Have you ever sat down with so much to say, and then the second your fingers hit your keyboard –the words are almost too difficult to type? This is that post for me.

It’s personal, and something I’m passionate about. It’s difficult because there are so many different perspectives to consider. And life experience plays a role – but that’s what I’d like to share most. I’ve already put myself out there with my previous blog post so let’s continue the conversation.

Cisco is dedicated to diversity in the workplace. It’s apparent to me that our leadership is not only listening to us – but they’re encouraging that we have difficult conversations as frequently as necessary to help achieve this. It is something that has made all the difference in helping me feel like these topics truly matter to Cisco, because they do.

There is still so much more work to be done to ensure that all employees feel comfortable being their true selves in the workplace if they want. I’m also a woman in tech, and it’s important to me to shine a light on our efforts to get more women to enter technology fields.

It’s no secret that the IT field is known to have a prevalent “bro culture.” I’ve spent the past 20+ years learning how to navigate my career in this culture, and I’ve actually become pretty good at it. I don’t say that proudly, because that makes me part of the problem and not part of the solution. It’s something I’ve struggled with, but now – with help and support from Cisco – I’ve started to explore how I can help change this.

First, though, I want to address why I’ve stayed in the IT field for so long. You see, I can’t help it. I have the bug. The networking bug. I started working with networking and learned about Cisco’s certifications. Immediately, I was hooked, and from that moment on – networking was my path.

I knew this career path would be a challenge, what I didn’t expect were the many road blocks I would encounter that my male co-workers (who were on that very same path) didn’t experience and couldn’t quite put a finger on why. Not until many years into my networking career did it dawn on me – it was unconscious bias.

Men are our greatest allies in this process, however, and it’s important for us to realize that! Together, we can raise more awareness to what women face and how unconscious bias affects us all. Additionally, we can showcase the incredible #WomenInTech around the globe and introduce young girls to a whole world they may have previously been unaware of.

These are terrific starting points to create a solution for those moments of bias that are so subtle that many don’t even recognize what is happening.

The stereotypical IT culture runs deep in companies that have been around for decades, but Cisco is willing to having those difficult conversations on how to improve the culture. We can only be better by exploring that which lies beyond our comfort zones though! Cisco is well on the way with multiple initiatives.

Here are just a couple that I am proud to have been a part of:

Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) Conference

WiCyS began in 2014 with the intent to inspire, educate, recruit, retain and advance women in cybersecurity. Cisco has been a partnering sponsor for this conference since 2015. This year, I was honored to represent Cisco at this event with a group of Cisco #WomenInTech that are committed to bringing women engineers into the fold both at Cisco and across the globe.

I was inspired by the young women that I met at this event. They displayed confidence, they were eager to learn about the opportunities in cybersecurity, and they were prepared to present themselves as a viable candidate to the biggest names in tech that were represented at the conference. This was definitely not a thing when I started in IT. I felt a great deal of pride speaking to these impressive young women about the amazing company that I work for today. I hope to see some of them working for Cisco soon.

S&TO Empowered Women Conference

Every two years Cisco’s Security & Trust Organization (S&TO), has an “Empowered Women” conference. During this year’s sessions, there were some uncomfortable conversations that revolved around topics such as “boys clubs”, the male to female imbalance in our industry, and how we as individuals can help break down those barriers.

The conference is well attended by S&TO men and women, and towards the end of the event, daughters of S&TO employees. It was amazing to see the pride that the S&TO men and women had for their daughters and how they were concerned for what their daughters may face in their future careers.

Cisco leadership attendance was strong this year with SVPs, VPs, senior directors and managers participating. Four levels of my leadership team were in the room for the two day conference – and that spoke volumes to me that we are all in this together. From this experience, I learn that it’s important to acknowledge uncomfortable moments, to always assume positive intent, and to continue developing relationships with male allies.

I am confident that there is a shift taking place in the industry and proud that Cisco is working to be part of that change. If you’re a woman with the networking bug like me, know that there is a place for you in this field and Cisco needs you.

Want to join us? You can! We’re hiring.



Kristy Knowles

GCT Network Engineer

Security & Trust Organization