Upon hearing the words ‘Corporate America’ – your thoughts are probably filled with suits, ties, and briefcases. Which isn’t necessarily the case today, and especially not at Cisco.
Upon hearing words like ‘volunteer’, ‘give back’, and ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ – Corporate America might be the last you associate with service to local and global communities. Again, that’s just not Cisco’s style.
Whatever you might think Cisco is – chances are, we’re different.
Cisco believes that giving back to the community at-large is not only a responsibility of individuals, but organizations which inhabit those surrounding communities – and they lead by example, providing employees five days every year (separate of our PTO) to give back to organizations they’re passionate about.
We also transcend continental limitations with events like the global Girls Power Tech movement. This movement works to encourage young girls to pursue careers in technology while providing hands-on exposure to Cisco’s latest technology.
With the work life harmony that Cisco offers its employees, we have time for more of the people, places, and things we love. One of the things I love most is empowering others through speech. And this year all those passions collided as I was given the opportunity to keynote Cisco’s Girls Power Tech event in Chicago.
Often the words “tech” and “technology” offer thoughts of STEM based backgrounds, and a place where “girls don’t belong”. With women being less likely to enter and stay in technology roles and making up a mere 28% of workers in STEM fields globally – it was my mission to share with these young girls how technology is for everyone.
My keynote topic was, “You Are Your First Career.” I wanted to provide these young girls with the understanding that personal development correlates to professional development, and began by posing the question, “How many of us have been asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Not surprisingly, most of them raised their hands.
It’s not my belief that this question should be asked to the leaders of tomorrow. It’s limiting, and puts a cap on an individual’s abilities, imagination, and future possibilities; it doesn’t provoke strategic thinking. And, often, it leaves that person focused on one path, and one path only as it says to them, “You must choose your future right now in this moment, and then work towards that.”
Instead, I wanted these girls to see that everything they needed to be successful – they already had. They already had the power to move beyond unconscious biases, and that even as a non-technical professional in a technology company (like myself) – you truly can love where you work.
With an accounting background it is believed that you will count beans for the rest of your life. With a career in Cisco, it just simply is not true.
So what can we ask other than, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Why not, “What problems do you want to solve?”
Now, suddenly, there needs to be a thought process to assess the individual’s understanding of their passions and talents. It’s possibly less linear, but the essential beauty is that you get to see the many operating pieces of a process that is both creative and analytical. It’s less of “what do you want to do” and move of “who do you want to become”?
Sometimes we’re unsure of how to move forward, but the goal – I think – is to move towards becoming the best version of yourself. And, at Cisco, that’s something that is supported and encouraged.
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