If you look around, there is a strong push for female recruitment and retention within technology companies. The problem that remains is having a large enough pool of seasoned women for these companies to do their recruiting and retention. Companies are starting to do their part, now we established women need to do our part by mentoring, sponsoring, and encouraging this career path for women as early as middle school. We don’t want the door to close before it is fully opened!

Here are some women I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with globally who are breaking down the doors to address this problem!

Oli Laurent has never seen herself as a conventional thinker. This has led her to uncover unforeseen opportunities and pursue success at no limitations. Being curious and creative with technology allows for her to have continuous progression that makes her a technical leader and trusted advisor to her customers. Oli says, “helping customers solve their most critical business challenges is the most rewarding aspect of being a Cisco Systems Engineer. When Oli isn’t winning medals in various athletic events she willingly gets roped into, she builds houses for Habitat for Humanity, works with St. Mary’s Food Bank, and inspires young girls into STEM career options by demonstrating the empowerment and innovation driven. Twitter: @OliLaurentSE 

Chara Kontaxi is a Systems Engineer Manager in Greece who started in the Cisco Sales Associate Program after college. Chara mentions she owes her CCIE to this successful training program and will go to great lengths to sponsor, support, and promote young talent in order to give back. She also supports multiple non-profit organizations and loves traveling, seeing new places, meeting people, and experiences different cultures. All her experiences have led her to believe that the Cisco family culture, its people, and leadership lure you in and make it hard to match! Chara says, “You simply know you belong and feel empowered to take up the next challenge; the average Cisco SE cannot survive without a good challenge, right?” Twitter: @Chara_Kontaxi 

Nicole Scheffler enjoys leveraging Cisco’s “give back mentality,” which allows her the opportunity to connect with many inspirational women and globally mentor. She even has her own women in tech podcast called Diva Tech Talk where she invites women from all technology backgrounds to discuss various career options.  When she isn’t being a Tech Diva, Nicole works with the Networking Academy, Women of Impact, and volunteers at Girls Power Tech Events. At Cisco, Nicole states, “we are always coming together in teams for the greater good for our customers and the world!” Twitter: @tech_NICOLE 

Francis Gotopo feels being a Cisco SE has been a great adventure! She adds that “being able to listen to our customers, be close to them, and work together to provide the best solution” that enables them to grow and transform their business is fascinating and keeps her growing professionally. Francis enjoys the ability to move across different countries and being involved in numerous activities such as promoting STEM programs to youth, FIRST Robotics, and Girls Inc. Apart from being a mom of two, she is co-founder of a non-profit organization that promotes Venezuelan Culture in Canada. “Never standing still and always moving forward to make a positive impact every day for my kids, family, customers, and the world! That is the mission!” Twitter: @fjgotopo

Purvi Bajaj reflects back on the advice she received early in her career that helped develop her tenacity and fierce thirst for excellence. “I met a dynamic woman who was a trainer within my organization. I was pretty awestruck by her. In an industry that was completely dominated by men, she was this beacon of everything I thought I should be.” Besides giving Purvi hope, Purvi was given advice that “our only earnings will be the respect we will earn for our technical prowess.” Another bit of guidance given was that “people buy from people, people don’t necessarily buy from organizations.” They might not buy from you, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” When Purvi isn’t mentoring and helping develop early in careers, she enjoys reading and putting on her dancing shoes!

Yewen Xi was once a member of the CSAP program and takes time to give back by mentoring new hires. She views her mentoring as “writing a letter to her younger self when first joining Cisco—sharing all I know to help them succeed.” Her curiosity to learn in a constantly changing industry keeps her going as she sees barriers as merely stepping stones to achieve greater heights. Yewen says, “seeing the solutions I presented on powerpoint implemented in production” is most fulfilling. “I am always surrounded by smart, inspiring Cisco SEs who constantly amaze me by their passion and ideas,” is why she loves being a #CiscoSE! Outside of work, Yewen loves cooking and trying new restaurants. Twitter: @XiXiCat312

These six women’s inspiring stories are wonderful examples of paying it forward!

Come celebrate with the amazing women in Systems Engineering by tuning into the Cisco DevNet Facebook Live #CiscoChat Sunday, August 20, 2017 4:00 – 7:00 PM PST!


Kristen Hale

Systems Engineer

Enterprise Sales