This blog was written by Alice Sanchez, a CPX Software Architect and Co-Global Lead of Cisco’s Native American Network (NAN).
November is Native American Heritage Month — in this month we can all come together to celebrate the culture, traditions, history and honor the contributions of our nation’s first people. I am inspired by my culture, the Native/Indigenous community, and the perseverance of my family, and I’m grateful for those who paved the way for me to have the opportunities I’ve had in my career. I am Pomo, Hawaiian, and Choctaw, and my family and community have been impacted by systemic policies meant to eradicate our very existence; that is the reality of my people.
I am a huge advocate for my native community here in Oakland, California. I serve as a board member for the Intertribal Friendship House, where I spend most of my time outside of work volunteering, delivering food to elders and needy families, serving food at drum and dance, the elders luncheons, working the booth at the Red Market, organizing turkey donations, Christmas donations and so much more. To me Intertribal Friendship House is more than an organization. It is the heart of a vibrant Tribal community. My grandmother who I was named after was one of the co-founders back in the 1940’s and I am continuing her legacy. Cisco employees can find information on how to donate here.
I’m proud to work at Cisco and to break through many of the challenges that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) women face in the tech industry. My journey in tech started many years ago as an Executive Assistant for a Fortune 500 financial institution. In that role, I started to support the Information Security Office and learned that I enjoy solution-focused work. This led me to work for several large tech companies, traveling to various countries across the globe.
I joined Cisco in 2018 supporting compliance certifications, and eventually became an Audit Lead for Cisco’s largest customers. During this time I was also nominated for the Excellent Performance Award by a Senior Director. I transitioned to Cisco Meraki to help with standardized security and assurance certifications. Currently, I’m working in Customer & Partner Experience as a Compliance Engineering Architect. While here I was recognized by my leadership to participate in Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) Career Advancement Program, an initiative that prepares highly talented, mid-career professionals for senior leadership roles.
Cisco’s Native American Network (NAN)
I’m very passionate about co-leading the Native American Network (NAN), one of Cisco’s Inclusive Communities, as we elevate Native/Indigenous voices. I quickly learned about Cisco’s commitment to full-spectrum diversity and inclusion through employee communities that enable engagement, positive impact, and giving back. This is the first company I have worked for to offer such amazing support and learning opportunities for employees.
NAN is a Native American inclusive community dedicated to growing and empowering Native/Indigenous perspectives at Cisco and beyond. We raise awareness within Cisco (Native and non-Native) on tribal issues, social justice, events, and providing forums to learn about Native cultures. And we achieve this through our five pillars — Community, Connect, Professional Development, Social Justice, and Talent Acquisition. We are open membership and welcome all allies and supporters, Native or Non-Native, and Cisco employees are welcome to join our network through our internal site.
We have hosted many events such as our discussion on “Columbus vs Indigenous Peoples Day” and a cultural appreciation series that highlights Indigenous cooking, beading, and language preservation. We raise awareness of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), and we organize a book club that features Native authors. We also shared an insightful talk with filmmaker Willow O’Feral, documentarian Brad Heck, and artist Gregg Deal.
Here are some ideas on how to get involved during Native American Heritage Month (and all year!):
- Learn about the Native tribes in your area
- Check out Native American museums and cultural centers
- Take a deeper dive with Native American heritage sites
- Read books by or about Native Americans, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians
- Connect with the land
- Learn about traditional Native American, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian music and instruments
- Sample authentic Native American food
- Attend a powwow
I’m very honored to work for a company that fosters an environment where historically underrepresented women can be successful, and I’m proud of the commitment Cisco has made to Native/Indigenous communities, to listen, learn and elevate our voices. In partnership with some of our biggest customers, Cisco is dedicated to ensuring state-of-the-art broadband networks are deployed by as many recognized Native American Tribes as possible.
Here, I’m encouraged to be a strong, confident, Native Woman. Thank you, Cisco!