Kelly Kramer, Cisco’s Chief Financial Officer, shared an inspirational message with more than 100 young women on Cisco’s San Jose campus yesterday: “You don’t need to live under gender stereotypes; you can be whatever you want to be!”
Her words wrapped up this year’s Girls Power Tech event, in which we opened our doors to more than 125 girls ages 13 to 18 for a day of site tours, presentations, and employee mentoring. Girls from non-profit partners Citizen Schools and City Year spent the day learning about the Internet of Everything and talking to us about career opportunities in the IT field.
In more than 91 Cisco offices in over 56 countries around the world, Cisco welcomed more than 3,300 female students from local schools, Cisco Networking Academy classes, and other non-profit organizations in celebration of International Girls in ICT Day, held on April 23.
Through our efforts, we are encouraging girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and become the next generation of innovators – the dreamers and doers who will use technology to change the world.
The day began with a series of guest speakers, who shared their personal career journeys with the girls and inspired them to follow their own dreams.
Ben Varghese, an Internet of Everything engineer, introduced the girls to his invention, the Double Robot. By using a tablet and a cell phone, he drove the robot around the room and interacted with the audience virtually. The students gasped and shouted excitedly as the “virtual Ben” zoomed from group to group and said “hello” to different girls.
Ben’s invention was a perfect example of innovating for social good – his Double Robot may someday connect patients in remote locations to doctors thousands of miles away. After seeing his presentation, the girls were asked to come up with their own Internet of Everything products as part of the IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge.
With the help of Cisco employee volunteers and mentors, they worked together in teams of five, dreaming up ways to take advantage of the growing number of devices connected to the Internet. Cisco’s Chief Executive Officer, John Chambers, visited with some of the groups, listening to the girls’ unique product ideas and inspiring them to find ways to give back with technology.
In their groups, the girls not only learned about the latest technologies, but how to work together as a team and communicate clearly – skills they’ll need as part of the IT workforce.
Eric Haff, one of the volunteers, recognized their excitement as soon as he sat down. “There’s nothing like the looks on the girls’ faces when they were engaging with the mentors,” he said. “To see girls at this age truly enthralled is something special.”
The girls turned their enthusiasm into creative ideas; after brainstorming, four groups pitched their new products to a panel of judges that included Randy Pond, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Operations, and Ana Corrales, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Supply Chain.
One group presented the “Mood Watch”, a smart device that plays music to match the user’s behavior. Another group imagined the “Health Car”, which scans the driver and recommends specific restaurants based on weight and activity levels. Each idea wowed the judges, and inspired the other girls to create products that may one day change the world.
Liane Raganit is one of thousands of girls who took part in events like Girls Power Tech all over the world in Cisco offices yesterday. Like her peers, she learned about the Internet of Everything and job opportunities in the IT field, and that working with technology can be exciting. More importantly, she learned that women can succeed in whatever career they choose to pursue.
“I learned today that I can do anything I’m passionate about when I put my mind to it,” she said. “Don’t let people underestimate you – show them what you got!”