This time of year, you would normally find me planning for my annual Hispanic Heritage Month party and stocking up on the ingredients for my family’s favorite guac recipe. We’re still going to celebrate, but this year is different. We are entering the four-week celebration amid a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, with stark reminders of racial inequality as a backdrop. People of color are feeling the impact more deeply across our communities.
The times we are living in are testing each of us. As an individual and a member of the Cisco team, I feel deeply connected to our company’s larger purpose to “power an inclusive future for all.” In the United States and elsewhere, we must confront racial inequality and create greater diversity and inclusion if we truly want to bring about a better life for all.
Reflecting on this, and on my own Puerto Rican heritage, I’m gratified that the movement and sense of urgency to address disparity issues continues to grow globally. I am encouraged by the open, at times raw, conversations happening in society and inside of Cisco. Cisco employee groups, including Conexión for our Latinx community and Connected Black Professionals for our African American/Black community, are teaming up to lead discussions that are emotional and honest about the need for change and what it means to be an Ally.
On my product & engineering team, we are accustomed to building things that make individuals jobs easier and ultimately a better future. The first step to solving a problem is to learn more about the issue. The passion I have for creating a more inclusive future spills over into my community work, including as an executive sponsor for Conexion. In this role, I work with team members on three key strategic pillars to drive change and increase representation. The programs seek to increase leadership development opportunities for Hispanic professionals, identify and recruit technical talent, and spark interest for technology careers among disadvantaged school children.
I’m gratified that the movement and sense of urgency to address disparity issues continues to grow globally.-Tony Colon, SVP Engineering and Product, Cisco CX
My team is also encouraged to participate in programs that increase awareness, understanding and support of colleagues different from oneself. Leaders in my organization and I have goals tied to participation in the Multiplier Effect and our Proximity Initiative. With each interaction, I listen with my eyes and ears open-- and most of the time, my mouth closed -- and I learn. I strive to always lead with empathy.
In this year and at this moment of time, more than any other, I’m grateful to have landed at a company that shares my values, as Cisco has made it a business imperative to address inequality, racism and diversity, giving each of us the permission to act.
Inspired to help, hundreds of employees are coming together in organized, peer-led, heartfelt conversations, involving those who are open to listen and learn, and those who bravely share their personal stories of living with injustice. Employees also launched an “Ideas Portal” to identify tangible actions, small and big, that Cisco can take in its goal to affect change and improve the experience for people of color.
Along with time spent around my family and relishing in the sounds and tastes of my culture at home, meaningful and well-intentioned actions to drive change will be part of how I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. While I will not be hosting my legendary guacamole contest this year, I will be taking the time to reflect on how I, as an individual and as a Cisco leader, can empower a future of greater diversity and inclusion where people from all walks of life can bring their authentic selves to work.
We cannot pursue our greater purpose to create an inclusive future for all if we are not including everyone on the journey. How are YOU celebrating or honoring Hispanic Heritage Month in 2020?