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Chief Diversity Officer Sandy Hoffman on Diversity and Technology

I had a moment to chat recently with Sandy Hoffman, Cisco’s newly appointed chief diversity officer, and we spoke about her new role:

What does a chief diversity officer actually do?

At Cisco, I see my role as providing strategic leadership across the company on recruiting, advancing and retaining talented people in our multinational and multigenerational corporate environment. Additionally, I’ll partner with the business on embedding inclusion and diversity into existing business processes, improving the effectiveness of employee resource groups, and supporting supplier diversity.

What challenges/opportunities do you see for diversity in technology companies right now?

The changing business landscape indicates that by 2020 the workplace will be dramatically different. In order to remain competitive, companies need to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive, adaptable, virtual, and global.

Technology companies in particular are facing challenges in the shrinking pool of people from all backgrounds and abilities that are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Therefore, it’s even more important for global technology companies to have diverse and inclusive strategies to be competitive as employers.

Before this role you spent 3 years as Sr. Director of Cisco Operations Inclusion & Diversity. You have a lot of practical experience leading I&D programs.  What else has influenced your thinking?

I recently completed the Cornell Certified Diversity Professional/Advanced Practitioner (CCDP/AP) program, which is a comprehensive, national certified diversity management program that combines Equal Employment Opportunity law, diversity initiatives, strategic diversity recruiting and retention, diversity training, effective affinity groups and councils, as well as a diversity-related research project. I leverage this framework at Cisco along with an incredible network of diversity professionals in various fields/sectors for ongoing idea-sharing.

What is your personal interest in Inclusion & Diversity?

My most valued gift from my parents was the environment they provided to develop my imagination; having the ability to believe in everything, to play in my own sandbox, and to make reality from my own ideas. I believe that life is about giving back and I spend a lot of my spare time mentoring people; listening to them, learning from them, giving back and providing a “safe” space for honest conversation, devoid of judgment.

I’m also an activist against animal abuse and hoarding and spend time helping at animal rescues to create protective places where neglected or abused animals can find comfort.

What one thing do you want to be remembered for in your tenure as chief diversity officer at Cisco?

Results, not effort.

What are you watching or reading?

I read two good articles recently on technical women:  “STEM: Something’s Gotta Give,”  by Tina Vasquez at The Glass Hammer and “Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) in Korea” from the International Journal of Gender Science and Technology.  I would also recommend “Talking About Whose Generation?”  about how the Baby Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y designations translate (or fail to) across the globe.

What inspires you?

The most important thing to me is the footprints that I am leaving behind for others to follow. My parents always told me, it is not about what you have, it is about the impact you are making. Never, ever waste that moment, seize the opportunity and go big!

Related links

Sandy Hoffman Biography

Measurement: Proving the ROI of Global Diversity and Inclusion Efforts”, a paper co-authored by Sandy, in Diversity Best Practices

The 2020 Workplace

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  1. Thanks for the introduction to Sandy and her philosophy. I look forward to seeing great results during her tenure!

  2. We have a unique business model and love to target small business IT consultants in rural areas of the country. This allows us to find highly qualified talent and pay them at a rate they normally couldn’t earn in their smaller market. One would think that this strategy would lead to a large team of only white males. We have quickly found that this is not the case and while we proudly state that we only hire USA based techs, diversity is part of what makes America great.

  3. I enjoyed reading your story and all the building blocks that bring you here, now, to this passion to continue to ensure Cisco is a great company and a great place for a career. I hope your story inspires other executives to talk about their own I&D story.