I’m a Lead UX Designer — Here’s How My Company Welcomes Diversity and Celebrates Uniqueness

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Rashmi Sathawane

Photo courtesy of Rashmi Sathawane.

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If you’re looking for a workplace where you can be yourself, have unique experiences, join a caring team and know that your health and safety is a priority, then Cisco, a networking hardware company and worldwide leader in IT, is the place for you.
Just ask Rashmi Sathawane, Lead UX Designer at Cisco, who says that “Cisco respects culture, welcomes diversity and celebrates what makes us all unique.” And these are only a few of the reasons Sathawane says that she is “proud to be a part of this incredible company.”
In her interview with Fairygodboss, Sathawane discusses how Cisco enables her to freely speak her mind without feeling the need to hide her identity, the strides Cisco has taken to support employees during the pandemic and the outlets she has to express her creativity.

Tell us about your journey at Cisco.

My journey at Cisco has spanned so many great moments, from designing a network management app to owning the design for a brand-new app, COSMOSX, which won the Software Excellence Award at 2018 Develop@CISCO. I’ve written articles for our business unit newsletter and even published blogs on the We Are Cisco Blog. I’ve also participated in many conferences and community experiences (like our Cisco Beat, Cisco Check-Ins and team all-hands) and helped to organize events like The Innovation Pipeline Global Hackathon. I’ve had so many unique experiences here!

How do you see Cisco’s mission of “powering an inclusive future for all” lived out in your day-to-day life?

Cisco has always been practicing, promoting and empowering an inclusive future for all, and I’ve experienced it myself. Cisco supports single moms like me. My team and management have always been very supportive of my flexible working hours and emergencies. They also welcomed my daughter and accommodated her presence when I wanted to be in the office and she couldn’t stay home alone. 
Cisco also honors and celebrates who we are, which is evident in our Inclusive Communities like PRIDE, our LGBTQ+ employee community. Having our PRIDE groups throughout Cisco is different and so much more than just displaying a rainbow flag at our headquarters. I’m openly gay, and I have never faced discrimination because of my sexual orientation at Cisco. I am treated just like my heterosexual counterparts are treated, with colleagues asking me when my partner and I might get married, and I can freely speak my mind without feeling the pressure of hiding my identity. 
Cisco respects culture, welcomes diversity and celebrates what makes us all unique.

How did Cisco adapt as a result of the pandemic?

Cisco understood the severity of the pandemic even before it was declared. We have always embraced remote working, and so it was a bit easier of a transition for us. We’re the technology behind remote work with Webex, after all! This was a great relief for me to work from home safely.
Our leadership put in place a pandemic planning team to actively monitor the situation 24/7, update us on the latest news, provide support and make resources available to the entire workforce. They also quickly instituted weekly (now bi-weekly/monthly) check-ins for all employees, a trusted source that I could rely on. This gave me something to look forward to each time it was on my calendar. The information would help me plan and shape my next few days.
We’re now adapting to hybrid work, and our leaders still help us to focus on what’s important while prioritizing employee safety.

What initiatives has Cisco put in place to help employees during the pandemic?

One of the most helpful initiatives Cisco put in place was our all-employee check-ins. These were a lifeline for me during the shutdown and helped me to stay informed, calm and connected.
Here are six resources Cisco provided:
  1. Medical experts: Each week, Cisco would have trusted medical experts join us during our check-ins. They became a trustworthy source of information that I could lean on. Because of their guidance, I found the confidence I needed to safely go grocery shopping or to Cisco’s Life Connections Health Center because I was better prepared.
  2. Surprise guests: Surprise guests helped provide a nice break with a motivating speech, inspiring information or just a fun song we could enjoy.
  3. Physical fitness & mental health focus: Cisco stepped up here, too, with discussions that focused on guidance for our fitness, activity level, mental health and resilience. This helped in reducing stress, anxiety and depression and even improved our sleep!
  4. An Inclusive Future for All: The check-ins also helped educate us and begin difficult conversations around social justice. We’re not just out to say we’re a diverse company — our goal is to create an inclusive future for all. We walk the walk and talk the talk.
  5. Focus on You: I belong to the Mass-Scale Infrastructure (MIG) business unit that’s headed by an executive leader, Jonathan Davidson. Recently, a new section was added to our monthly newsletter with a theme every month where we could share stories and keep our colleagues updated. Each answer must include a photo.
The first memory I had upon seeing the Focus on You section took me back to the times when I used to decorate my desk in the office. Now, working virtually, I recalled the posters I designed for our events and how I found pride in seeing them on the office walls. Because so many events came to a halt or have since become virtual, I thought my creativity no longer had such an outlet, but with the introduction of this section, my creativity was revived! 
Every month, I send my submission with a collage and find myself on a page in this special section. Due to my social nature, I have found a new way to bond with my team that I love so much and makes me happy.
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