behind for it. Now I have 36 sisters.” Thekra Dwairi is one of 37 women to participate in the inaugural TechWomen program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program paired women in Silicon Valley with their counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading technology companies.

Cisco had the honor of hosting the closing session for this 5 week program at its San Jose, CA headquarters. Each of the mentees presented their key technical and cultural learnings as well as their action plans for when they returned to their home countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza.

Loubna Haouam of Algeria

Loubna Haouam discusses her goals upon returning to Algeria: exchanging knowledge, encouraging women to learn English and providing computer access

The mentees ranged widely in terms of their backgrounds.   Some work for international corporations, while others are local start-up founders.  Some are world travelers. One woman mentioned that this is her first time out of her hometown!  It was humbling to hear about the challenges these women manage on a day-to-day basis.  Just applying for the TechWomen program was a challenge for Egyptian participants.  The application deadline, February 1, was at the same time that the government shut down the internet—happily, an extension was provided. Read More »

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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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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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