The end of the year and the start of the next is always a time of retrospection and celebration. Last week was Cisco’s fiscal year earnings announcement, so now seems like a great time to reflect on some of my learnings from my tenure as co-lead of Women of Cisco Americas board.
Inclusivity goes beyond standard descriptors. Inclusivity is not only about gender, race or ethnicity. It encompasses representation from different geographies, organizations, and career experience levels. The Women of Cisco employee resource organization looks to find compelling ways to share our thought leadership on creating additional gender diversity in technology, and to give our communities inspiration to develop their personal and professional lives. It’s not always easy to find initiatives that resonate broadly across all of these dimensions.
For the first time, we hosted a One Americas holiday event. December 2020 was a time when the weight of the pandemic was really setting in. The pandemic that everyone hoped would take only a few months was stretching out into the next calendar year. We wanted a forum that captured the intersection of work and personal life, since that was the world that we were more intensely facing.
The celebration was meant to be uplifting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sugar-coating the narrative. With the help of our global executive sponsor, Gerri Elliott, we highlighted stories that came from members from each region at different career levels discussing real challenges such as mental health, adjusting to a new role or company, etc. The feedback was heart-warming. More than I anticipated, our members found inspiration in hearing from people who relate to them in some way.
Hybrid life is here to stay, and it is possible to make an impact in a hybrid world. The world is not going back to 100% in-person, and that is not purely for health reasons. It is because we have found collectively how to be more effective in a blended, flexible environment.
In this past two years, the Women of Cisco team went from having our global annual flagship event, Women of Impact, being 100% live for 6+ years to being 100% virtual. In March 2020 though, we squeaked in a few live events. I was thrilled to be able to host executive coach Charmaine McLairie in a live event broadcast from our San Jose headquarters. It was only a few days after that when the world shifted to pandemic shutdowns of offices, schools, and businesses everywhere. Those cancellations sadly included many of our local events.
In planning for the March 2021 event, none of us were sure what to expect. What was pretty amazing was how our volunteers stepped up to create something just as great; different, but great. Our Americas events increased in reach to over 15K participants and our feedback was that they felt more included. This was especially true for our members who are associated with smaller offices or who were already 100% remote.
Putting yourself out there will pay off…you just may not know when. Don’t sit back and wait for the opportunities to come to you. By volunteering, in a leadership role and as a team member, I have met so many brilliant people who I would not necessarily have met otherwise. What continues to be apparent to me is as people shift roles in life, one never knows with whom who we will cross paths again.
By leading the largest region for one of Cisco’s largest employee resource organizations, I’ve met Cisco executives, customer and partner leaders, community and nonprofit influencers, and two world-ranked LPGA golfers and Cisco Golf Ambassadors and 2020 Olympians Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda).
I’ve met hundreds of our members; from those with a one-week to tenure at Cisco to those with 20+ years. They’ve shared gratitude, looked for advice, and asked for introductions to connections. I guarantee I’ve learned more from them than they learned from me.
While this all marks the end of a chapter for me, it marks the starting line for the stellar individuals who are well-suited to take the mission to the next level. Welcome Americas co-leads, Karla Rivera and Mariam Leon! These leaders will be working with Luz Ma Murguia and Francesca Laurie (Latin Americas co-leads), as well as Nelly Daley and Amal Hasan (Canada co-leads). The executive sponsorship of Rachel Barger, Danilo Pozo, and Shannon Leninger will continue to be instrumental.
This post is not all inclusive of all the meaningful Women of Cisco volunteers and the work that they lead: executive shadow programs, speakers’ series, mentor programs, and volunteer give backs, to name a few. You can join the Women of Cisco ERO on LinkedIn or Twitter. Read more about how to get involved.