Growing up, my grandfather and I were very close. As a boy and young man, I learned a lot about the world from the stories he would tell me on his porch in Chicago about his life growing up black in the segregated south, the lessons he learned trying to fit in when he moved to the north, and his hopes for his sons and daughters—and their children—to have opportunities that he did not have. I knew from the way he told his stories, that he was sharing special and life changing knowledge. I would do my best to sit still and listen hard so I would remember every word.
Last week a group of 650 women from Cisco and our customers, came together in person and via Telepresence to take part in an exciting and meaningful event called the CSO Professional Women’s Day. This gathering is a great example of the power of sharing special and life changing knowledge. The event was started three years ago by Padmasree Warrior and the women on her team as a way to share inspiring stories of personal and professional experiences – extending that “porch” in my mind.
This year the theme was Presence & Bravery and I have to tell you, all of us were doing our best to sit very still and listen hard so we would remember every word.
- Two-star Michelin Chef Dominique Crenn energetically urged us to embrace diversity in all its forms and help connect the world by creating the platform for conversation, which is what she aspires to do every day through her food.
- Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO and Founder of Acumen, took us from Wall Street to Rwanda where combined her banking expertise with a passion for equality to help victims of poverty through microfunding. Her wisdom was clear in all her stories, “Courage is taking on the status quo and speaking your truth, even if it’s through trembling lips.”
- Our Ted Talk-style panel offered us new points of view from a rock-star millennial to a pharma executive (Laura Hamill) to a woman who re-invented her career (Karine Allouche Salanon). Winning the prize for presence was Isabella Panisci, our rock-star millennial, whose wisdom was as profound as it was fundamental, “Don’t raise quitters.”
- Finally, leader, author, gospel singer and 20-year Wall Street veteran Carla Harris brought her leadership wisdom to life with dynamic, humorous and insightful stories that convinced us that it is always worth taking a risk because “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and failure brings the gift of experience.
These amazing women inspired us all and demonstrated the importance and power of inclusion, diversity and “porch” wisdom. I am committed to sponsoring this event next year and I’m looking forward to driving more great forums like the CSO Professional Women’s Day in the future. Let’s keep on moving together.