It’s 5:30am on Monday morning (10th June 2013 to be precise). “ Wake up it’s a beautiful morning” by the Boo Radleys is blasting out of the speakers at the camp site. “I shouldn’t be up at this time” is one of the lines of this songs which rings so true to me on this day. It’s not a dream although my head wishes it was. I’ve been awake since around 4am -- thanks to the and chirpy wildlife and early sunrise in the north of Scotland where the sun appears at not long after 3am. Yes I’m back on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (“RAB”) again, aiming to cycle 220 miles over 2 days, to help Cisco raise funds for the paralympic athletes via the Paralympics GB charity.
The “RAB”, as we call it, is a cycle ride from John O’Groats, in the very north of Scotland, to Lands End, in the very south of England -- top to bottom of the United Kingdom, in fact. Cisco supports and encourages us to take part -- around 50 of us were taking on typically one or two stages, with a few mad colleagues doing the whole 9 days of 100 mile+ daily cycling! Yes we had “free” days off work, away from my usual work in Cisco Data Center Services around Cisco Domain TenSM- committing to achieve a fundraising target -- however it’s not quite what most people would call a holiday! And we also had a “Virtual RAB” in our offices to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to help further the fundraising cause.
As the video shows, we cycled through some amazing scenery, connected with new colleagues across Cisco UK & Ireland, and renewed old friendships. Our fund raising is in progress and I’d appreciate any and all donations here!
Since ” ’tis the season” for giving in many parts of the world, and as end of the calendar year approaches, I’ve decided to finish my working year reflecting upon the biggest “Giving Back” initiative I was personally part of in September of this year (2012) -- my two stages of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, or RAB as we called it in Cisco UK & Ireland -- an event we aligned to Cisco’s overall involvement in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Time has flown since I initially blogged about my nerves pre-ride. I reflected on our “Virtual RAB” -- designed to give everyone at Cisco an easier chance of participating -- also as part of our overall fundraising, and told you about the “Network on Wheels” or Cisco NOW Van that supported us with remote (very remote!) internet access as we cycled through all weathers from the bottom to the very top of the UK. The Cisco team raised around £20,000 (over $32,000 USD) -- while the event as a whole, with over 700 riders, raised over £1 Million in total -- all for paralympic athletes.
It was indeed an experience! While the second of my two days was a beautiful day for cycling -- as the video clip from Cisco UK & Ireland Senior VP Phil Smith (quite a cyclist btw!) shows -- the first day was a 12 hour test in truely horrendous stormy conditions! Let me tell you more about that day and show you some of the sights on the way.
Today, we’ll tell you how we raised funds for Paralympic athletes through what we call the “Virtual Ride Across Britain” – literally cycling on (stationary) bikes in each of the Cisco offices across the UK and Ireland!
I’m writing this blog in conjunction with 2 of my Cisco colleagues, Stephen Reidy and Nigel Townley.
Last week in another Cisco blog, we introduced Cisco’s participation in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (or ‘RAB’, as we call it) – a 9 day cycle event across the whole of Great Britain. A number of Cisco colleagues were taking part over one or multiple days to raise funds for ParalympicsGB, in order to help this tremendous charity support more inspirational athletes. Alongside this, we also run the “Virtual Ride Across Britain” or VRAB, to enable more employees to participate. For the Cisco staff that can’t get out on the road, we compete virtually on gym bikes at each of the UK offices – Bedfont, Galway, Glasgow (Trilogy), Greenpark, Langley, London City, Manchester, Ruscombe – with an objective to collectively ride the length of Britain, equivalent to the 963 miles that the road riders complete in the “actual” RAB.
Stephen Reidy is a sales account manager in Cisco, and championed our “Virtual Ride Across Britain” across all of Cisco’s UK and Ireland offices, and Nigel Townley is a director of engineering in our “Enhanced Customer Aligned Testing Services” (or eCATS) testing team and press-ganged – sorry encouraged -- tremendous participation in our Greenpark (Reading) office.
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.