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Technology as an Equalizer

Maria Medrano, Director of Inclusion and Collaboration, Cisco.

By Gloria Romano-Barrera.

Maria Medrano is Director of Communities and Technology in Cisco’s Global Office of Inclusion and Collaboration (OIC). A mentor to first-generation Latino college students, Maria works with local schools to promote careers in technology. A Mexican-American Californian native, Maria holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from San Jose State University, a Masters of Arts in Organizational Development from Sonoma State University, and an MBA from California State University Sacramento.

What is your role in Cisco’s Office of Inclusion and Collaboration?
I lead the Global Inclusion and Collaboration Community Strategy for Cisco, which includes all of our Employee Resource Organizations, Business Networks, and Global Ambassadors. Together, we create unique experiences through events like our Women of Impact Conference, Hispanic Heritage Celebration, Black History Month, and Veterans in Transition Day. Our thriving community of 25,000 employees helps Cisco promote diverse hiring and professional development, and works to keep employees engaged and proud of their individual diversity. I also partner with Cisco’s Engineering Organization on their inclusion and collaboration strategy. Working together, our solutions create exponential value for Cisco, our employees, customers, partners, and communities.

Who were your role models growing up, and how did they influence you?
I was born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District and my parents were originally from Zacatecas, Mexico. We lived in a low-income, working-class neighborhood. My first role models were my parents. By the time my mom was 19, she was a mother of two. From an early age, my mom insisted that education was the most important thing in my life, even though she didn’t know how I was going to obtain it. The challenges my family faced, and the lack of Latina role models in medicine, arts, engineering, science, education, and government, made me curious about what exists on the “other side” of poverty.

How has your family and community inspired your choices and contributed to your success?
As a young Latina, and first-generation in the U.S., I was given the gift of being bilingual. As the oldest of four siblings, my family has always relied heavily on my ability to communicate. I was often pulled from school to translate for others, and assist family with forms and applications. At a very young age, this gave me a high sense of confidence in my ability to help others, but most importantly, a desire to help communities in need. As I look back on my career, I can honestly say that all of those years of advocating, translating, and negotiating influenced the role I play today in being a leader, champion, and strategist for inclusion and diversity in Corporate America.

Maria Medrano hosting 2017 Cisco Women of Impact Conference in California.

What are the benefits of building strong communities and EROs?
Employee Resource Organizations (ERO’s) can help drive collaboration across all communities. When we bring diverse communities of employees together, we can have conversations around issues that are important, and we can create safe spaces where collaboration and innovation are encouraged. To date, our ERO’s have positively impacted employee experiences, our company culture, and the Cisco brand.

As mentor, why is it important to promote careers in technology?
As a career, technology is an equalizer. It is foundational to every industry, from banking and manufacturing, to everything in between. My career has provided me with the privilege of sharing and exposing other first-generation, low-income youth to our industry. As professionals in technology, it is our responsibility to mentor students on how to navigate their academic and professional careers, and how to pay it forward.

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