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What I Learned at Grace Hopper: Collaboration Is Crucial for Improving Gender Diversity in Tech

In October I had the privilege of attending the Grace Hopper Celebration for the first time. I am truly in awe of how transformative and inspiring this conference is.

Grace Hopper is the largest event for women in computing. It’s a place for women to come together and get inspired by other women who are inventing and innovating. After three days of amazing keynotes and technical sessions, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to be a woman in tech!

Where My Girls At?
I started my career in 2008 and quickly became passionate about improving gender diversity in tech. The photo of my first team may help you understand why. Taken within my first few months of joining a large tech company, it’s a great snapshot of a typical lunch outing with my team. Believe it or not, this was not a staged photo. I was really the only woman in attendance.

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Cisco IT Promotes STEM Initiatives

My previous blog about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) highlighted examples of how Cisco IT is supporting STEM initiatives through mentoring, IT training, and job programs with schools in local communities. Here I’d like to spotlight the Boys and Girls in Leadership and STEM program, which aims to motivate middle school youth to consider STEM careers and to find their inner leader.

A large group of Cisco IT volunteers, led by four talented and motivated females, implemented this program over the course of three months. Originally it was intended to reach only girls and promote STEM and leadership, but the organizers quickly concluded that true positive impact would be best achieved by equally reaching out to both genders. The approach follows a systematic, scalable framework that immerses these young minds in technology, leadership, teamwork, and the art of the possible.

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Cisco Mom and Son Bring IoE and Entrepreneurship to Kids Everywhere

Omkar Govil-Nair, son of Cisco employee Shubha Govil, shows off his OWatch at Maker Fair.

Omkar Govil-Nair, son of Cisco employee Shubha Govil, shows off his OWatch at Maker Faire.

Sometimes, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. That’s the case with 8-year-old Omkar Govil-Nair, whose mom, Shubha Govil, is a senior manager of products for the Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. Technology and tinkering with invention is something that the two of them share.

“Omkar was always interested in technology,” Shubha says. “He always wanted to see how things work and was coming up with new ideas. So for us as parents, it was about providing him support to make things happen.”

Omkar’s interests, however, were bigger than just learning about tech. As a fan of shows like MythBusters and Shark Tank, he became interested in building his own tech two years ago when he came across another young person’s project (then 12-year old-entrepreneur Quin Etnyre). Omkar had been attending Maker Faire since he was 4 (where he got to meet Etnyre) and got to see a lot of DIY technology and projects in action.

He wanted to take it further, and started learning Arduino (an open-source platform) from his dad.

He started with small projects and was so thrilled with the power of an open source platform like this that he wanted to share his projects with other kids and teach them how to make their own Arduino projects. This was the beginning of an idea that Shubha bought to Cisco by creating a program called DevNet Kids to teach Arduino programming and other such STEAM workshops (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) to the children of other Cisco employees.

Susie Wee, VP, CTO Networking Experiences helped Shubha further these efforts by sponsoring the Arduino UNO kits needed for the DevNet workshops. Now, Omkar, Shubha and her husband Subhash host DevNet Kids workshops for about 20 kids once a month for Cisco employee families, and these classes are usually filled to capacity. Omkar also makes sure that the parents don’t do any of the work.

“Omkar’s guidance to parents in the workshop is to let the kids learn by trying and not jump in to help them out with the project,” Shubha says. “Him bringing this perspective is really important to make DevNet kids workshops a fun experience for the kids.”

Omkar and Shubha didn’t stop there. They wanted to get other kids involved so badly that the Govil-Nair family is now a group of entrepreneurs. Omkar’s site, is full of how-to code and projects, and he just this summer launched a kickstarter campaign where he created his OWN Arduino-compatible smart watch DIY kit for kids to get started with hands-on programming and 3D printing. Oh, and did we mention it was fully funded in 1 week?

Shubha and Omkar together at Maker Faire.

Shubha and Omkar together at Maker Faire.

“It’s like a night job now for my husband and I,” Shubha says. “It’s amazing to see how excited people are, and I’m excited to have Cisco be a part of it.”

Omkar’s OWatch kit was a featured Maker project at the World Maker Faire in New York, and Omkar was also invited to speak at the Re: Make Conference both in September. He’s got partners already lined up to help bring his OWatch kit to more kids, and has captured the attention of some pretty fantastic tech leaders.

President of TinyCircuits Ken Burns called Omkar “the smartest 8-year-old” he’s ever met, and that he’ll have a “Great impact on teaching kids about science and engineering.”

We think that Omkar is going to be an innovation powerhouse, and we can’t wait what tech solutions he’ll bring to the world. We just hope he continues to partner with Cisco when he does it, so we can be a part of history with him!

See more on how Cisco brings the IoE to kids.

Passionate about STEAM and bringing technology to the next generation? Join the Cisco team! 


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Define Your Future @Cisco

I am looking forward to the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference, Oct 14-16 2015, Houston, Texas.

From Cisco Women in Cybersecurity to extraordinary software developers and inspiring executive I invite you to join us at Cisco to invent together.

Monique Morrow

Intercloud, security, and IoE are all areas that present massive opportunity for re-invention and innovation. The need for enhanced security is real Read More »

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#CiscoChat Seize the Moment and Make your Mark at Grace Hopper

Cisco Chat Banner logo

The Grace Hopper Celebration Conference is upon us once in two weeks in Houston, Texas  and Cisco is proud to be a Diamond Sponsor recognized as a leader in diversity and highlights our continuous commitment to increasing the impact of women in technology.

For the last 13 years, GHC has strived to bring together women technologists to help increase visibility of the valuable contributions of women in computing. This year the conference is expected to have grown to 11,000 attendees from last year’s 7,800 attendees. Inspired by the  legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women In Computing Conference was co-founded by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney in 1994. The idea behind the conference was to catapult the research and career interests of women to the forefront and now it has become one of the world’s largest gatherings for women in computing.

Women and computers

Cisco’s goal of participating Read More »

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