In 2014, when I joined Cisco as a Post Sales and Partner Analyst, I had no idea what Cisco would come to mean to me – or how much this company would change my life. From the amazing benefits and meeting my spouse (a blog in itself!) to the ability to work remotely and give back to the community – there are so many “Cisco Moments” in my life that truly stand out. Yet, one I always come back to is our amazing leadership.

I am continuously floored with their dedication, guidance, empathy, and humanity. A moment that happened at a 2019 conference shined a spotlight on how impacted I have personally been throughout my Cisco career by those who helped make me the employee I am today.

I’m currently a Business Development Manager on the global Software Simple team, which is led by our Director, Kelli Kirwin. Not only does she lead a global sales team, raise a family, and make time for what I am sure are a million other responsibilities – but she is also on the board of the Massachusetts Women’s Conference! Who needs sleep, right? Because of Kelli’s commitment to our team’s career growth, and Cisco being named an official network sponsor of the conference – our team had the opportunity to see her in action during the week long conference where we also learned, stretched and grew.

Now, you might be wondering, “What can a male take away from a women’s conference?” and I’m here to tell you – A LOT.

There were, of course, spectacular keynotes like Cy Wakeman, Dr. Brene Brown, Malala Yousafzai, and Megan Rapinoe just to name a few. But what I really took away the most from was the breakout sessions.

As I listened to all these amazing women speak, I realized one message I kept hearing repeatedly: just how rare it is to have female leadership.

One after one, I listened as each woman shared having to fight tooth and nail to become leaders in their field and few had peers or people above them that were also female leaders. In that moment, it dawned on me – my personal experience in my short time at Cisco had been vastly different!

Between career moves and promotions, I’ve had six roles at Cisco. Of those six jobs – I only had one direct male boss, and I had never, in fact, had a male Director (bosses’ boss). Starting at the top, Cisco also has five women on our Executive Leadership Team! Now, I’m not saying we don’t have plenty of room to grow as a company, but I also never realized how far ahead Cisco was in female parity compared to so many others.

Team in front of Cisco sign.

It proved to me that, once again, we are not just leaders in technology – but leaders in the world as we work hard to close the gender gap and do all the necessary work to make our world a fairer, better, safer place for all.

I always knew I was lucky to work at Cisco, but after this experience it was crystal clear to me how incredible it was (and is) to have had as many women leaders during my career – something that may not have happened if it were for Cisco’s dedication to an inclusive future for all. They shaped not only my career, but who I am as a person – and I am forever grateful for that.

I know the leaders I have had (and so many others) are our modern-day superheroes! Not only caring for themselves, their families and their teams – but also taking on opportunities to give back, to mentor, and maybe even take part in a conference that typically hosts over 10,000 people a year.

We recently changed the title of management roles to “Leader” and I couldn’t agree more with this move. At Cisco, you’re not expected to manage – anyone can do that. But what we need, now more than ever, is true leaders.


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Drew Mcinnis

Business Analyst – US Commercial SW Sales

WW Software Sales