For us, at Cisco, diversity and inclusion is a huge part of our culture, and for International Women’s Day this year, we want to align and focus on three key themes that we believe everyone can resonate with: RISE, Shine and Thrive. For today, I would like to elaborate on the RISE portion.
Over the past year, everyone around the world has had to RISE to the occasion and adapt to a new normal; we have had to adjust how we live, work, and play. We have all been challenged in so many ways and all our lives have been affected or impacted in one form or another on both a personal and business level.
I believe every single one of us should be proud of how we have RISEN to the challenges faced and how we have overcome (and for many, still trying every day to overcome) any and all obstacles that have come our way. For some of us, those challenges came from the adjustment of working from home, with our family that were also working or studying at home, whilst for others, it might be as a result of working alone at home, with little-to-no social interaction. We have shown that we were more resilient than we ever imagined as we adapted. I kind of joke about this now, but who knew that a simple face mask would keep me safe and almost become a daily fashion accessory & necessity!
For me personally, I was really challenged on the social aspect. I am an extrovert and a very social person. Being unable to physically see and engage with people every day, was something that took me some time to adjust to. It was especially hard not seeing my parents and family, who live in Australia. Even though I’ve chosen to be been based in Asia for more than a decade, it was always comforting knowing that I could always ‘hop on a plane’ and head back ‘down under’ whenever I needed to see them. This past year though, I also had to adjust to what was previously a fairly free choice, to go visit with them whenever I wanted, to being blocked and not knowing when we might see each other. I know that I am not alone here, with many people unable to visit or return to their family, and this was particularly hard for those with aging or unwell family members or even to welcome new family members.
Professionally, for us in the APJC region, the new way of supporting our business partners, took a little getting used to, without that personal touch, that face-to-face business interaction which we took for granted each day. Our amazing technology, like Webex video conferencing does a stellar job at recreating a meeting environment; however, nothing beats working with our partners in person, and really feeding off that in-person energy – that ability to understand how we can support them, to thrive and capture opportunities such as digital transformation.
Beyond the difficulties that I personally and professionally adjusted to, as the Cisco Channel Chief for APJC, I also had a responsibility to ensure that my team were adjusting & managing to this new way of working. This meant that I had to RISE up, to do even more for the team that I lead and here’s a few things that I did (and still do today) to support the team:
- Checking – In: It sounds simple but sometimes it’s the simple things that really work and taking the time to ask someone how they are doing or how they are coping, does wonders to morale, gives them an opportunity to express themselves and demonstrates authentic empathy. Note this cannot just be work related enquiries; you really need to enquire after their family & furbabies at home, and how their work/life balance is doing. I have been amazed by my team and the creative ways they have ‘checked-in’ on each other and the fun ways that they used to learn more about each other. I don’t just mean ‘who is their favourite band or what is their favourite colour’ but really listening and uncovering their hidden skills and passions for life, outside of our work life.
- Being authentic & leading by example: We’ve all come to realise that every single one of us has an ‘off-day’. You know, the one where you just don’t feel one hundred percent or just cannot bring your ‘full self’ to work, as you just cannot concentrate. Guess what? It turns out that this has been a very normal reaction during the past 12 months. By talking openly with my team, we discussed that it is okay to let your guard down and openly share that you might need to step away from the monitor, keyboard and video meetings for an hour or take a last minute day off, just to clear your head. I feel grateful that we have been able to take a ‘day for me’ and ‘time off for me’ and not feel guilty about needing to disconnect & recharge. By demonstrating my own vulnerabilities, it has shown my team that it is okay to bring your true self to work and that this approach can also result in our mutual success.
- Embracing technology & staying connected: I must admit that there were many times in the past, that we took our WiFi and internet connectivity for granted (hey, it is from Cisco – it just works!) but over the past year we have really leaned on that access, along with our trusty Webex, as it became the bridge for us all to stay connected internally and with our partners or customers. Many times’ it was good to also let business take a backseat and catch up with friends and colleagues around the globe – sometimes sharing a virtual meal, joining a virtual class together, and even celebrating a birthday or two. For my family, we have enjoyed regular virtual family trivia nights and a few virtual drinks sessions together (and you always know what keeps the conversation flowing for me? A glass of bubbles, of course!)
So, these are just a few examples of what I have done, to RISE above the demands of adjusting to the new normal. If you’re already doing some of these to RISE and embrace the new normal, I salute you! I would also like to hear from others, some of the different techniques used to overcome obstacles. Regardless, I think we should all give ourselves a break and stop to celebrate the resiliency shown to RISE above any challenges that have come our way over the past 12 months.
Earlier on I mentioned that we have three themes for international Women’s day this year: while I’ve written about Rise, lookout for upcoming blogs on the themes of Shine from Rachel Barger, executive sponsor for Americas, and Thrive from Wendy Mars, executive sponsor for EMEAR.