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The Power of Interconnected Partnerships – Internally and Externally

Conexion Badge updated2I have always been a passionate believer in The Power of Partnerships to improve diversity in the talent pipeline, the workplace and leadership positions at enterprises everywhere. My experience shows that partnerships must be formed both within the enterprise and outside of it in order to make a real impact on diversity.

This has been made more obvious to me in the last month than at any other time in my 20-year business career. The Power of Partnerships – both internally and externally – can make a difference, and I’ve seen that difference accelerated when these partnerships interconnect to advance Hispanic  representation in the high-tech industry.

For example, on Oct. 21, Conexión, the Latino Employee Resource Organization (ERO) at Cisco, recognized its corporate history of progress, innovation and impact with a Cisco TV broadcast featuring presentations by Cisco leaders such as Guillermo Diaz Jr., Cisco’s CIO; Shari Slate, our Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer; and, Maria Dincel, a Marketing director who oversees Cisco’s sponsorship of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. We also invited Gina Rudan, a Leadership Coach at Google, who inspired everyone with her insights on how each of us can unleash our “inner genius” by combining our specific skills and experience with our unique passion in life. Read More »

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13 Tips to Inspire Your Inner Leader

Female Leaders Cisco Japan

Lots of people think of the number 13 as unlucky, but sometimes, it can be a LUCKY number.

It was for the 13 women at Cisco Japan who were chosen to participate in a program called Project Quantum – a year-long program that would help them take quantum (rapid) leaps and accelerate their leadership development.

The 13 were so inspired by what they experienced during their training that they wanted to pay it forward to other women (and men.) So they decided to put their thoughts on paper – 200+ pages and 5 chapters of them – in a book called Discover the Aspiring Leader In You.

“I’m very fortunate to be a part of the journey with those 13 passionate ladies! They’ve got the most out of the learning opportunities and now they are giving back to the rest of Cisco employees, including males and females! By reading this book, you can join and enjoy the journey together!” says 山中朋子Tomoko Yamanaka, Inclusion & Collaboration Manager.

“I want to create an organization that can continue to create new values where people can shine as much as possible,” says Rutsuko Yoshida, a cross-functional product manager for Cisco who participated in the program “If I could tell what I got through this program, it would be that Cisco is a wonderful company that knows the importance of inclusion in innovation, these women are now my role models, mentors and friends, and that if I want to climb up, I have to challenge myself.”

Cisco Japan women leaders

The 13 women chosen to participate in Cisco Japan’s project quantum were inspired to share what they learned!

Here are 13 tips straight from the book and the women that wrote it that you can use to inspire your inner leader.

