AMIDST THE PANDEMIC in July 2021, Cisco announced an important leadership change. The company elevated Daisy Chittilapilly as the president of India and SAARC region, making her the first woman to hold that position and becoming one of the few tech companies in India to be led by a woman. The move demonstrates the opportunities at Cisco and the career path one could dream of at the company.
At the core is the company’s ‘Give and Take’ principle — where one is encouraged to be oneself, but respect others’ views.
The company focuses on skilling, reskilling and upskilling of employees through partnerships with the ‘Networking Academy’, which aims to provide in-demand digital skills such as networking, programming, infrastructure automation, and cybersecurity. To date, around one million learners in India have received training, 30% of them being women.
“The company offers numerous opportunities for career growth, especially in the field of networking technology, where Cisco is a global leader,” says Sirisha Palepu, director, people and communities, Cisco India & SAARC. The programmes vary depending on the stage of their careers the leaders are in. Around 4,936 leaders participated in people and communities leadership trainings in FY22.
The company also follows an approach where a candidate’s gender, age, religion, race, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristic do not determine the hiring outcome. In India, it has hired more than 1,200 candidates through skill-based assessment by 95% diverse interview panels. It also uses ‘Diverse Talent Accelerator (DTA) solutions — a tech-based solution to identify the best of the talent, with over 14,000 Cisco leaders and HR employees using it to make hiring decisions. In India, DTA solutions have led to an 18% increase in women count. Data analysis has also helped expand the scope of its ‘Fair Pay” policy to include additional forms of compensation — promotion, stock, and non-commissioned bonus.
The company has launched nearly 14 inclusive communities/programmes, including ‘JUMP Women’s programme’ and ‘DARE programme’ (both aimed at retaining women talent) and others such as ‘PRIDE; Women of Cisco’, ‘Back to Business’, ‘Men for Inclusion’, ‘Connected Disability Awareness Network’ etc.
‘The Multiplier Effect’ (TME) is another initiative launched by the company in 2017. Under the programme, leaders act as sponsors for diverse talent. To date, several thousand Cisco leaders have joined the initiative, says Palepu.
Post pandemic, Cisco switched to the hybrid mode, fostering a culture where employees feel cared for by their leaders and team members. “It helps us stay agile and be prepared for any shifts in working models,” says Palepu.