Carpe Diem – Seize the day! Inspiration from Everyday Heroes of the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN)
The Cisco Empowered Women’s Network provides a forum for women in IT to network, motivate, and empower each other through energizing and engaging events held during Cisco Live and sustained through ongoing events throughout the year.
Welcome to Carpe Diem, our bi-monthly segment featuring role models across the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network. We all make resolutions and set goals to improve ourselves, but somewhere along the way, life interrupts our plans. We find ourselves juggling different priorities and invariably things get dropped. What you will find in this segment are experiences of some ordinary people who went on to achieve extraordinary results. Each person featured in this series has faced challenges and opportunities that the rest of us can identify with. Let’s draw inspiration from the choices they made and aspire to the outcomes they created.
Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN): Monique – you have a unique job description – tell us about the new frontiers you are exploring?
Monique: I believe in transformation and constant reinvention. In my role, I co-innovate with customers as well as peers in the industry from an engineering perspective, but also from an experiential perspective. I work with the United Nations and various standards bodies to drive the intersection between economics, technology and research. As part of my global travels, I discover what people are doing with technology in other parts of the world, and I have found that it is less about teaching, and more about being humble and learning from others – that’s what makes you a leader and a technologist
CEWN: What were some early influencers that drove you towards transformation?
Monique: My father was a military man and our constant moves and travels led to an inherent curiosity and adaptation to change. My mother was a French lady and I grew up with two languages and two different cultures, which again opened me to new experiences. As the oldest of five children, I was very aware of my mother’s struggles and strength as she raised us while my father was away in Vietnam. I could hear her tears at night as she feared for and missed her husband, while being strong for her children. She wanted to be a full-time mother, but she met her challenging circumstances head-on and set about transforming herself and letting her natural leadership skills shine in the hospitality industry. Curiosity and transformation defined my growing years.
CEWN: You are one of the pioneers of modern day networking – what drove your passion towards this field?
Monique: Every interesting journey has a ‘happenstance’ aspect to it. I started off wanting to do International law or be in the Diplomatic Corps based on all the travel I had experienced while growing up. I was valedictorian and a perfectionist, and as the oldest child, I was also Type-A and wanted to please. But my mother was always the mirror to me – she guided me to be happy first and foremost, and find love in what I do. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I could not stay immune to the cusps of all kinds of industry pivots happening around me. Networking was really new at that time but the more I learned about it, the more I was convinced about its power to change the way we lived and worked. In retrospect, it was pioneering, but at that time, it was a big risk and I fell in love with the field.
It was also a time where I was the only woman in my department but with the backing of data and some great male advocates, I was able to make some bold technical arguments around the direction of the move from mainframes to distributed architectures. I was in my mid-20s at that time and there was a huge political pushback to my vision, but I had learned from my male colleagues on how to be assertive in my dialogue and I stood my ground. Not being afraid to take risks has given me the opportunity to change old world dynamics in the technical and global fields.
CEWN: What communication skills does it take to change old world dynamics?
Monique: I have learned that being assertive had to be different than being aggressive. You don’t want people to feel threatened with your ideas. Instead, you want them to feel it is their idea so they want to move it forward. That is an ever-delicate art of compromise that is cultivated by sharing vulnerabilities. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their guidance, it shows you are human. You have to observe and learn about the care-abouts of the people you are interacting with so you can pause and reflect and then behave a certain way. This is a skill that I have worked hard on especially as I have the honor of representing the U.S. Government at the United Nations.
CEWN: What would you write in a letter to your younger self?
Monique: I would tell myself to continue not taking “no” for an answer, but also not losing sight of the bigger picture of life. We are always wired, always getting stuff done – but do we always remember to enjoy the people around us, as well as enjoy ourselves? Check in with yourself every so often and make sure you are in a place where you want to be and where you want to stay. We get so caught up about our position in the org chart, or about the promotion that we feel entitled to, and then we lose ourselves in our self-induced pressure to succeed. We have a linear view of our careers and we need people to reaffirm us, but it’s really about how grounded we are at each stage and whether we are happy expending our energy at that stage.
I would also tell myself that while we want to be treated well when we treat someone one well, sometimes, even if there is no reciprocity from the other people, it should not stop us from giving back. Giving back should not be to receive back, but it should be done because it is the right thing to do.
CEWN: You have recently launched a global movement with the book you are writing on the Internet of Women – tell us about it?
Monique: It is not my just movement; it is yours, and that of every woman we know. When one of the top 36 tweets at the World Economic Forum is “We’ve heard a lot about the Internet of Things – I think we need an Internet of Women” (Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director); that’s when you know that the dialog has started to change. A company’s culture is defined with what is rewarded in behavior! So, we can influence behaviors externally to drive change needed within various organizations. We are collecting personal insights, observations and research to drive a new social science where a female perspective is critical in the formation of a new wave of technologies. We are encouraging people to walk in someone else’s shoes — not to get to the same outcome, but to understand their experience.
CEWN: Leave us with your favorite Carpe Diem statement…
Monique: Do not fear – If you don’t move yourself forward, you will be moved. So, sincerely move yourself forward even in an ambiguous world. Take risks and be reflective along the way.
Thank you, Monique! Click here to follow Monique on Twitter.