  1. Enjoy change. It is important to see change as a friend. Change does not go away. Change is an opportunity to learn new things. Learn to adapt, learn to lead in a new environment. Have fun!“Since the company gives me some authority, I can work in a relaxed manner even when there’s tension.” 吉澤 浩美 Hiromi Yoshizawa, Senior Manager Technical Services
  1. Make things fun. Work, challenges, new project new tasks, new targets…. It is easy to get overwhelmed, bogged down. So much to do, so little time. We need to remember the fun, the excitement, the joy that comes with the effort on working on ourselves. Be creative: Find ways to bring fun and joy into everything you do!“Always keep passion and motivation for work and enjoy every minute to move forward.” – 上野 由美 Yumi Ueno, Sales Business Development Manager Collaboration Architecture.
  1. Welcome opportunities. Stand up. Take the challenge. Overcome your fears and hesitations. New opportunities come to you to help you grow and develop. Make the most of it.“You can achieve multiple tasks by not pursuing too much completeness, but rather thinking to avoid jams and work effectively.” 佐藤 菜穂子 Sato, Naoko Echigoya
  1. Go one more step. Obstacles can appear to block your way to success. Persevere and do not give in. Gather the strength and go one step further. You impose on you your own limitations. You have the power to expand your mind and go the extra mile.“Stepping up is fun! I want to engage myself in anything with a strong passion.” 田名部 朋子 Tomoko Tanabe, Senior Account Manager Public Sector Sales
  1. Speak up. Whatever the reason, remember that if you do not speak up, you will not be heard. If you do not voice your thoughts, the discussion will be less rich, less diverse, less innovative.“I can discuss a good program or tactic for the organization when doing my work. There is not rigid formality but freedom.” 原田 慶子 Keiko Harada, Marketing Manager Japan Marketing
  1. Set your goals high. Who knows the extent of your boundless potential? Nobody has the answer to that question. You can stretch and achieve more than you can possibly imagine, if only you take the time to set goals that are inspiring and challenging.I want to forego easy decisions, and respect the image of myself that I aspire to” –吉田 留津子 Rutsuko Yoshida, cross-functional project manager for Advanced Services.
  1. Elevate your point of view. Look at the issue from the point of view of your manager, of your manager’s manager. Look at problems thinking a bit higher, a bit broader.“It’s important to think about what the other person really wants by standing in his/her shoes, and produce results.” –千田 恭子 Kyoko Senda, Business Operation Manager APJC Business Partnership
  1. Have a plan B. Not because you plan to fail or give up, but because a Plan B will give you the freedom and extra peace of mind to know that you will know what to do regardless of what happens.“My work policy is always find the best solution for creating a win-win situation.” 前原 朋実 Tomomi Maehara, Product Manager, Enterprise Networking Division
  1. Be a skillful communicator. Are you a skillful communicator? If yes, you know that communication is a flow: a flow of words, a flow of meaning and a flow of understanding. And the flow works both ways. Communication is a skill that is ever aware, ever present, always conscious of the other party.“I want to consider things according to someone else’s perspective, such as by understanding the customer’s needs.” –長崎 友美 Yumi Nagasaki, senior account manager, Global Service Provider.
  1. Have the courage to say no. It could be your boss, your partner, your friend or a project manager… They have an ask from you. They want you to comply, they want you to agree. There are times when YES is indeed the answer to give. But there are times when you need to prioritize and for one reason of another you need to push back, you need to say NO.“In the future, I want to focus on ’Dan sha ri’ (decluttering). Organizing my belongings by thinking about whether I need each object to help me better organize my mind. There are many people who have capacity to take on more, even when they are busy.” 佐藤 麻子 Asako Sato, Program Manager, Service Sales
  1. Have a mentor. A mentor is like a friend, someone you can trust. A mentor is not necessarily a coach. It is someone you can be open with, someone who has your best interest in mind at all times, and with whom you can share your dreams, aspiration and doubts without any fear of being judged.My personal motto is ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’” 山田 晴香 Haruka Yamada, Product Manager, Technical Services
  1. Listen to your heart. Yes, planning, thinking and having a schedule are critical part of a framework to be successful. But at the end of the day, remember that they are just tools that are supposed to serve you, not you serve them. So allow time and space for moments of spontaneity. Listen to the voice of your heart if you feel you need to re-prioritize, if you feel you need to adjust course, do so, being true to your own voice.“My personal motto is ‘Ichi-go, ichi-e’ (Meeting only once in a lifetime). I hold respect for each meeting and each moment.” –平田 Kai Hirata, Senior Account Manager Enterprise Sales
  1. Kill the parrot! We all have a parrot inside our heads. That internal voice that questions and shakes your confidence, that repetitive voice that makes you wonder if you are well-prepared or not. The parrot can be persistent, it can keep on saying things that make you doubt yourself. You know what you know. You have put efforts and energy into what you are doing. Believe in yourself and deliver the best performance you are capable of!“Challenge difficult things as great opportunities.” 田村 亜弓 Ayumi Tamura, Marketing Manager, Japan Marketing.

Cisco is a great place for leaders, current and future. Won’t you join us?

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Advancing Diversity with ‘The Power of One’

Last week, many of the nation’s top African-American leaders and emerging talent experienced first-hand “The Power of One” – the power of one person, one organization or one partnership to transform the world.Chuck's ELC Twitter Photo

The occasion was the Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC) annual celebration of individuals and corporations making a difference to advance inclusion and diversity in business. Honorees such as Merck Chairman & CEO Ken Frazer, Caterpillar Corporation, and Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, embodied the Gala’s theme for their impressive achievements.

Cisco and ELC provided leadership workshops for aspiring mid-level managers prior to the Gala, creating so many transformative and magical “Moments that Matter” . . . Chuck Robbins and other industry CEOs sharing experiences with managers who learned how to take charge of their careers . . . a collective realization of what’s possible through inclusion, diversity and collaboration. Awe inspiring!

Jumpstarting the Career Journey with Belviane

In attendance was a bright, driven young woman from Laurel High School near Baltimore. Meet Belviane Songong, 17, who exemplifies how “The Power of One” can jumpstart the journey from the classroom, perhaps one day leading her all the way to the C-Suite.

