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Q & A with Nina Lualdi

Cisco’s Sr. Director, Strategic Innovation and an advisor to startup companies in Silicon Valley and Latin America.

By Gloria Romano-Barrera.

Meet Venezuelan-born Nina Lualdi, Cisco’s Sr. Director, Strategic Innovation and an advisor to startup companies in Silicon Valley and Latin America. In the past three years, she has enabled a $150M+ funnel of opportunities as part of the Latin America strategy to develop new markets and drive transformational opportunities through customer, partner and startup co-innovation.

Lualdi presents to Brazilian journalists on the inauguration of Cisco’s Smart City neighborhood in the Porto Maravilha area of Rio de Janeiro.

Tell us about your career at Cisco?

I’ve worked in every part of the value chain at Cisco except for engineering. I spent 15 years running complex and global initiatives at headquarters. Then in 2014, I jumped at the opportunity to work outside the U.S. I relocated to Rio de Janeiro to create and manage Cisco’s Rio Innovation Center and our Latin America strategy for co-innovation with partners and customers. Last year, I returned to headquarters to take on a new challenge creating Cisco’s model for developing, marketing, and managing its new era networking solutions.

What are your professional staples? What do you think it is that makes you stand out?

I view myself as a transformational leader. Every 3-4 years, I reinvent myself — look for opportunities to change my job function. I want to learn every facet of the business to get the experience I need to help transform the business. For example, in Cisco Brazil, I managed all aspects of the business – from government relationships, to marketing, to VC investments. It was like running a startup inside of a bigger company. It was absolutely the best experience I could have gotten.

What do you enjoy about working at Cisco? What opportunities are offered to women and minorities?

One of the things I love about Cisco is that the company truly values diversity and inclusion. But they also focus on collaboration – making sure everyone has a voice and that diverse perspectives are represented in all aspects of the business. Over a third of our employees participate in EROs (employee resources organizations formed around common backgrounds and affiliations). Our annual Women of Impact conference, which reached over 14,000 employees, customers and partners this year, originated with our Connected Women ERO. And our Conexión ERO creates leadership and development opportunities for Latino employees and their allies.

Cisco is also looking to change the diversity equation in the Tech industry with its Multiplier Effect Pledge. Executives who sign the pledge commit to sponsoring one highly-qualified diverse candidate for career advancement and challenge their peers to do the same. This is one way we can create opportunities for diverse talent, not just at Cisco, but throughout our industry.

Rio de Janeiro’s deputy mayor hosts Smart City planning session in Cisco’s Center of Innovation.

What advice do you have for startup companies in the U.S.?

To be successful in today’s marketplace, companies must understand the customer. And more and more, the customer is diverse, with different cultural experiences and perspectives. All companies must be aware of their blind spots and develop a global perspective. This is where diversity and inclusion in your employee population is a huge advantage. Companies that truly understand the significance of diversity are the ones that will succeed.

What general career advice do you have for other Latinas in business?

Look for fresh ways to problem solve and create business value. Be willing to continually reinvent yourself and the projects you work on. It’s what keeps me interested and passionate about my work, and it’s what’s made me most successful in my career.

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