Cisco: diversity and work-life balance start at the top
“Diversity is not just gender or ethnicity. At Cisco, we have various shades of gray and pink and purple and red,” says an executive
Cisco is a multinational designer and manufacturer of networking equipment, and is hiring for a wide variety of technical positions.
“We have a variety of jobs posted on our career website, cisco.com/careers,” says Jeannie LaDriere, talent acquisition diversity program manager. Some of the many jobs listed include information technology engineer, network engineer, IT analyst, IT manager, automation engineer, IT architect and system administrator.
“We use blogging, LinkedIn, and Twitter to get the word out to experienced technical professionals. In addition, we have an active employee referral program,” she says.
“We look for professionals who have knowledge of Linux, Unix, scripting, Perl and troubleshooting. We hire people from entry level all the way up to senior vice president.”
Robust college recruitment
In its search for young talent, Cisco gets involved with alumni associations and career fairs sponsored by professional organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), LaDriere says.
Cisco is on the ABI board of directors and is a major sponsor of ABI’s annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. “The Grace Hopper Celebration is one of our most successful hiring events for women in IT. There is an annual sister event in Bangalore, India that we sponsor as well.”
Many college hires start out as interns, according to LaDriere. “Our internships are for college sophomores, juniors and seniors, although we are looking into offering internships that begin even earlier in a candidate’s career,” she says.
Cisco offers two intern positions: IT analyst and IT engineer. “Candidates for both positions need to be problem solvers, quick thinkers and articulate communicators,” she says. “Some of the analyst’s duties are to liaise with business units to prioritize projects and work with customers to strategize business architecture.
“On the other hand, IT engineers focus on growing the technologies within Cisco IT,” LaDriere continues. “They are instrumental in evolving the cloud virtualization and data center strategies. The job includes coding, configuration and platform support.”
Cisco does the majority of its college recruiting at more than thirty campuses across the U.S. “We let students know that just because they are taking engineering classes doesn’t mean they have to be a hard-core engineer,” she says. “Seventy to eighty percent of Cisco’s jobs require a technical background such as sales engineers, sales managers and advertising units. They need a technical background because they have to understand what they’re marketing.”
Diversity initiatives and work-life balance
One Cisco diversity initiative is a program to teach managers to recognize unconscious bias. “We also have employee resource organizations (EROs) that anybody can join, including groups for black/African American, Latino, Asian, LGBT, and Middle Eastern employees, as well as for women and veterans,” LaDriere notes. “Conexion, the ERO for Latinos, is very active in the San Jose community, serving as mentors for the MESA program for junior high and high school students. We’re hoping to do something similar with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs,” she adds.
Inclusion and diversity is embedded into every business unit, and a senior leader of each unit sits on Cisco’s global I&D; council. “They make sure we have diverse interview panels, and they identify best practices within the units that can be rolled out company-wide. For instance, one department set out to remove gender bias from their job descriptions, which we then began to do for the entire company.”
Cisco’s mentoring program runs on its intranet. “Anyone who wants to be a mentor or needs mentoring creates a profile about themselves and the specific areas they would like to focus on. Then they are either matched up by the administrators or contacted directly by an employee.”
The company offers amenities including an on-campus fitness center, flexible work hours, and work-from-home arrangements. “Cisco offers every employee four weeks of vacation plus ten paid holidays, and everyone is strongly encouraged to use them,” says LaDriere. “That’s six weeks of time away from the computer. Our chairman and CEO John Chambers talks about work-life balance at all our company meetings. It is a popular topic and a practice that’s encouraged.”
Engaging students early on
Each Cisco location is involved with students of all grade levels through science fairs, robotics clubs and tutoring. “Cisco realizes we can’t wait until they are in college to engage students because many of them lose interest in STEM before then. They need the early encouragement,” LaDriere says.
Employees are encouraged to perform four hours of community service each quarter. Each location is urged to do work that meets local needs. “You can log your time and Cisco pays ten dollars per hour if it’s an organization the company recognizes, like the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and many local food banks,” LaDriere says. “Some locations participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the March of Dimes.” In the Dallas area, Cisco has a relationship with a women’s shelter and organizes school supply and backpack drives for the local elementary schools. All locations participate in blood drives.
“Diversity is not just gender or ethnicity,” she says. “It’s also generation and background. What have you done? Who have you worked for? What are your hobbies and interests? At Cisco, we have various shades of gray and pink and purple and red.”
||San Jose, CA
||$46.8 billion (2013)