Article

Sí, Se Puede

You can change the future and help others do it, too.
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Apr 11, 2022

By Krystal Cheng, Global Employee Communications at Cisco. 

“Engineering is only for men.”

That’s what a middle school teacher said 17 years ago when Elda Perez said she wanted to become an engineer.

Those words were undoubtedly meant to discourage her, but they actually had the opposite effect.

“I wanted to prove him wrong,” remembers the Mexico City-based Technical Leader.

“I loved math and science. I was good at it. I was the best in all my classes. He wasn’t going to stop me.”

Image caption: Elda poses with her college classmates and professor on her graduation day in 2014.

You don’t need to check all the boxes, or any at all.

Born in Mexico City but raised in Puebla, Mexico, Elda grew up in a family who always supported her in pursuing her dreams. So they weren’t surprised when she chose to study computer science at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

“But my family was the exception, rather than the norm,” Elda recalls. “In Latin America, women are often discouraged from studying the sciences.”

Elda believes this is one of the reasons why there was a significant gender disparity in her program. Out of 22 students in her graduating class, 20 were men and two were women.

“People often believe that girls in information communication technology (ICT) should like certain things, be good at certain things, and look a certain way. They think that if you don’t check off all of those boxes, you can’t be in ICT. But that isn’t true at all,” she explains.

Image caption: Elda and fellow Cisco volunteers smile for the camera at the Girls Power Tech event in 2018.

You can be different. It’s a good thing.

Because of her passion for computer networking, Elda was thrilled when she received a job offer from Cisco. For the past seven years, she’s worked as a consulting engineer, customer success specialist, and, most recently, a technical leader in the Breakthrough Innovation team. She now works on bringing Cisco’s latest technology to customers.

In her spare time, she’s a leader in Cisco’s Women in Science and Engineering community, where she encourages women to pursue their passions. Even if they’re different from what others say they should be.

“I always tell them it doesn’t matter what you like. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what anybody tells you,” Elda shares.

“If you want to discover this world of ICT – go for it. All of those things that make you different can actually help you succeed.”

You can change the future and help others do it, too.

Elda volunteers for International Girls in ICT Day, which encourages women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The program aims to help women and girls find opportunities within the ICT industry and acknowledges the importance of gender diversity to power an inclusive future for all.

The event also encourages participants to enroll in Skills for All, a Cisco Networking Academy program that offers learners free, quality online learning courses aligned to tech industry jobs.

In 2021, Elda moderated a panel of Cisco women who held various careers in ICT, from project management to engineering.

“We wanted to show our participants that even though we all work in ICT at the same company, we were doing very different things from one another,” she explains. “So, whether you like programming or working with customers, there’s always a place for you in tech.”

This year’s Girls in ICT event is on April 28, 2022. Elda is working with six other volunteers in Mexico to bring the event to several local universities and high schools.

“We’re bringing girls closer to the ICT world. And when we do that, we can change the future of companies and the entire world,” she adds.

“Who knows? Maybe a future Maria Martinez will be there, and in 20 years, she’ll make some huge changes in tech.”

Image caption: Elda and the Mexico City women’s soccer team rock their Cisco jerseys in 2018.

You can work and lead here.

Elda’s biggest dream? “Not only do I want more women to work in tech but I want them to be leaders in it, too. To create real change, we need more women at the decision table,” she shares.

“It’s what would help more women and men — even my middle school teacher — realize that fields like engineering are not only for men but women too.”

If you’re interested in getting involved in International Girls in ICT Day, you can sign up to volunteer.

If you’d like to learn more about her journey or support her team for the Mexico ICT Day event, you can email Elda.

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