Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > The Platform

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.

Tags: , , , ,

Are the skills we have today be relevant tomorrow?


Woman in the workplaceAre we Disrupting Ourselves out of jobs? This blog is to provoke dialogue Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Inclusion: The New Core Competence for Leaders

We all know that not one person has all the answers, so it only makes sense that a company would want to have an inclusive, diverse workforce to bring in varying points of view. The problem is that most companies focus on diversity stats, but that doesn’t really make a difference in the culture of an organization, particularly when the whole point is to drive better business results through collaboration.

GVSOteamdiverseI prefer to focus on inclusion, and believe that inclusion precedes diversity. A more inclusive work environment will attract a more diverse workforce. Just as communication is a core skill for a modern leader, I believe inclusion is a core skill for the 21st Century – a style you can learn and practice. What is inclusion?  Simply put, it means including people…seeking diverse opinions and taking into account other points of view.  It’s treating people like they belong and feel valued, and making sure you are building teams and environments where no one feels they are on the outside. This isn’t always easy. You have to demonstrate it by interacting and engaging, and treating people with respect. It’s not what you say, but how you are that counts.

I also believe in focusing on the strengths of our people, rather than their weaknesses. That’s how we get people to go from good to great, instead of not-so-good to mediocre. This is especially important for women. In my experience, there is no difference in competence between men and women, but there is a massive difference in self-belief. We try to challenge women to regularly operate outside of their comfort zone so they can build confidence, aspiration level and impact on the organization.  Read More »

Tags: , , , , ,

IoE and the Shape of Things to Come

“May you live in interesting times,” the old saying goes. With its explosion in intelligent connections, the Internet of Everything makes this one of the most exciting times to be alive — ever.

But you already knew that.

The real fun begins when we consider that as dynamic as technology change appears to be in 2015, this is only the beginning. Mobility, video, analytics, and other technologies have already transformed our jobs, our home lives, the ways we socialize, access entertainment, you name it. But now IoE is accelerating change at an even faster rate as people, culture, innovation, technology, get added to the mix.

With that in mind, let’s explore some key predictions to see where I believe IoE will take us in the next ten years or so.

The way I see it, IoE will drive an unparalleled level of social and business consciousness, as the Internet evolves far beyond its current state and limitations. This transformation will center on three core capabilities to be Hyperaware, Predictive, and Agile.

Top Predictions for the Internet of Everything Era from Joseph M Bradley

Hyperaware Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyday Heroes of Cisco Empowered Women’s Network: Sharon Sputz

This article was written by Anuja Singh.


Carpe diem – Seize the day! Inspiration from everyday heroes of Cisco Empowered Women’s Network

Welcome to our second edition of  Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CiscoEWN) Everyday Heroes. We all make resolutions and set goals to improve ourselves– but somewhere along the way, life interrupts our plans, we find ourselves juggling different priorities and invariably things get dropped. What you will find in this segment is inspiration from ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary results. Everyone featured in this series has faced challenges and opportunities that the rest of us can identify with; let’s draw inspiration from the choices they made and aspire to the outcomes they created.

We are honored to feature this month Sharon Sputz!


Sharon has combined experience in business strategy and technical research and after reinventing herself many times through her career; she now is doing some fascinating work in Data Sciences at Columbia University. Find out more about Sharon here.

CiscoEWN: You have held various positions in your career, but technology has been a common theme; how old were you when you discovered your passion for the field?

Sharon: I was always fond of Math and Science. When I was in middle school, I wanted to ensure that I went into 8th grade in the highest honors math track. Unfortunately, I did not do well in the placement test and was told that I couldn’t join that track. My parents knew how much it meant to me and spoke to the school to let me take the test again – but I still didn’t do well. I could have given up but I was so driven that my parents and I got the school to agree (at my own risk) to let me sit in the class. My math teacher was a formidable lady who ended up believing in my persistence – her faith in me made me strive harder and I ended up going to college for medicine.


Cisco EWN: Medicine? Did I miss that in your bio?
Sharon: We all choose a path but sometimes things change – how we accept those changes and make what we can out of them determines our tenacity and character. I lost my way a little in freshman year of a pre-med program – there were some health issues, some peer pressure issues and I ended up thinking that I wasn’t good enough to continue down the medical path. But thankfully, I had a very strong foundation from high school and I was doing very well in the physics courses I was taking. I am grateful again to have professors who cared enough to call if one didn’t show up for class and I thrived in the rigor of Quantum physics. That’s when I knew that I loved physics and research and would rather pursue that field. That decision gave me the foundation for how life turned out.



CiscoEWN: What would you write in a letter to your younger self?

Sharon: Life is a journey, it’s not about getting from point A to point B. Have patience and don’t rush. You can make each day more fulfilling by increasing the balance in your life. When we are young we tend to think that we are entitled to success – but only hard work and persistence enable us to remove each rock from our way. Success doesn’t come instantly so don’t give up.


CiscoEWN: You spent 13 years in Bell labs as a research scientist with world-renowned physicists; produced revolutionary patents; went to school at night to get your Masters; and had two children. How did you do it?

Sharon: (Laughing) I don’t really know. I just did what needed to be done and looking back I don’t really know where the energy came from. Those were also challenging years because there were hardly any women or minorities working in research but I never felt conscious and never let that impact me. Instead I saw tremendous opportunity and worked hard and didn’t let the difficult environment stand in my way. Juggling everything was hard and I am fortunate I had my family, husband, community of working women and friends who supported each other and me.


CiscoEWN: And then, when you were at the top of your game, you quit and joined Lucent in a marketing job. Did you have any marketing skills?

Sharon: No, and I didn’t think about it either. It was a huge change but I was joining a field (Telecom) that was booming and would make me grow in ways that I couldn’t have grown had I kept doing only research. I also got a confidence boost when I saw that if you were willing to work hard and learn and problem solve then people are willing to take their chances on you and train you. I rolled up my sleeves, read a lot, learned from mentors on the job and because it was a technical marketing job, I was able to leverage my scientific training and differentiate myself.

“Life is a journey. Celebrate each moment. Don’t be in a rush to get from Point A to Point B.”

-Sharon Sputz


CiscoEWN: Since then, you have taken the risk of reinventing yourself twice more – first as a defense contractor working on DOD projects, and now at Columbia University as an educator. Do you have any self-doubt as you set about proving yourself anew each time?

Sharon: Everyday – I think about how I can do my job better, how can I push myself harder? I wouldn’t call it self-doubt, but I always question if I am doing all I can. And when I am given the opportunity to reinvent myself, I am so grateful that someone took a chance on me, gave me the chance to learn and grow, that I work harder to live up to their faith in me.

I was 51 when Columbia University approached me; my first reaction was to decline the opportunity. But education and my teachers have had such a huge impact on my life, I felt this was my opportunity to impact other people and give back. While I have never felt that being a woman has held me back, I enjoy the opportunity to enable other women coming into an academic environment and encourage them to pursue any opportunity without impediments.


CiscoEWN: Leave us with your favorite Carpe diem statement.

Sharon: Life doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to go. While it’s important to persist and believe in yourself and go after your dreams, it’s also ok for those dreams to change. Celebrate each dream and make the most out of it.


Thank you Sharon!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,