When we think about organisations, we associate them with the prominent and visible faces that represent them. The superstar leaders, the rockstar money generators, the eccentric founders. But rarely do we get a glimpse of the people other than these leaders. What I have realised from my time at Cisco is that that the lens through which we look at it is more expansive. Here we shine the spotlight on tens of thousands of us that keep this company alive and thriving. This inclusive ethos has what has kept me at Cisco over the past 8 years as well.

So it came as no surprise to me when I heard this week, that we were ranked first on Fortune’s Great Place to Work list, for the second straight year! It’s a testament to our culture where there is deep trust and psychological safety, where employees feel connected mentally even while working remotely, and where leadership is not afraid to have courageous conversations.

I joined Cisco in 2012 and as I look back, my journey has been a very diverse and richly rewarding one. While I’ve previously worked in various functions in Human Resources, at Cisco I started in an Employee Relations role where I was privileged to get a ringside view of the company’s culture and values truly coming into play. This was reflected in the ways that Cisco looked at everything – from viewing situations from a place of empathy and fairness to courageous conversations by leaders who are role models for their teams.

As I’ve moved to other roles within the company, I‘m firmly of the view that our culture (that is so core to us no matter which role we play and where we are in the organization) as well as working with world class teams, has kept me fulfilled and passionate, making Cisco a wonderful place to work for.

Conscious Culture is Key

Cisco’s commitment towards conscious and courageous leadership was also brought home through Leader Journey, a leadership program that I’d been nominated to attend earlier this year. This program moved away from a traditional, classroom-taught format into a personalized experience spread over 6 months and as a testament to the unprecedented times we face and the dynamic and collaborative environment in which we now work in, was entirely virtual with a curriculum designed towards flexibility for daily workflow, offering personalized, ongoing development while working through actual business and leadership challenges.

The business challenge that I chose was about navigating my way around the changes in the People and Communities (P&C) operating model while driving outcomes for the businesses and leaders that I partner with. We each had to make a commitment during this exercise and one that I made to myself was to enable positive change while bringing out the best in the communities I worked with.

Through this experience, I am convinced that leadership is really a journey and not a destination in itself. It’s about taking the time to reflect and be self-aware of what truly drives me, the experiences and assumptions that have shaped me as a leader, to show up authentically, be receptive to feedback, and have the openness to be coached and to coach teams/peers as I work through my business challenge. It has also made me reflect about the team that I want to build and the outcomes that I want to drive with my leadership, with a clear understanding of the version of success that I am comfortable with and the improvements that I want to make.

Underpinning this is a firm belief that culture anchors organizations. I am sure you will agree that leadership not only articulates but also sets the tone for a company’s culture. Many experts agree that an organisation’s culture is the originating point and the foundation for its growth and success. It’s what differentiates a good company from a great one and what transforms employees into world class teams and ambassadors.

I truly believe that our conscious culture is what sets us uniquely apart at Cisco from everyone else. We have recently articulated our company’s purpose to power an inclusive future for all, to lead the way in inspiring change, and to see the world through the eyes of others. Internally we have achieved this by sharing meaning and intelligence with a wide variety of programs and rituals such as the Real Deal Survey, Cisco Check-in/other meetings, Wellness Programs, Team Space Check-ins, Engagement Pulse, Power of Teams, Team and Culture Week.

Ultimately through this, we create an environment that is inclusive where each person is given an equal opportunity, is prioritized, seen, heard, and appreciated. Our hope is that this new consciousness at Cisco creates a sense of belonging and pride for the workplace that we have created for ourselves. One where you can say, “Of course I take care of myself; I work at Cisco!” and how great is it to work at an organization that is taking care of you? This strength and freedom to thrive are why We are Cisco.

I’m glad I get to continue this journey each day in a place which enables me to be myself and be authentic in my journey.