Heading into a conference, you never know what to expect. Heading in to my very first Grace Hopper Celebration conference, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m relatively new to Cisco, and I knew that we were there to show our talent for disruption. What I didn’t count on was seeing up close a side of Cisco that the world may not know about.
The trade show doors swung open on Wednesday evening at 5pm, and the crowd of women in tech – thousands deep – rushed in to scout out the booths, epic swag, and network. There were at least 15 attendees from Cisco there to welcome them with open arms. As someone who was all but raised in Orlando, Florida I can tell you that the equivalent to this experience is Disney World on Christmas Day. As far as the eye could see? A crowd existed. Everywhere you turned? There was someone to reach out to and talk with. Opportunity was everywhere.
In addition to some powerful motivation from key speakers (including a NASA Astronaut!) the highlight for me was meeting former Cisco interns, prospective Cisco interns, current Cisco employees (including these strong women!) and friendly faces from other companies who admired what Cisco was doing.
We were there to inspire these women in tech to reach new heights. One of the conference slogans was “Our time to lead” and you could not only see the excitement, but feel it. In the midst of the action, was where you could find the Cisconians. The booth glowed, literally and figuratively, and everyone was buzzing about just how awesome Cisco represented.
“This is Cisco?!” a former Cisco intern admired, “This is incredible!” She turned to a friend, “I’m so proud of them!” and then turned again to show me her Cisco backpack, “I loved interning with you guys!”
Maybe she hadn’t yet learned what I knew. That Cisco has a new passion for disruption and for showing up differently. A passion for making sure women in tech have a voice in the industry. And the “cool” factor of a new CEO, a new leadership team, and a renewed excitement by employees.
Our booth was an eye-catcher filled with clean whites, brilliant blues, and a warm, bright feel. We featured a glowing statue, which we affectionately call “Penelope” as a representation of our strong tech-savvy women. Executive meet and greets and Innovation Cafes featuring Cisco’s many specialties from IOT and even a WebEx session with employees that couldn’t be there in person also kept the energy sky-high. We were also designing customized screen printed t-shirts onsite with a little help from our friends at the OMG Bus out of Houston, Texas.
At any conference, bringing a “swag bag” is a good idea, because there are giveaways everywhere. But the swag at the Cisco booth was what everyone seemed over the moon about. Those customized screen printed tshirts drew lines sometimes an hour and a half long. But no one seemed to mind. While standing in line (which attendees said was “worth it!”) many continued to network with new people.
We were there to inspire these young women, but you know what? They inspired me. And Cisco inspired me all over again.
I’ve worked for a lot of great companies before Cisco, and yet I’ve never had an experience quite like this one. Everyone I spoke to between Wednesday night, and even waiting for my flight back to Orlando Friday evening (as women from the conference spotted my Cisco t-shirt), had some out-of-this-world praise for us. The company pride I felt for Cisco put me on cloud nine for days, and I think it helped us to make a lot of new friendships for the future.
Interested in joining Cisco’s future? Check out our open positions!
Miss some of the GHC action? You can see highlights from this Storify.
We also shared our experience from the floor on Instagram! Give us a follow.