This post was written by guest blogger Carsten Johnson, CSR Consultant, Cisco Corporate Affairs & Cisco Berlin Girls Power Tech Site Lead

On April 27, my Cisco Berlin colleagues and I had the pleasure of celebrating International #GirlsInICTDay as a part of Cisco’s Girls Power Tech (GPT) initiative.

International Girls in ICT Day aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages young women to consider careers in the growing ICT field, enabling girls and technology companies to celebrate and explore the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.

Cisco Berlin was one of several Cisco sites that hosted an event on Girls in ICT Day to help kick-off the Girls Power Tech program. I could not be more proud to be a site leader this year.

It’s one of the many reasons I love working for a company like Cisco, which allows us to take the time to step back and focus on programs where we can give back, teach and mentor others, and make an impact in our broader communities. We all have unique talents, and it’s important we share those with others, and help them uncover their own along the learning journey!

Our #GirlsInICT Day in Berlin was a very special and unique experience. We hosted a group of 22 girls—mainly middle school aged students—through Girls Power Tech. We were also thrilled to host three welcome classes (boys and girls) through collaboration with the Wolfgang-Borchert School; participants came from countries including Syria, Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan and Romania and Turkey.

Our new partner in the Cisco Networking Academy for Refugees project, the REDI School for Digital Integration, provided two volunteers to cover the variety of languages spoken in the welcome classes. This amazing non-profit serves as a digital school for tech-interested newcomers applying for asylum in Germany; providing students with valuable digital skills to help create new opportunities.

Cisco Berlin’s work with the Wolfgang-Borchert-School has been an important partnership for the past 10 years and a cornerstone of Cisco’s NetAcad program. Through their welcome classes, children from refugee or migrant families spend the first 12 months assimilating to their new home in Germany and spend significant time learning the local language, as well as developing basic technical skills to help them succeed.

I was energized by the diverse range of Cisco Berlin employees who participated in Girls Power Tech and came ready to help make our #GirlsinICT Day a success. Our volunteers featured a panel of international interns and colleagues from several different regions leading several hands-on activities throughout the day and mentoring the students 1:1 in various activities.

We began our day by introducing the students to our global Girls Power Tech materials as well as a video conferencing exercise through Telepresence. We did some fun group reflection on the brand-new Girls Power Tech kick-off video, to enable the students to have the full global experience of being a part of an international Cisco community.

Our multi-lingual volunteers translated materials in German, Farsi, Arabic, Kurdish, Romanian and English so that all students could learn and easily participate. We then kicked off tours through the Cisco Berlin office, where visitors witnessed the power of Cisco’s digital innovations first-hand. Groups split up into teams among their common languages with a simple goal: to learn as much as possible through their own eyes!

Part of the tour also included a visit to one of our on-site demo labs. Splitting the students up into four groups, each had the opportunity to interact and converse with a Cisco systems engineer and better understand the machines that bring the Internet of Things to life.

During our workshops, we took the students through two hands-on activities. The first was a short robotics class, where students built a robot with just two small sensors. The second taught participants the basics of coding by asking them to build a model car. Using a vehicle that ran in only one direction, the girls had to identify how to turn the direction of the car.

Our curriculum allowed us to create a unique experience for our students, where we used the traditional Girls Power Tech approach and introduced our students from the Wolfgang-Borchert-School to new types of learning activities.

As a site leader for Girls Power Tech Berlin, I was personally inspired to see how digitization and technology impact everyone; and the importance of continuing to make sure that digital skills are a priority for all people.

In today’s world, we need to keep investing in these programs and resources for girls and all people, as we seek to close the global IT skills gap. Throughout the day, the message was clear to me: diversity and inclusion is an important part of who we are at Cisco.

We’re taking it seriously. I am grateful for the experience of being a site lead, and I strongly encourage anyone who is not currently involved in Girls Power Tech to get started and make a difference in STEM education! Together, we can accomplish great things.

Girls Power Tech, a Cisco Mentoring Initiative, is being celebrated by nearly one hundred Cisco offices in over fifty countries now through the end of May. This program will introduce over 5,000 young ladies to the world of possibilities a career in technology can offer. 

Click here to learn more about Girls Power Tech and Cisco’s commitment to STEM Education and be sure to follow all the excitement on social media by using the #GirlsPowerTech hashtag.


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco