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Collaboration is Hard: How to Work within Conflicting Points of View

August 2, 2011 at 12:40 pm PST

“If someone is very abusive, or very aggressive, I always try to think, why is this person so aggressive? And sometimes by even making a joke, or by trying to get more information about the person…you break the ice. And sometimes you have some surprising results”

Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, spoke on collaboration at Cisco’s San Jose campus recently.  He told a story about his time as an openly gay Dutch parliament member:

I was still a member of the national parliament and a leader of my political party. We had created a new government and I was on television every night. So people usually said something when I walked down the street. Usually friendly.

Dittrich then recounted a less friendly encounter he had with a man as he walked from the train station to parliament: Read More »

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A world beyond clichés and labels

Whether it’s in a television comedy or a real life scenario, we’ve all experienced those excruciating moments when someone tries too hard to be culturally appropriate and ends up getting it wrong. Many of us avoid attempting shows of cultural awareness for fear of the offence we have the potential to cause.

In a global marketplace, many brands (including our own) are looking to build brand awareness and customer loyalty in new markets where social mores and cultural histories are in marked contrast to their own. Yet customers in new markets can often share needs and characteristics with those in originating markets, making a global brand offering eminently possible.

Read More »

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A geek is a geek wherever you are: TechWomen 2011

July 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm PST

“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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Simply Making a Big Impact

Often doing something simple can make a big impact.

First impressions are powerful. You have only a few seconds to make a favorable one. A business card is one of the first tangible ways we present ourselves and our company to others. It makes a statement of not only who we are, but what our company stands for. Imagine doing one effortless act that can make a big difference and immediately open doors for you and your company the first time you meet someone.

I have found that having my contact information printed in Braille on my Cisco business card has greatly influenced my interactions with others. I had received a Braille card at a conference and when I returned to the office, asked our vendor to offer Braille as an option for all Cisco employees. It was a simple change to include this option and it has provided an easy way to show people outside of Cisco our commitment to creating an inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute to their full potential.

Every time I give someone my card, it generates a conversation about Cisco’s inclusion and diversity philosophy and how proud I am to work for a company that focuses on these values. I’ve been able to explain how our culture helps ensure that many different viewpoints and ideas are brought to the table, so we can create the best and most innovative products and services. And people I don’t know, immediately get a glimpse about what is important to me.

Having a Braille business card has also given our sales people with a way to connect better with our customers. By showing right away that we share similar values with them, it has started conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

In one case, one of our sales directors met with a customer in the Middle East for the first time. After handing the customer his Braille business card, it triggered a rich discussion about Cisco’s commitment to people with disabilities and philosophy of including everyone. That led to a deeper connection with the customer and opened the door to more opportunities.

Better connections with customers. More sales opportunities. Deeper conversations with colleagues and potential talent. A quick way to show Cisco’s and your commitment to inclusion and diversity. Big and lasting impacts. And all from the simple act of having a Braille business card.

What small, simple things are you doing to create an inclusive world?

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Disability Matters with Pamela Dirks Burke

June 2, 2011 at 10:05 am PST

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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