As winner of the Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) Diversity and Inclusion Individual (Vendor/Distributor) award in 2021, Seema Hyne is a senior IT program manager for Cisco, who spearheads major transformation programs such as the IT Management Program at Cisco Live and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Seema was a behind Cisco’s MentorMe program and sits of the Diversity Council of Australia, where she continues to help a new generation of women on the pathway into a career in technology.
What D&I strategies or programs did you help develop and adopt in your company?
For the last three years, I’ve been leading a unique program known as MentorMe. It’s a mentoring program for female university students which runs for nine weeks and matches them to a Cisco mentor along with a dedicated program.
We offer two-hour sessions a week covering a range of topics that help them to become job ready. This includes resume writing, interview skills, personal branding, and strength building. Their Cisco mentor meets with them weekly, and they are also exposed to a variety of roles, including technical and non-technical.
The program is offered to any discipline, not just those studying technology subjects. The program has been running for nine years, and several women involved in the program have come to work at Cisco or within the technology industry. I’ve been proud to be part of it and support the program which inspires girls to join the industry, and I’m backed by many passionate people within the organisation that volunteer their time.
What sparked your ambition and how did you get these initiatives into action?
I’m an IT manager at Cisco and MentorMe is my passion project. The reason I am so invested in this program is because I fell into an engineering degree and did it the hard way. I didn’t know anyone in the field and didn’t have any access to anyone in the industry.
When I started studying, I didn’t have anyone to guide me, nor did I have anyone who instilled that confidence in me to be able to stand up against the boys in the class and have a voice. Leading this program is my small way of giving back to our young women of tomorrow and build a community of our technology talent.
How important is D&I to you and how do you think it impacts company culture?
D&I is very important at Cisco – everyone’s unique perspective brings a fresh view. It brings about different perspectives and ideas; it triggers innovation, and it allows people to become more proximate to people who are different to them.
As well, an initiative like MentorMe is an opportunity for employees to give back and learn from people outside of their usual network. The connections that are built through the program often last beyond the program, both amongst the student network, and with employees too.
Hearing the passion and feedback from the female students each year is very inspiring. They have amazing energy and ideas. I learn so much from them.
What are some of your strategies to further enhance these initiatives the months ahead?
The program has grown exponentially over the last few years – branching out to students at over 29 universities. We had over 170 students join us last year – one of our biggest cohorts.
But there are areas of the community we’d like to reach this year. Given most of the program is virtual we’d love to connect with remote communities, and welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students too. D&I goes beyond gender, and we’d like to continue to grow.
Who or what has influenced you professionally?
My parents have been a huge influence on me throughout my career and have been my biggest cheerleaders. They have always told me that I can be anything that I want, I just need to dream big, work hard, and most importantly, stay humble. Their sound advice and support are what has kept me grounded and given me the confidence to know that I can achieve anything in life.