This post was written by Karla Samdahl, vice president and global head of executive talent acquisition and board integration at Cisco. 

A woman with long hair and red lipstick, wearing a white top and black blazer
Karla Samdahl, Vice President, Global Executive Talent Acquisition and Board Integration

One of the most interesting parts of my job leading executive talent acquisition is hearing about someone else’s career journey, finding out how they have navigated through their career progression, and understanding what motivates them. 

At Cisco, I’m able to combine my passion for this process—and for making it as inclusive as possible—with the Social Justice Actions we launched in 2020. That year, Cisco transformed its longstanding advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion into a global, enterprise-wide commitment to bolder action and greater impact focused on a commitment to the African American/Black community. 

At the director and executive levels, our talent acquisition strategy gives us a competitive advantage to attracting top diverse talent. We look at areas of emerging business growth and approach recruiting differently by identifying what innovative leadership looks like from a talent perspective. We are creating a recruiting culture that recognizes strong talent and expertise, and we engage talent proactively. 

To increase full spectrum diversity in our hiring framework—as well as on our board of directors—we cultivate talent pools, expand our executive prospect community, and generate diverse active talent benches. Specifically, we have focused our efforts on: 

  • Leveraging diverse candidate slates and developing a pipeline of diverse talent to increase all facets of diversity throughout the hiring and promotion process 
  • Cultivating a company culture of sponsorship across dimensions of difference 
  • Increasing opportunities for Cisco executives and senior leaders to get proximate to diverse talent 
  • Providing developmental offerings that support the growth of women and underrepresented minority executives 

Our efforts are working. We continue to exceed our African American/Black (AA/B) hiring aspirations year over year. Our goal when we set out in 2020 was to increase AA/B talent 25% by fiscal year 2023. I am proud to say that we have increased AA/B talent at Cisco 70% in non-executive roles, 96% in director-level positions, and 182% among vice presidents and above. We also welcomed John D. Harris II and Marianna Tessel to our board of directors.  

Top talent wants to work for companies that understand diversity gives them a competitive edge. Recently, Cisco was named the #1 Best Company to Work For in the U.S. by Fortune and Great Place to Work for the third year in a row. With this extraordinary recognition, our U.S. workplaces join Cisco teams in 12 countries around the world that are also currently ranked #1, including Spain and Portugal. 

The success of our hiring framework is supported by Cisco’s purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All, as well as by the differentiated experience we offer top diverse leadership talent:  

  • Scale of Business: Cisco provides clear upward mobility opportunities 
  • Market Presence: Cisco is the premier technology brand in the world, reimagining applications, securing the enterprise, transforming infrastructure, and powering hybrid work for a global and inclusive future 
  • Geographic Flexibility: The ability for talent to remain in their current location has proven to be one of Cisco’s most significant competitive advantages in attracting and retaining talent 
  • Cisco Executive Talent Magnets: Our executive leaders are thought leaders within the industry and Cisco ambassadors 
  • Evidence of Commitment to Changing Business: Cisco’s efforts to drive the most trusted customer experience in the industry through our innovation, choice, and extraordinary people greatly reassures executive candidates that Cisco is an employer of the future   

When I talk to leaders who are looking for upward mobility in their career and the best position to use their subject matter expertise, our conversations naturally progress to what’s most important to them, job motivations, and interests. I’ve had leaders tell me, “You should be my life coach!”

“To know that I’ve helped someone consider what they are excited about in their career, in life, and how their expertise can make immense change in the industry and impact the world, is something special.”

This is one of the best compliments I receive, and it validates to me that I’m doing what I love for purpose. To know that I’ve helped someone consider what they are excited about in their career, in life, and how their expertise can make immense change in the industry and impact the world, is something special.  


Stacey Faucett

Manager, Sustainability Communications Governance and Compliance

Chief Sustainability Office