Being a woman in tech isn’t easy. You often hear of the stories many of us have faced as the only woman in our classes or on our teams. What I love about Cisco, however, is their dedication to hiring and growing the careers of our amazing women in technology, and I am proud to have been a part of a recent JUMP Women’s Development Program cohort.

Pelin Salem stands in front of a Cisco balloon sign.

When I first heard about JUMP from a mentor of mine, I immediately brought it up to my leader. I knew I had to participate in this amazing program. He did everything possible to get me on the waitlist, and I joined the FY22 cohort which started over the summer and early fall of 2021. The very first email I received had me so excited about this new adventure I was about to take part in, “You’re at the beginning of what we hope will be an inspiring and empowering journey where you’ll uncover and unleash your true, best self as a woman and a leader in the world.”

JUMP is a virtual, interactive development program held on Webex by wonderful facilitators from Global Warriors and Dramatic Resources. It is designed to evolve the role of future women leaders at Cisco and harness the unique perspectives and contributions we provide. This four-month long program includes three two-day modules, one panel discussion with directors, and several peer coaching opportunities. Our cohort had 20 amazing participants from different organizations within Cisco – which equated to 20 new friendships formed that I know will impact us all for many years to come.

It was a thrilling day when we finally got to meet our cohort and our facilitators via Webex. We also received our pre-work which included some guided reflection that would help us to prepare for our first one-on-one coaching session. This work focused on our strengths (based on our TeamSpace stand out profile) and three words that described us (that we decided on based upon feedback we received from our colleagues and leader).

My coaching session with Kathi Hibbs from Global Warriors was amazing. I loved having her guidance as we went through my assessment, and she helped me prepare for the journey ahead.

Our first session was on “Who I Am, Who I Am Becoming”. Here we got to know each other and explore a bit further about ourselves. We looked deeper into recognizing and naming that inner voice that judges us (aka: the saboteur) and learned how to take the saboteur’s power away and give that power back to ourselves. One of the most intense parts of this session was when we did a 10-minute guided group meditation with our coaches in which we were told to envision ourselves in the future, to feel the textures and observe the lighting, to greet our future selves and give her a gift. It was a powerful 10 minutes! We were then assigned to a peer coaching circle – which had four participants each – to keep ourselves accountable on the commitments we had made within the program.

Our second session was called “Impacted in Action”. This is where we connected with our drama coaches from Dramatic Resources who helped us to act out real life scenarios. This was the most challenging for me as it is always difficult to approach certain conversations with confidence, but with the guidance of this team and our breakout team’s director, we were taught how to have more meaningful and positive conversations – even when the subject is quite difficult. To this day, I still use the “when-feel-imagine-need” technique both at work and in my personal life with great success to soften tense conversations. This technique is based on Marshal Rosenberg’s non-violent communication model that was adapted to include ‘Imagine’ as an empathy tool.

A Webex screenshot of the JUMP Cohort.

So many of us found that having career growth conversations during and after JUMP started to feel more natural thanks to all we were learning!

Our last session was “Powering Up” and it was here that we were reunited with our coaches from Global Warriors. We had the opportunity to look deeper into our stories and all the emotions each story brought up, and through the guidance of our coaches we learned how to recognize and avoid the “Drama Triangle”. These conversations also helped our cohort share more deeply and become even more connected than we already were.

At the end of this session, we did the “Appreciation Chair” where we offered and documented our appreciation for each of our JUMP sisters and learned how to receive appreciation without feeling guilty or trying to diminish it with negative self-talk. It was such a powerful and heartwarming ending to this amazing journey and all of us left the program with hearts full of love and confidence.

The JUMP program not only taught me essential communication techniques to help turn lemons into delicious lemonade, but also gave me a deeper understanding of my self-worth at work and where I want my career journey to take me. I also made 19 new friends who I know will be there for me whenever I need, and I will do the same for them.

JUMP is only one of the many leadership development programs at Cisco and the entire journey showed me (yet, again!) how much Cisco wants its future leaders to be content and confident.

If you’re looking to grow in 2022, may I suggest you JUMP into a career at Cisco? Check out our opportunities now!


Pelin Salem

Test Development Engineer

Internet of Things (IoT) - Product Operations