Unsung Heroes – My Cisco Brothers

November 1, 2017 - 22 Comments

There is a tremendous amount of emotional tension in every industry right now as women come forward and reveal their struggles with sexual harassment, and even sexual assault, in the workplace through the recent viral #MeToo campaign. It is heartbreaking to read these accounts, but necessary to open the dialogue on how we ALL want and deserve to be treated in the workplace.

I have been in the Information Technology industry for about 18 years. Having been the only female in the room for so many years, I just don’t notice it anymore. In this male-dominated industry, I have heard and seen a lot of things, but I can honestly say I have never been the victim of sexual harassment, unlike many of the brave women sharing their stories with #MeToo. I have never been offered a quid pro quo promotion, and have never been fired or demoted for speaking up about topics or situations that, as a woman, made me uncomfortable. I am lucky I haven’t had to deal with this issue much in my career. That isn’t to say I haven’t been subjected to some bad behavior, but none of it has been damaging to my career, and almost all of it has had a swift resolution.

But the real story here is the number of men who have helped me thrive as a woman in this industry. These are the men who are part of my Cisco family. At Cisco, we always think of our teams, our peers, and our co-workers as our family. We make conscious efforts to see each other as equals. We surround each other in times of need. Simply put, we’re kind to each other. As one of the relatively few females in this industry (although the number of sisters is growing quickly!), I am surrounded by some wonderful brothers who have helped me thrive in this environment. My Cisco brothers have spoken up on my behalf in meetings when they noticed inequities or heard derogatory comments about women. My brothers have literally stepped up when I faced difficult situations where I was made uncomfortable by the behavior of customers or partners. They identified these potentially bad scenarios before I was even aware, and helped prevent them from happening. My brothers at Cisco also prevent me from walking back to my car or hotel alone, no matter how much I argue that I’m a grown woman and capable of defending myself. They do this because they’re my brothers, they care, and they take care of family. I’m grateful for my brothers, and want to thank them for all their support.

Most of the negative behavior I’ve seen in my career has been a lack of awareness or education on what is and is not acceptable. My brothers and sisters at Cisco have it figured out. We are family, and we want the best for each other, so we treat each other that way. People from every industry can learn from my Cisco brothers. Let’s all ask ourselves, “How do you want others to treat your sister, your daughter, your mother in her work environment? How do you want others to think of them and speak to them?” It’s time for us all to be positive examples — to influence others to be respectful and kind.



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  1. Cindy. Nice article. Clydene

  2. I wrote about my experience here when with Cisco Systems (Raleigh) in 1996. I stayed with the company until 1999. It's a long time I admit, but the reality is what happened was bad and I didn't feel that I had much choice. I'm glad your colleagues are good though!


    • Simon, I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I, too, have had some challenging experiences, although none were with my own colleagues, which makes me incredibly fortunate. There are good people in the world and people who need a little (or a lot) more work on their character. I've been fortunate to have been surrounded by far more good people and want to make sure we highlight the majority who contribute to our success and don't dwell on the few who are not. I hope you, too, are surrounded now by people who empower your success and whose success you empower in return. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • Hi Cynthia – he was the exception. I remember feeling somehow responsible because I had invited him out, but that was just out of kindness, and a sense of "team" I'd counsel others in a similar situation to report it, perhaps at the time it wasn't the done thing and of course at 23 I didn't know the best way to go AND there wasn't really an obvious process at the time. I'm sure those processes at there now. Glad you posted what you did. S.

  3. I am glad to hear your story! I also have not experienced those issues after 21 years in high tech: 15 great years at Cisco and 6 great years at PayPal.

  4. Hear, hear! I, too, have had a lot of wonderful, supportive, positive interactions as a long-time Cisco employee and female in tech — with a Cisco family that crosses cultures and spans the globe!

  5. Well said Cindy and so true. I have had this same conversation several times over the last few weeks. I had #MeToo experiences in my prior role in another industry but not a single moment @Cisco, in a male-dominated technical team. Don't underestimate the role strong women like you play in setting the tone for women helping women too. #WeAreCisco

    • Thanks so much, Nancy. I couldn't agree more about women helping women on the journey. We need both!

  6. Nice article and great thoughts. These help reassure us that there are plenty of good people out there.

  7. Very well said! One of the best blog posts I've read. Thank you, Cindy for sharing this.

  8. We're in this together. No one has the luxury to ignore inappropriate behavior. I salute the #GentlemenInTech, as well as the strong women who stand up for other women. Thank YOU, Cindy!

  9. very well said, Cindy. This is an important and positive message, our unsung heroes deserve the appreciation. !!

  10. Great post Cindy! This is such a tough and important topic. And while I'll continue to strive for improvement in inclusion and diversity, I'm so happy to be one of your "brothers"!

  11. Amazing story Cindy, and wonderful to read such positive comments. This is such an important conversation to have regardless of industry, people are people first and deserve to be respected, valued, heard, supported and to feel safe.

  12. Great message, Cindy. Thanks for sharing your perspective on a topic that is so important!

  13. Cindy, That's a wonderful post. I know your words are heartfelt and genuine. This is something we all must own. Thank you for sharing and making your feelings public.

  14. It is always good to hear the good stories of how culture is changing, with the recognition that in some areas we still have a long way to go as evidenced by the recent reports in the news. The Cisco culture I have been part of for the last 15 years has been supportive of diversity. I agree that it is extremely important that we continue to emphasize the importance of diversity in our work place and in the broader communities which we live in. We are great but we can always do better to promote positive cultural change. Thank you for the blog post.

  15. Cindy, thank you for sharing on this very important topic.

  16. Wonderful article and we can always do more. Humans survive because of our diversity, everyone has special talents. We rob ourselves the opportunity to grow together if we do not insist on diversity in thought and action. Cindy is an incredible role model and I will always have her back. #WeAreCisco

  17. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

    The #MeToo stories need to be heard loudly, defended strongly and resolved fairly.

    A story from someone that indicates there are good coworkers who care and respect is however, welcome.

    • Thanks, John. I wanted to make sure the world knows that there plenty of "good guys" and many of them are here at Cisco.

  18. Incredibly powerful article by a phenomenal leader.