Early in my career, I thought hard work alone would get me noticed and promoted. However, over the course of my career journey, I learned that each one of us needs a sponsor who actively advocates for us. Throughout my life, I saw my parents giving back to our community, which inspired me to continue in their footsteps. Through Cisco, I’ve naturally found ways to combine mentorship and giving back through various leadership roles.
Originally, I wanted to become a college professor in mathematics, but I decided to follow my parents’ advice and reluctantly chose to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. Right after college, I was recruited as a customer service engineer for a startup in Chennai, India. I was the only woman on the entire team. At the time, people were impressed and surprised that a woman could be in a technical support role.
I built up my skills in roles as a customer support engineer and far-reaching office manager and was noticed for my work ethic. I was referred to Cisco and joined the company as an administrative assistant.
Today, I serve as an engineering project manager in the Cisco Networking organization and am also a global co-lead for ICON: Indians Connecting Network, an Inclusive Community—what Cisco calls Employee Resource Groups—to help others like me. Cisco is an ardent supporter of Inclusive Communities, and I am lucky to co-lead one.
In 2019, I took up the leadership role of the Cisco High School Shadow Program (CHSSP). When its leader at the time was ready to move on, having been one of the organizers for my team, I was happy and excited to take on the leadership role. As the global co-lead of ICON, I merged the program under ICON as part of our Community Outreach and Mentoring pillar, which I’m very proud of accomplishing.
CHSSP began by hosting students at Cisco campuses, but since the beginning of the pandemic, it has become virtual, accepting high school students from all over North America. The program is designed for students from communities with less access to STEM who want to learn more about STEM fields but have not had the opportunities to explore them in their schools and communities or might be intimidated by them. Through the program, we provide high school juniors and seniors relevant, real-world exposure to applications of STEM while preparing them for our society’s future technological needs. The students get a unique opportunity to learn about Cisco’s work environment and culture. We hope to inspire these students to further delve into their interests and pursue their goals while helping Cisco build its Emerging Talent pipeline. As of 2023, the program will now be called Cisco Career Exploration (CCE) to better fit its curriculum and purpose.
This past year, we had a student from a rural community with a 4.3 GPA and a strong love for computer science. He spent all his school summers working in a winery with his parents. One of our team members sent me his resume, and we immediately started the process of admitting him into the program. Helping hard-working students like him through programs like this is a way for me to give others what I feel lucky to have had myself: incredible sponsors who have always provided me with support, feedback, advice, and inspiration.
Over the last 10 years, Cisco has supported me by providing many learning opportunities through various leadership programs and conferences that have helped develop me personally and professionally. I’ve also had many opportunities to meet various people from all levels at Cisco, including executives and peers across different business functions. I am glad for the cross-functional exposure and networking because, without my colleagues, I would not be where I am today.
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