When I arrived in early June for my 12-week internship in Cisco Corporate Affairs, I began to read You + Networks = Impactx everywhere on the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) website. For me, it was just a tagline – part of a marketing campaign for Cisco CSR.  I didn’t understand it, and wasn’t sure if I completely believed it.  It wasn’t until I became a part of the Cisco CSR family and plugged myself into the equation that You + Networks = Impactx became much more than a tagline; it became the heart of my work at Cisco this summer.

During my 12-week internship, I learned how human and technology networks can multiply impact on people, communities, and the planet.
During my 12-week internship, I learned how human and technology networks can multiply impact on people, communities, and the planet.

I grew up with five sisters, so naturally one of my first projects as an intern was to research programs focused on increasing women’s participation in information and communications technology (ICT) within Cisco. My goal was to help raise awareness and support for an increased focus on women in ICT.  I may have a lot of sisters, but I didn’t know a thing about women in ICT.  I figured I would have to start emailing around to see what I could find, but as funny as it sounds, sending an email to other Cisco employees I didn’t know was a scary prospect for me.

I had grown up watching TV shows and movies that depict interns as insignificant assistants who fetch coffee for people. This was my first internship and I didn’t know what to expect.  As I sent out my first emails, I worried that these managers and directors would look past any email from a “lowly” intern, especially when it had more to do with social good than their bottom line.

You + Networks

I was wrong.  The positive responses from other employees around the world let me know that even I, as an intern, could have an impact.  Those early replies empowered me to connect with more than 100 people from every continent in the world (excluding Antarctica) throughout my internship.  With one click of a button on email, or Cisco WebEx or Jabber, I was able to create my own human network and multiply my impact. I was able to learn of the pioneering efforts of the Cisco Networking Academy program.  With more than 10,000 academies in 165 countries, many programs, such as the F_email project in Serbia, have been created to give women from all walks of life the opportunity to learn the skills needed to find a well-paying job. The academies have created opportunity for women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan; in fact, in the Middle East, 35 percent of Networking Academy students are women.

Impact Multiplied

As I continued to connect and grow my human network throughout my internship, I witnessed an impact, not only on my work, but on myself.  I came to understand the power of You + Networks = Impactx because of the impact others had on me. With every new connection I made, my confidence grew and my effectiveness increased.  Soon I was able to add my voice and find many more people who wanted help change the lives of women around the world through Cisco CSR programs. Many of these employees weren’t working for the CSR team and didn’t need to help me, but they did. Their passion for making a difference in this world drove them to become a part of the equation.

I could hear that passion in the voice of Evin Tas, a Cisco Networking Academy Manager in Turkey, as she told me of the success of the SPARK for Women program. I could hear it as she spoke of the power that women can have in sparking social change within their communities.  I could hear it as she told me of a woman who empowered her NGO with the technical skills she gained after enrolling in SPARK for Women. She believed in this effort and she was going to do everything she could to inspire this change. She made me want to become a part of that change.

Impactx is not a marketing campaign; it is the way Cisco CSR functions. We may not always realize, but our impact is felt everywhere. Whether it is a helpful response to an intern’s email or a revolutionary idea that sparks the creation of Cisco Networking Academy — a program that has given more than 4.75 million people valuable ICT skills — each of us can have a positive impact on the lives of individuals around the world.

We all have a part to play in the equation. With the power of networks, anybody, anywhere can have an impact much bigger than themselves. I went from zero knowledge about women in ICT to becoming a part of Impactx.  And for me, this is just the beginning.  Luckily I have five sisters, so my next project will be encouraging them to enroll in a Networking Academy near them. Wish me luck!

This is what the equation means to me, but what does You + Networks = Impactx mean to you?