The high school senior aspires to be a biomedical engineer, and she realized early that she needs strong technical skills now to be competitive for college and her career later on. So she enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy class at Laurel High, attaining one of the Academy’s top scores by a high school student on their exam, which helped attract scholarship offers from major colleges.

“I may just be one student but I know I am making a difference, and when I think of the power of millions of others just like me all across the world, studying, learning and helping others, now that really is a dream come true,” Belviane says in the video about her experience with the Cisco Networking Academy.

At the Gala, Chuck told the audience of 2,500: “Belviane has the skills, passion and commitment to create a tremendous amount of value for any organization today. She is a great example of how important it is to build our talent pipeline early on.”

Belviane may be one in a million, but the Cisco Networking Academy has helped more than 5.5 million people at 9,000 academies across 180 countries since it started in 1997. Today, 92% of our graduates report that what they learned through the program led to a new job, a better job or promotion, more responsibilities, higher salary, deciding on a program of study, or pursuing more education.

Next Steps in the Talent Pipeline

As Chuck said, this is just the beginning of the journey. It takes more “Power of One” partnerships with organizations like the ELC to help fuel the talent pipeline, preparing more underrepresented minorities to reach the C-Suite. Consider that 29% of Cisco’s African-American mid-level managers who took ELC’s leadership program were promoted in the last year – twice the company average.

Cisco had a huge presence at the Gala with 120 of Cisco’s highest-performing managers who had just completed ELC’s leadership course. They were joined by members of our highly diverse Executive Leadership Team and other Cisco executives. When Chuck asked everyone from Cisco to stand, it was a proud Moment that Mattered.

Milestone Moments

Ehrika Gladden_compressed

Ehrika Gladden

The experience inspired many other milestone moments. Ehrika Gladden fought to hold on to her emotions when Chuck and Fran surprised her in front of the Cisco group with the announcement of her promotion from senior director to a Vice President position. “Prior to last week, I was positive I knew what The People Deal meant for me and other Cisco employees.  What Chuck, Fran Katsoudas, Jeff Reed, Shari Slate, Cassandra Frangos and a host of other Cisco leaders did last week was help me to actually live the recognition and engagement experience of leaders delivering on the promise The People Deal creates for employees.  It is a model l will do my best to emulate.”

Shannon Cobb

Shannon Cobbs

Ike Harris

Ike Harris

“The event helped me to be recognized while I learned a lot of new tools to help me in my career and inspire me with what’s possible,” said Shannon Cobbs, Engineer, PDI Technical Advisors Network. The “hugely impactful” event clearly “made a difference” in employee engagement, added Ike Harris, Cisco’s VP of Global Planning and Fulfillment. The combination of workshops, exchanges between executives and managers as well as Cisco’s emphatic commitment to inclusion leads to “greater engagement and retention.


Jason Gallo

Jason Gallo

Jason W. Gallo, Global Director of Channel Sales for Collaboration & Software, felt a personal connection with Chuck when he shared what a huge leap it was back when he was promoted to Director.  Gallo also stated that, as a leader who is currently expanding his team, the ELC-Cisco experience reinforced to him the impact of “having access to a diversity of ideas and relationships that build a stronger pipeline of talent for Cisco.”


Shawn Dawson Troutt

Shawn Dawson Troutt

For Shawn Dawson Troutt, Director, Services & Cloud, Legal, the ELC-Cisco experience provides an “opportunity to pause, focus on being intentional about your career and have access to amazing individuals at Cisco and industry leaders.  There aren’t a lot of African-Americans at Cisco and we don’t find ourselves in the same room together very much.  It’s a real benefit to be together and meet with executives, with the joint purpose of improving our effectiveness as a company.”

I too am one of the beneficiaries of our partnership with ELC and its leadership growth programs. They have contributed mightily to developing and advancing diverse leaders both at Cisco and industry wide.

Through powerful partnerships like we have with ELC, we have made progress with inclusion and diversity at Cisco, but much more is still needed. True transformation will evolve with the “Power of One” – the power of one person, one organization or one partnership to transform the world, or one person at a time like Belviane and each of our high-performance managers.

Just imagine the possibilities if a million Belvianes started their journeys like hers and continued to get partner support like our mid-level managers along the way.



