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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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Change your language

I love this video. It conveys so simply how our choice of words can radically change how people react to us.

It also shows how difficult it is to make an impact when we’re stuck in a rut of talking a particular way.

The way we use language in the technology sector is a funny old business. At one end of the scale we have acronyms galore, a list as long as my arm that I’m forever trying [and failing] to work my way through. At the other we have company names becoming common parlance verbs. Today there are millions of people around the world who Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The murky in-between is a mixture of techy specifications containing bits and bytes, or else roll-off-the-tongue phrases like broadband, plug-and-play and cloud computing that only a tiny minority of the world’s population truly understand. For many, the technology sector is amongst the worst for language that doesn’t invite people in.

This hasn’t stopped the relentless rise in the use of technology. But whilst the e-comfortable click ahead, those left behind just want to be talked to in a language they understand.

Read More »

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Taking Risks

Feel the fear and do it anyway is a commonly used phrase when trying to persuade someone to try something new. It may seem like a cliché but taking risks can actually bring great rewards.

A friend of mine has recently returned from volunteering in Asia. Someone who is normally afraid of spiders at home chose to live and work in the middle of the jungle. She slept in a hammock, had to regularly check her sleeping bag for scorpions and lived side-by-side with a whole host of dangerous insects and animals with only 12 other people around her.  The task was not only physical but mentally very challenging as well.

I’m pleased to report that she survived, and not only that, she loved it! She wasn’t the only one taking on the new challenge, people from several countries and all walks of life chose to volunteer and work together as part of a team. They went into the unknown, becoming friends with people they would never normally meet back home and putting their all into whatever work was presented to them. The results, my friend says, were remarkable and the experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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Deep Breath and… Go For It

May 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm PST

Sheryl Sandberg speaking at PBWC

“Opportunities are handed to people who reach for them. In those quiet moments when you’re not sure, take a deep breath and go for it.” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke at the Professional Business Women of California Conference in San Francisco last week.

She covered many of the topics she covered in her famous TED talk on Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders; among them, how men will put themselves forward more than women, even if they have the same ability.  She encouraged attendees to be more aggressive about reaching for opportunities, as women tend to underrate themselves.

Sandberg also spoke about how a doctor changed his teaching style after hearing her speak.  Read More »

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