I’m approaching my 10th anniversary at Cisco – my #Ciscoversary! When I look back at the amazing journey I started as a fresh graduate engineer full of insecurities about joining a world networking leader, I can confidently say this last year has been the one that has made me grow the most both professionally and personally.
It all started during the maternity leave of my second son, when I took the time to read about hidden disabilities, or as I like to think of them, “hidden super powers.”
My passion for people and technology has always been a driver in my career. I am today the proud manager of a great team of 20 engineers in the Technical Assistance Center (TAC) organization in Brussels, but Cisco has also given me the opportunity to be very much involved in Inclusion and Collaboration (I&C) activities. So when I became aware of the world of hidden disabilities, I immediately realized the great opportunity ahead of me to make a difference at Cisco.
Hidden disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately apparent or obvious. Having a disability may not affect your job performance, but it can affect daily living, aspects of your work and personal relationships. Depending on the disability, people may need job accommodations to perform the essential functions of their job.
It is estimated that 20% of people in the U.S. (64 million people) have a medical condition that could be considered a type of hidden disability. In the UK, Government statistics cite figures indicating 1 in 6 (16% or 11 million) of the current overall UK population are disabled. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Careers reported that 4 million people in Australia or 18.5 per cent of the population have one or more disabilities. These numbers keep increasing year over year as better methods to diagnose become available.
These numbers truly opened my eyes to realize that we all work with and interact on a daily basis with people affected by hidden disabilities.
The challenge in today’s workplace is that if a disability is not observable, many people have difficulty understanding the need for adjustments or identifying concrete actions to be taken.
This is what encouraged me to create an awareness campaign for Cisco, to precisely help overcome that challenge. I use the campaign to share information on the disabilities themselves and removing some stigmas and myths, how they affect the individual and small tips on reasonable accommodations that can be provided to improve work conditions and relations.
Every month I publish information about one hidden disability, and I open a forum to allow people to share their very own experiences. If you ask me what is the most rewarding part of this work, it is reading the testimonials that are shared every time by our incredible people at Cisco. Amazing stories in first person from people that are true examples of how successful you can be despite being affected by hidden disabilities, truly inspiring stories of parents that have helped their children to overcome their challenges, or people that are embracing the message and applying the recommendations on their daily job with their colleagues and reports. I cannot thank enough all these people for being so generous to share their experiences and make this campaign as relevant and as human as it can be.
It is vital for me every time to highlight all the positive aspects that these hidden disabilities bring to the individuals as well, calling out the strengths associated to some of the conditions, because as I mentioned, these are super powers that deserve to be known, specially when it comes to ensuring that we allow them to be at their best and play on their strengths in the workplace. It is all about making it more inclusive and collaborative!
Color blindness, dyslexia, autism, hearing impairment, dyscalculia, epilepsy and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are just some examples of the hidden disabilities I have covered to date… but there are 20 more in the pipeline that I am so much looking forward to cover, and continue contributing to making Cisco an even greater place to work!
I am very fortunate to work for a company like Cisco where you get so much support at all levels from colleagues, managers and executives to invest time and devote efforts in your passion beyond your daily job. And getting recognition for it like in my case was receiving the Q2 Services Excellence award for Bringing the People Deal to Life is yet another demonstration of this support and encouragement to always make a difference at Cisco.
Come apply at Cisco, where you can make a difference too!