Girls Power Tech (GPT) was an amazing experience this year. Through our sites around the world and unwavering support of our global executive sponsors, Kelly Kramer & Ruba Borno, a global team worked together to inspire the next generation of innovators, taking science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to the next level.

This year’s Girls Power Tech featured 90 Cisco offices in 50 countries across the world hosting nearly 6,000 students, 1,689 volunteers, and more than 15,000 mentoring hours! The impact continues to grow.

But none of this would’ve been possible without the employees who lead the programs at these locations. Over 200 volunteers donated their time and expertise to run GPT events at their offices across the world; all in addition to their day-to-day jobs. With hours of planning and coordination, it’s no small task.

Because of employees like them, Cisco was recently ranked 9th on Fortune Magazine’s list of the Best Workplaces for Giving Back. Our employees are what makes us great, and the 200+ who make these events happen are a shining example. Here are the stories of four of these individuals.

Aurelia Takacs, Brussels site lead & Global Delivery Partner Manager

“In Belgium, we hosted about 40 girls who participated in a number of hands-on activities. We partnered with an NGO, Greenlight for Girls, which encourages girls to consider STEM careers through fun workshops. Each group completed three activities; one covered coding & design using Arduino Engineering kits and another was designed by a team in Belgium with inspiration from the movie “The Martian.”

Using Cisco TelePresence (TP), the girls had to bring “The Martian” back to Earth by working through hints and clues!  We also offered bilingual speed mentoring sessions in English and French. We closed our day with speaker Pastora Valero, VP, EMEAR Government Affairs, and handed out “Cisco Certified Future Engineers” CCFE certificates to all students.

We also partnered with an after-school activity center, the Young Moroccan Association. We arranged transportation for eight girls and conducted several special sessions in French for them, as this was their first time at Cisco. Many girls come from immigrant families and GPT offered them an opportunity to meet with a diverse Cisco employee volunteer group who helped inspire them to future ICT careers.

I really enjoyed working with these girls, hearing their stories, and hope to make this an annual tradition. It’s important that we reach further into our communities and provide these critical experiences to those who wouldn’t always get this exposure to STEM.

Louise Mills, Bedfont Lakes, UK, lead & Associate Virtual Sales Rep

“Bedfont Lakes hosted a speed networking session with several apprentices and graduates. Girls were exposed to many different business functions to learn about job roles in STEM. A TP session was also held with Ideal London, connecting students with local entrepreneurs and start-ups from this organization.

Students were split into three groups. One focused on TP, another about the Internet of Things and connecting the unconnected, and a third on effectively coding micro bits. Through “Dragons’ Den,” students also had to come up with their own app invention for the day and present to a panel of judges. More than 100 students in total; it was pretty manic!

The stand-out moment: having the 100 students up on the stage at the closing session in their GPT attire. It was inspiring to see them up there smiling with the knowledge that technology can be fun and can be a career. From my side, I did not always have that opportunity when I was a student. Having that opportunity at Cisco, that’s what I love seeing for these students.”

Bayan Barry, Saudi Arabia site lead & Regional Customer Service Advisor, EMEAR Middle East

“Our GPT day is scheduled for early next year, with the target around 200 students. For the first time in Cisco Saudi, three groups—Connected Women, Cisco Networking Academy, and Country Digitization Acceleration—are collaborating with the goal of expanding the impact of the GPT day. We aim to encourage the students toward STEM, innovation and female empowerment.

We are planning to host several outstanding speakers, including the innovator who developed the “Bright Sign Glove,” which senses sign language and translates the movements into written text and speech. Another is Deemah AlYahya, Acting General Secretary from the National Digitization Unit.

We are also hosting one of  Saudi’s first female entrepreneur store owners, who owns a shop that fixes handheld devices and laptops and is staffed entirely by women. She will host a workshop on how to fix an iPhone. Finally, we will conclude with an awareness session by an Ethical Hacker and a student hackathon, which will teach the students the importance of problem-solving.

As a GPT lead, I am eager to make a change and create an impact to our community. The power of a promising future stands behind a well-directed and educated youth. Our ultimate goal is to drive these young ladies to explore strengths, think out loud, believe in themselves, motivate them toward STEM fields, and eventually prepare them for their next chapter. It’s the least we can do to inspire and be inspired!”

Cisco Saudi Arabia Girls Power Tech volunteer team: Connected Women, Cisco Networking Academy, and Country Digitization Acceleration

Shraddha Chaplot, San Jose, CA site lead & Systems Engineer, Cisco Customer Experience Center

“I’ve been at Cisco for 476 weeks. I’ve built an Energy Efficiency Lab, helped design and launch a pilot program for Cisco’s global problem solvers, and created demos on Cisco technologies. Each of these contributions were amplified by a boundless imagination and the desire to be my full, multifaceted self. This is why I’m passionate about showing students how they can be their full selves to be anything during GPT!

I grew up loving mathematics, discovering patterns, and taking things apart. For the last five years, as emcee and content creator for San Jose, I’ve been incorporating this into GPT.

GPT at Cisco San Jose HQ featured 108 students and 200+ volunteers. I built a full day of activities focusing on hands-on building, empowerment, and curiosity. For example, I created an icebreaker called flashy stars, where the girls say their name and one thing they love about themselves. I used LED stars to symbolize STEAM. As girls get older, we tend to be taught to not love so many things about ourselves (including our intellect); this activity was meant to remind them what they’re made of.

I focused our design challenge, called “Got A Lotta Automata, Shraddha!” on building and creating – where engineering becomes art. I chose mechanical engineering as the theme, with automata—whimsical machines —as the project. I wanted the girls to see how simple mechanisms are the foundation of making things move.

By empowering these girls to be all the things they are, we get to inspire them to pursue a life that transforms themselves, their community, and their world for the better.”

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Megan DePorter Zeishner

Community Relations Program Manager