How Cisco Women in Cybersecurity promotes collaboration and inclusion

Cisco's Michele Guel, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Security Architect, discusses Cisco's four pillars of recruitment and the value of inclusion.

How Cisco's Women in Cybersecurity promotes collaboration and inclusion

Cisco's Michele Guel spoke with TechRepublic Senior Producer Dan Patterson about mentoring, and how Cisco Women in Cybersecurity group was created during a meeting between her and another co-worker. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: Do you have any techniques that are particularly useful in terms of mentoring and coaching younger people?

Michele Guel: I actually do a lot of mentoring. I kind of bucket them all, mentoring, coaching, sponsoring because it just mixes. It's really what the person needs that I'm speaking to, and I speak to more women than I do men. That's my goal, and it's all about when I'm talking to the younger generation is opportunity, right. Here's something that you can do. You need to be bold, and I share my journey when I was younger and I worked at NASA Ames, like you just have to go for it. Try something and if you fail, that's okay because you're going to learn, like opportunity.

Then, I talk to them about working together, right. When we're working together, there's just great things you can do. It's exciting and about the positiveness, and then as their maybe early in mid-careers, it's like okay think about their progression, and I've had women come to me who want to get in security. They're like in a totally different area, and they know they want to get in security then very specifically, like okay what area, and I help them plan that trajectory, and then they do the journey. Those that are like, I want to do it, I've seen them make that journey and they've been great at what they do.

I just had a text the other day from someone that probably like four years ago, she reached out to me and says, I want to be in cyber, didn't know me. I'd like to mentor you and now, she's high level in... She works for Ernst & Young, and she goes out and she does security for clients. Just be bold, all in, you can do it.

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Dan Patterson: That's great advice, especially not just for mentoring, but for collaboration. I know at Cisco you have a collaborative initiative. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Michele Guel: I believe you're referring to our Cisco Women in Cybersecurity, which is a network inclusion and collab- In Cisco, they're called inclusion and collaboration. Other organizations might call them diversity. We have many groups at Cisco. We have 11 official what's called employee resource organizations, and then I think something like over 200 networking.

So, four years ago, my coworker and I got together. Well, John, our boss, said, Hey, you guys meet. We forgot what he told us to meet about honestly. We're like, Let's start this. We were both about diversity. Hey, let's start a group. Let's gather women together and let's build the next generation. Let's build them up. Let's encourage them, and today, four years later, we have over, actually I think it's over 500 members, most of which are women, but we also have men because it's very important to have male advocates. We have some great male supporters.

And, so we actually focus in four pillars. We have the build the pipeline, and that's reaching out to middle school, high school, college. We have attract, which is going to colleges and attracting people in. We have retain, so once they're inside working for Cisco, we can retain the talent, and then we have connect, which is about connecting Cisco internally the organizations, and it's about connecting Cisco externally with other organizations. We're really promoting women and diversity.

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