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.
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. LS
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Maria Medrano hosting
2017 Cisco Women of
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