My 6-year-old daughter Kaleigh and I have daddy daughter dates every Saturday where we go to karate together. It’s kind of a long drive, 1.5 hours each way, but we enjoy the time together. During a recent drive, my daughter was quietly looking out the window and said, “Daddy, I want to be an engineer and work at Cisco like you do!”
Cue the teary eyes!
I, of course, told her, “Kaleigh, you can do anything you set your mind to!”
For the last few years, I have been doing tons of STEM projects with Kaleigh. These range from monthly science projects that come in the mail, building projects out of wood and growing crystals. The moment I realized that she had a passion for science and learning, I made it a point to encourage her to try new things and make messes! (Making slime is one of her favorite things to do.)
Kaleigh’s eyes light up every time a new science project box shows up in the mailbox, as she runs up and asks, “Daddy, do you want to do science stuff with me?” That look in her eye, the ear-to-ear grin and of course the adorable doctor coat that she wears during her “research” is a fire in her that I was to fuel.
Working from home as a Technical Evangelist for Cisco’s Worldwide IBN Sales Team comes with a variety of benefits – one of the most beneficial though is Kaleigh’s development. She will come into my office and draw diagrams on my Webex board and say, “Look Daddy! It’s a network like you draw!” Of course, you can’t beat all the hearts and I Love You’s that make their way into her drawings as well.
No activities are off-limits. We go camping, wrestle and play outside all the time. We play golf, catch, basketball and climb trees. I do my best to teach her that anything is possible and that if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to achieve it. That’s what really got me thinking. It really does start at home. The more we can remove any barriers for our children, the more confidence they will have and the likelihood that they will be able to achieve their goals and be successful increases.
This ‘revelation’ was perfect timing, as a video I was working on with my team focused on a story that could be told to young women and girls to spark their interest in becoming an engineer. Too often, it seems unattainable for them. These types of job roles aren’t encouraged enough for young women and girls. Within the video we busted myths about becoming an engineer like, “You have to be good at math” or “Specialize in a specific kind of engineering”.
Why not do multiple things? Why not follow your passion? Why let someone define your interests in such a way?
Our goal with the video was to inspire young women to pursue an engineering career without all the typical naysaying nonsense. The option to become an engineer should be presented early on when dreaming about ‘what you want to be when you grow up’ and when researching careers, graduating high school, and applying to colleges. I believe, this kind of reinforcement must start at home and as early as possible. Especially if we want to break the stereotype of what an engineer looks like or sounds like.
To make this video more appealing to a younger audience, we brought in an amazing graphic artist to sketch out the storyline with ghosts, dragons, and unicorns. We also wanted to showcase the many different exciting hobbies that engineers have, from playing the guitar to surfing to mountain bike racing. Passion and creativity are two characteristics of remarkable engineers along with an inquisitive nature and clever problem-solving skills.
This is something you find all across Cisco – passionate, talented, creative, brilliant minds that come together to build some of the world’s best technology.
I do my best to teach our children that they can do anything they set their mind to. Especially science and engineering. Kaleigh is crushing it in math and science and has such a passion for learning, building, and troubleshooting! In large part, perhaps, because she has never been told that these interests ‘weren’t for her’
Kaleigh wants to be an engineer and work at Cisco when she grows up. What will you be when you grow up?
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