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Texas Conference for Women: An Empowering Partnership

#CiscoInspiredWoman will be a hashtag reverberating throughout social media spheres this week as 6,500 attendees experience what I call, “Moments that Matter”, at the Conference for Women (CFW) in Austin, Texas. Cisco is the Exclusive Networking Partner of CFW for the fourth year in row, has 90 attendees and six speakers (three women and three men) at the Texas event, which aligns with our commitment to build and empower a more inclusive, diverse and collaborative culture.

The Texas Conference for Women on Thursday kicks off a series of three more in successive months that will be held in Pennsylvania, MassachusettsTexas CFW and California, collectively expected to attract about 27,000 women dedicated to personal and professional growth. We will have a major presence at all of them.

We are ramping up our partnerships with organizations like CFW to empower and equip women and other underrepresented minorities with skills needed to advance in the workplace. Such partnerships not only help us to leverage diversity to spark greater innovations and outcomes for our customers, but also to attract a full spectrum of the best talent to join our increasingly vibrant workplace.

Our partnerships, combined with a number of internal leadership programs for women and Texas CWF Cisco Speakers Tableother minorities, is part of a holistic approach to create an environment in which everyone can feel welcomed, respected, valued, and heard. In effect, to have a seat at the table.

Inclusion and Diversity Starts at the Top

This starts at the top. Cisco is fortunate to have a CEO who not only champions the value of inclusion and diversity, but also walks the talk. In one of his first actions as incoming CEO, Chuck Robbins formed a next-generation Executive Leadership Team to help chart Cisco’s direction.

We have made a lot of progress at Cisco to advance women and other minorities, but total, true transformation has not been realized yet throughout industry. That’s why we’re building a first-of-its-kind framework using digital analytics to identify our gaps, next-generation systems, practices and tools as well as areas of opportunity. I will detail these inspiring programs in future blogs after our Corporate Social Responsibility Report is published before the end of this year.

All this provides context for why we’re so excited to be partnering so deeply with CFW and other organizations committed like us to inclusion, diversity and collaboration. I have benefitted immeasurably from such programs and I have urged all Cisco attendees to take full advantage of CFW’s programs and networks to create Moments that Matter.

I can attest that deeply engaging with partners like CFW is one more essential thread that weaves into a mosaic of different perspectives, backgrounds and approaches that can accelerate exponential results for our customers, partners and employees.

What programs have you found most effective in advancing diversity and gender representation in the workplace?


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CSO Professional Women’s Day: The Power of “Story”

Growing up, my grandfather and I were very close.  As a boy and young man, I learned a lot about the world from the stories he would tell me on his porch in Chicago about his life growing up black in the segregated south, the lessons he learned trying to fit in when he moved to the north, and his hopes for his sons and daughters—and their children—to have opportunities that he did not have.  I knew from the way he told his stories, that he was sharing special and life changing knowledge.  I would do my best to sit still and listen hard so I would remember every word.

Last week a group of 650 women from Cisco and our customers, came together in person and via Telepresence to take part in an exciting and meaningful event called the CSO Professional Women’s Day.  This gathering is a great example of the power of sharing special and life changing knowledge. The event was started three years ago by Padmasree Warrior and the women on her team as a way to share inspiring stories of personal and professional experiences – extending that “porch” in my mind.

This year the theme was Presence & Bravery and I have to tell you, all of us were doing our best to sit very still and listen hard so we would remember every word.

  • Two-star Michelin Chef Dominique Crenn energetically urged us to embrace diversity in all its forms and help connect the world by creating the platform for conversation, which is what she aspires to do every day through her food.
  • Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO and Founder of Acumen, took us from Wall Street to Rwanda where combined her banking expertise with a passion for equality to help victims of poverty through microfunding. Her wisdom was clear in all her stories, “Courage is taking on the status quo and speaking your truth, even if it’s through trembling lips.”
  • Our Ted Talk-style panel offered us new points of view from a rock-star millennial to a pharma executive (Laura Hamill) to a woman who re-invented her career (Karine Allouche Salanon).  Winning the prize for presence was Isabella Panisci, our rock-star millennial, whose wisdom was as profound as it was fundamental, “Don’t raise quitters.”
  • Finally, leader, author, gospel singer and 20-year Wall Street veteran Carla Harris brought her leadership wisdom to life with dynamic, humorous and insightful stories that convinced us that it is always worth taking a risk because “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and failure brings the gift of experience.

These amazing women inspired us all and demonstrated the importance and power of inclusion, diversity and “porch” wisdom. I am committed to sponsoring this event next year and I’m looking forward to driving more great forums like the CSO Professional Women’s Day in the future. Let’s keep on moving together.

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