Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

We can all imagine our possible: what I learned from hosting Women of Impact

April 8, 2019

There are certain things about me that everyone will recognise. I work hard; I love sports; I’m terrified of boats – and sometimes I can be a bit competitive.

One thing I am not is a public speaker. That just isn’t me.

But that all changed a few weeks ago, when I hosted the Women of Impact EMEAR broadcast live from Bedfont Lakes.

This is an event that we hold every year at Cisco, with our employees, partners, customers and students. The broadcast starts in Australia, before they hand the baton on to us in the UK – and we then hand it across to the US.

Altogether, it’s over 20 hours celebrating diversity, bringing together impactful, energetic, incredible women from across the globe.

In this blog post, I’m going to tell you about my experience hosting this amazing event – and why it matters.

Why I care about ‘possible’

The theme of this year’s Women of Impact event was ‘imagine your possible’.

This idea is very close to my heart. I wholeheartedly believe that you need to dream big in order to become the best person you can be.

And it’s something I try to put into practice. I’ve completed the London marathon a couple of times; I’ve walked across the South Downs in the pouring rain, and cycled through the capital at night. Recently I even did the London to Paris bike ride (all 250 miles of it!) – all to test my own strength and raise as much money as possible for charity.

You might ask: why do I do this?

I tried to answer this in my opening speech on the broadcast (which you can watch here). I told the story of how I was diagnosed with cancer a week before my eighteenth birthday.

While my friends were going out and enjoying their freedom (and drinking) for the first time, I was sat in a chemo ward. It was a really difficult time, but I got through it with resilience and the support of those around me.

More than anything, it taught me how strong I am. That’s why I like to test myself today with big physical challenges, and crucially, why I’m so passionate about fundraising for the charity Women v cancer.

As a teenager with cancer, I imagined my future. At no point did I not think I would grow up (although I probably didn’t think I’d grow up to be an accountant).

But I imagined my possible – I imagined I would survive.

This is what motivates me today: to be better than the person I was yesterday. So I was thrilled to find out that this was also the focus of this year’s Women of Impact event.

Do what scares you

Before the 2019 broadcast, I had never hosted anything in my life.

I was absolutely terrified. When I was first asked, my initial instinct was to say no. But I had to conquer that fear, because the idea of imaging your possible is one that means so much to me – I’d always regret not doing it.

The day before the broadcast, I was doing a rehearsal and I just couldn’t get the words out! I was so nervous that I didn’t know what I wanted to say, and I was especially worried about sharing such a personal story.

When the time came to step up on stage, my legs were shaking: but I took a deep breath, and I managed to get the first 10 words out fine!

Once I got through this first part, I was able to relax. The audience was so warm, I felt I could really be myself on stage – by the end of the broadcast I was having a great time!

Why Women of Impact is a movement that matters

Women of Impact is a really valuable event for our organisation and our industry. It’s a fact that women are still a minority in the tech sector: this event is a critical springboard to amplify the voice of women, so that their voice is heard by everyone.

And for me, the key part is everyone. It’s great having a women’s event, but we can’t break through if we don’t include men in the conversation. The dialogue can’t be just women to women.

This message was perfectly encapsulated by one of the panels, ‘Men who get it’. This panel featured men from across Cisco, who live and breathe inclusion, and some of whom are part of the ‘Men for Inclusion’ group. They discussed the role of men in driving change, and really opened my eyes to the way that different groups understand diversity through their own lens.

Another amazing moment for me was having Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson visit us at Bedfont Lakes. She was such a witty, direct, honest and authentic person, it was a real pleasure to meet her.

Bringing all of these amazing ideas and people together is what Women of Impact is all about. I’ve been so proud to be involved in it – last year as an organiser, and this year as an organiser and host.

Who knows what we’ll get up to next year? I can’t wait to see!

Always strive for your possible

You will always be amazed by what you’re capable of. My experience is clear evidence of this: I was petrified of hosting the broadcast – and now people are contacting me on LinkedIn to hire me as a speaker for their events!

Ultimately, it all comes down refusing to be limited by fear. It doesn’t matter what your dreams are – we all have different ambitions, and what may seem crazy to you will be perfect for someone else – but it does matter that you chase after them.

This is something that I have learned, although I haven’t learned it alone. My life has been shaped by many incredible women of impact, and I’d like to celebrate three of them here:

Thanks to the Women of Impact on my life:

  • My mother – whose love and support made me who I am today
  • My grandmother – who ran our family and showed me what a powerful woman looks like
  • Wendy Mars – who encouraged me to believe in myself and gave me the best advice – “If a door opens, walk through it”.

Above all, these women taught me that life will present you with obstacles, and they might seem insurmountable.

But don’t let that ever stop you imagining your possible.

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  1. I thought you did an amazing job Jules – not a sign of nerves, like you've been doing it all your life! Your story was really inspiring.