People Are the Network: Inclusion, Diversity, and Empowerment at Cisco
A few years ago, my senior colleague Anand Oswal wrote a blog about the role of women in technology and engineering. Since then, several high-profile events have rippled through our industry and social fabric, as women have found the strength to speak out against the forces that have been holding them back, excluding them from the too often male-dominated power structures, and the inequality of pay. As a member of Cisco’s Connected Women employee resource organization and a woman in Tech, I welcome these events and am committed, in my own small way, to making sure they result in permanent changes in the technology industry.
The engineering team I work with recently sponsored a gathering of women engineers to recognize International Womens’ Day. Anand, who heads the team and is our Inclusion & Collaboration champion, invited us to come together to discuss the role of women in Tech and how we can accelerate our careers at Cisco. He invited Christine Bastian, VP of HR for Engineering, to be our keynote speaker.
Christine’s thought-provoking presentation gave me new insight into the human component of what we do in Tech. Her talk made me realize that people are the network. Each of us is a node in a complex, interacting web – still individuals, but reliant on our peers and mentors to help us achieve our own goals. The power of these networks lies in inclusion, diversity, and personal empowerment. Everyone must feel included in the network in order for it to function and grow. And diverse networks lead to increased creativity as different points of view spark ingenuity and innovation.
Christine left the audience with five concrete actions everyone can take to be more successful:
- First, discover what your passion is at work and in life.
- Once you know what drives you, you can determine what you need to do to strengthen your personal brand.
- Adopt a coach (or coaches) and build a network of people that are already professionals in your area of interest.
- Equally important, build a network of people learning your craft. Being part of such a network presents you with rich opportunities to give back to your colleagues and provides you with much-needed peer support.
- And finally, approach your career as a journey versus a destination. A career is a collection of experiences and not a pre-defined end state.
I have completed Step 1. I know I’m passionate about technology and about helping other women and recent graduates excel. I’m also making progress on Steps 2-5. I’m expanding my personal brand as the communications lead and champion for the Connected Women Executive Shadow Program in San Jose. And I’m benefiting from the shared knowledge in my networks and committed to doing my part to encourage inclusion and collaboration at Cisco and within my team.
I often find inspiring thoughts in the Cisco Connected Women ERO Twitter feed. I leave you with a recent tweet from Helene Sancerres in Cisco France: “Between 60% – 85% of the top-hiring jobs in 2030 don’t exist yet. Women and young people alike have a role to play in building the digital era of tomorrow. Be daring!”
I couldn’t agree more. Be inclusive. Celebrate diversity. And be daring!