Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day with Cisco Apprentices

June 21, 2018

International Women in Engineering Day 2018 (INWED18) is encouraging participants to show the world how they are ‘raising the bar’ in pursuit of more diversity in engineering.

Our Apprenticeship programme has always had a focus on diversifying the talent we hire; whether that be gender, race, or social background. After all, what would be the point of a programme that delivers more of the same?

Since 2016 we’re proud to have hired gender balanced cohorts that reflect our local communities and the customers we serve.

But this isn’t a tick box­ exercise; one balanced cohort has a minor impact on the overall number of women at Cisco, let alone in engineering roles globally, so we have to continue to think differently about how we continue to raise the bar and change the hearts and minds of the girls and young women in the pipeline.

To celebrate INWED18, we caught up with some of our newest women in engineering, apprentices from our Summer 2017 intake, to see what it means to them.

Introducing: Oriana Dempsey; Ishwadeep Kaur, Shenelle Jordan, Kanisha Chavda, Libby Barton, Yasmine Rasselkaf and Eloise Shepheard.

Libby, you were introduced to Cisco by chance at a Careers event at your school; what convinced you that you could pursue a career in tech and engineering?

“I didn’t want to go to University but I wanted a career – IT was never a strength of mine as I had never studied it, so Cisco’s programme wasn’t on my radar. I was inspired to challenge myself in this area to build my confidence. I am a practical person and I find it easier to prove my worth through doing and challenging myself with new tasks –  in the last 9 months I have been able to enhance my network design ability and interest in Wireless technology and am averaging a 1st on my degree assignments!”

That’s awesome, Libby, well done! Yasmine, you’ve always known this was the career path for you, how did you prepare for this in your studies and subject choices?

“Both my parents work in IT, so I’ve been inspired by them to go into engineering. I chose to study an IT course at Reading College, where we followed the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum; once I started this, I was hooked. I built my own network at home and self-studied to pass the CCNA exam, which meant I already achieved one of the Cisco Apprenticeship milestones before I gained a place on the programme.”

That’s an impressive achievement, Yasmine! Ishwadeep, what inspired you to consider this route?

“Our society is sculpted by technology. Over the past decade it is apparent how much the way we live has changed as a result of it. I wanted to be a part of de-mystifying the wonders of data communications and the other increasingly creative ways in which data is transformed to provide the services we have come to expect as the norm today.”

I love this! You’re all inspiring me to make a career change!

Oriana; what impact do career’s advice and role models have on career choices?

“My journey into this field wasn’t exactly straight forward and my choices were dominated by others’ expectations of me. So to me, being a woman in engineering means inspiring others to follow their dreams. Ultimately, you will be happiest doing what you love and I never want to see someone not pursue this because they’re intimidated being the only woman in the room, or because of other people’s opinions.”

Ishwadeep, is it in an intimidating environment?

“Sure, it has been intimidating sometimes to be the only female in a meeting with 10 or more people. But, it is encouraging to be in an apprentice cohort with a 50/50 gender balance. I am glad to see that times are changing – girls should feel comfortable in pursuing the careers that truly inspire them, just as I was. Technology and engineering is for everyone, and it is a career in which female judgement and opinion is respected just as much as their male counterparts.”

How do you overcome that fear of intimidation, Libby?

“Learning about ‘imposter syndrome’ really hit home, because I truly felt like that. Self-assurance has been very difficult for me, but I now know I have the capability for a lot more than I thought. I have seen my knowledge increase in areas where I lack confidence and my organisation skills shine through. This makes me truly believe there is so much more to come from me, if I’m given the space to grow and mature.”

There totally is! And always take the space – you’re all destined for amazing careers!

What do you focus on, Eloise, to drive that belief and motivation?

“I want to grow and learn the most I can during this experience, that is one of the main reasons why I chose a career in this sector. I believe as long as you a passionate and happy in what you are doing it doesn’t matter whether you are the only women in the team or one of many. Cisco is a massive company who give opportunity to everyone; all you have to do is prove yourself and work hard. I am motivated and empowered by other women in leadership, or roles I aspire to; whether that is in Cisco or within the industry.”

Role models are so important for inspiration and providing proof of the different ways to achieve what you aspire to! Kanisha, when you share your story with other young people, what do you tell them you love about working in this sector and how it’s helping you develop?

“Working in tech is not only something I enjoy, but it allows me to face day-to-day challenges head on, and build confidence in skills that are valuable inside and outside of Cisco. I love that there are so many opportunities and paths I can follow and I am in an environment that allows me to continuously grow. Being in the minority does not stop women in engineering from striving to be at the top of their field!”

What about you, Oriana?

“Working in this sector is great for a huge number of reasons. For me, the pace at which it moves is the most exciting – new changes and developments are being made in the industry which in turn forces me to change and develop. I know I will never stop learning – and I don’t want to. It’s very empowering knowing you’re involved in something that will change everyday life and that you’ll see the impact of your work not just inside the office, but outside as well.”


“Being a woman in the engineering sector is extremely empowering, especially as it’s a growing and competitive industry to be in. The fact that it’s technically challenging with constant innovation makes working in IT enjoyable, I have opportunity to develop a profession that I’ve always desired!”

Yasmine, you were back at your old college a few weeks ago inspiring others to choose engineering; what’s your message?

“I feel a responsibility to support and encourage more women to start the engineering career they want and let them know that they can do it, too. Engineering touches the basic things we do in our life; connecting to the internet, making a bank transaction or even how we travel. Everything relates back to engineering. I encourage more women into engineering roles because we have the capability to do it and the opportunities are endless.”

Great to see you paying it forward, and that’s one of the most powerful ways we can continue to create a pipeline of equally excellent Apprentices as you! Finally, (and only because my inspiration levels might burst) what one word sums up your experience of being a Women in Engineering so far?

Oriana: Inspiring

Libby: Challenging (In a good way!)

Shenelle: Empowering

Yasmine: Same, empowering

Ishwadeep: Progressive

Kanisha: Opportunities

Eloise: Motivating

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