Putting a Spotlight on Difficult Conversations

February 20, 2019 - 21 Comments

It’s hard to know where you might fit in at a major tech company when you eat, breathe, and sleep creativity. The two, usually, don’t go hand in hand and being able to use my creative eye had always been the backbone of my career.

Working for a well-known, established, world-changing tech company seemed daunting. Was I in over my head? At 4’11” I probably was 😉 but I’m a fierce 4’11” who loves new challenges.

I also had no idea if this company was going to embrace who I am completely.

I joined Cisco’s HR team as a contractor in the Office of Inclusion and Collaboration. The work was provoking and fascinating, but not without its challenges. I learned, I watched, I listened. I even asked my manager some pretty risky questions.

These questions might not necessarily be seen as “politically correct” – but my true curiosity and the need to have answers to resolve my own ignorance led the way. I wanted to truly understand the level and depth of complexity in the space of diversity.

As only my manager knew how to do, she was never offended, and we had those conversations openly.

After almost two years in HR I was offered a full-time position in Cisco’s Security & Trust (S&TO). And again, I looked at this as another opportunity for growth and exploration. At Cisco, you’re able to have real career growth and even multiple careers within one company which is great!

I was thrown into the deep end of Security & Trust, but my team always threw me a lifeline when I needed it, and I learned even more about Cisco than ever before.

Around this time, I started experiencing firsthand the challenges and conversations around the struggles of retention, attraction, and promotion in diversity hiring. I’ve always sought out opportunities to help influence our culture, and so when the moment arose to help drive the mentoring loop – I did just that.

I admired our Sr. Director and sponsor of the AA/Black mentoring loop’s ability to say that he didn’t understand the “black” experience, but Anthony was behind us 100% and was open to listening and trying to understand.

Anthony and I had wonderful conversations and I would share articles and videos of the injustice in our community. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one day he sent me an article back – this showed me that he was becoming more aware.

Being an active member in the mentoring loop, I heard of even more pain points and challenges that my peers were experiencing. I have never been one to sit back and watch injustices happen. I’ve always used my creativity to influence change through the arts. I had to figure out how to bring the conversation beyond just a meeting and throw it into a spotlight.

The hardest part of having tough conversations is starting them. I talk to people all the time through words; from my weekly radio segments, my podcast, songwriting and mentoring our next generation of influencers. So I know I had to find a way to give people access to a productive conversation that allows for reconciliation and not division.

That’s what I ran into a middle ground video on YouTube and thought, “This is it!” I began to map out a plan for bringing these topics and conversations to the forefront. I wanted to enable an audience to watch, learn, and listen to what’s happening in black culture from comfort of your own home, car or airplane or whatever your day consists of.

With Black History month on the horizon (and now here) I thought this would be a great time to not only put my plan in action, but also to find a way to engage people in a non-confrontational and embracing atmosphere.

I ran this idea past a few co-workers, managers, directors, and the mentoring loop members and I saw their excitement. I knew I was on to something.

From there, I let my creative juices flow and now seeing this project come to life has been nothing short of amazing. I believe when you operate in your giftings and talents with the right intent and motive, your gift will make room for you. I hope to continue doing this and creating more ways to encourage people to lean in and embrace all cultures here at Cisco and beyond.

You often here at Cisco “be you, with us” – that we embrace diversity, take on difficult conversations, and that – yes – we’re a company for techies and creatives alike.

What I didn’t expect was that I would be experiencing all of that first hand while being trusted by so many to set out and turn this idea I had into a reality.

It was cool to see that my complete, authentic self really does have a place at Cisco.

Want to celebrate diversity with us at Cisco? Apply now.


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  1. Congrats on the continued growth! I believe that each of us have a passion(s) and if we allow our creativity to flow, great things can come from it. Looks like it did for you and wish you all the best in this endeavor. Thanks for a great article!!!! Great job!!!

  2. Oh wow this was a great read for me and I'm extremely proud of not only the writer but also Cisco as a company to support such a journey to inform and educate when it comes to social injustice in our communities across the world. Thank you Letita Martin

  3. You make me want to apply for a job!

  4. Truly love the transparency of this article. It’s great to see companies such as Cisco willing to adapt and change

  5. Such an amazing article! Thank you for writing this. You are an inspiration indeed, and thank you for everything you do!

  6. Well done, Letita. Your creativity and passion are contagious and you are making a different in so many ways! I can't wait to see what you do next.

  7. This is great story about finding your path personally and professionally in a huge company. Your willingness to engage will continue to pay off as your career progresses. This is what leadership looks like. I am so proud to call you a friend!

  8. You are one smart young lady. I knew God had something better for you. I love you.

  9. This is a really good article. Its awesome to know that a corporation as huge as Cisco is choosing to support minorities and actually make a diffetence. I hope more cooperation take note and apply similar tactics for equal opportunities and allow people to thrive in the areas they are gifted in.

  10. That's a great thing. So many people are blind to what minorities experience and they don't want to feel attacked if you bring it up, so it's good that you found a way to get understanding

  11. i love this! So incredible to hear a company standing behind our culture & empowering their employees to be a voice!

  12. I’m so proud of you and all the great things you’re doing! Continue to inspire!

  13. Amazing post!! So proud to know your light shines bright in whatever space and place you’re in! Continue to be your authentic self; exemplifying inclusivity and mentorship. Many paths in life are not easily seen, understood, or even forged just yet. I’m so glad to know you are paving the way for others within Tech to follow.

  14. I love this article! So many people talk about workplace diversity, but you are actively taking part in creating and broadcasting this conversation! I also love the Vlog posts, and radio segments that you run. Keep it up!!

  15. I love this!! Keep being the inspiration you are Letita!

  16. Keep committing to your success and be victorious! This is a wonderful blog. Authenticity is the best approach to life’s challenges and goals. Keep up the good work!

  17. I am so proud of you and the wonderful things you are doing. This blog post was amazing!

  18. Love the authenticity of this blog. Keep doing amazing work !!!

  19. Go Letita, I am so proud of this accomplishment. Thanks for all of the enlightenment. I has truly been a gift to partner with you to make this a reality in Cisco. You are more than worthy of this feature, and I am certain you are making an impact both inside and outside of Cisco.

  20. Great read and glad you are getting the support you need to be authentic!

  21. This is an amazing read. Thanks so much for sharing!!!