Feature Story

Cisco's spirit of innovation shines at Grace Hopper Conference

by Stephanie Chan

grace hopper cisco

Cisco heads to Texas in search of the top talent in tech.

The sense of community started immediately as I found my seat on the plane ride from San Francisco to Houston, Texas.

Seated in between two other women who were attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event (or GHC), we immediately connected and began a conversation about our week ahead. Created by the Anita Borg Institute, Grace Hopper is an annual conference to celebrate women in computing, and here we were, three tech women joining 15,000 others to learn and encourage each other.

With the Executive Sponsorship from Senior Vice President/General Manager Liz Centoni & Vice President of Engineering HR Christine Bastian, Cisco sponsors the event each year so that the company can find the smartest and most passionate women who work and study in technology fields to join the #WeAreCisco team and use their skills to change the world. While the multitude of brilliant people attending Grace Hopper attested to the great minds of women in tech, there still holds the reality of a gender and diversity gap within the tech industry – and Cisco is on the forefront of trying to close that gap. 

"The Cisco volunteers that span all of the functions who worked tirelessly into the wee hours to provide a world-class brand experience, the amazing capabilities of the TA team to take our recruitment efforts to a phenomenal level, the executive presence that delivers the powerful message directly to these amazing women that a technical career is not only possible but embraced, sends the most powerful message to the world," says Christine Bastian. 

With the largest and spacious blue and green booth decorated with glowing statues of Penelope—or Cisco's "spirit of innovation"—the space attracted attendees to chat with Cisco employees and executives, see the kinds of technology that motivates Cisco employees, and even interview with Cisco hiring managers on the spot.

"The Grace Hopper Conference changed who I am. From a programmer who buried herself in lines of code, it opened up a whole new world for me. As a software engineer it gave me the chance to showcase my work to thousands of students and professionals who attended the conference," says Sreeparna Mukherjee, Software Engineer, "I'm proud to work for a company that supports and gives opportunities to their employees to connect with some of the most inspirational women in this industry today, to actively take part in the change the ratio dialogue and to meet other fellow women in tech so we can benefit from sharing our stories."

The Innovation Café demonstrations within the booth included TALOS—Cisco's comprehensive threat intelligence team—and Internet-of-Things-powered coffee machines that used cloud, mobile and Arduino to pour cold-brew coffee from a keg pump.

"I have been fortunate to work on some great initiatives that support women in engineering here at Cisco," says Rehana Rehman, Business Operations Manager in CSPG and the Program Lead for Grace Hopper, "I love that I can combine my passion and my job in one by empowering other women, steering impactful conversations and work towards a common goal to retain and advance more technical women. Like Penelope, I hope to lead by example and inspire people to embrace the spirit of innovation within us all."

Cisco was also announced as one of the companies included in the Anita Borg Institute's 2016 Change Alliance, or companies that have made commitments in measuring their technical workforce. Recognizing excellence in representation, employee experience, and policies, the Top Companies Change Alliance badge is an honor that Cisco strives to continue in its culture. 

With drastic changes and improvements still needed in the workforce regarding diversity and representation, the Grace Hopper Conference demonstrates the beautiful strides being made by the many women in technology who work towards a greater future—one that will be sooner here than we think.