Voice of the Innovator:
Jyoti Sarin

"I've been living this one vision statement: to inspire and enable innovation at Cisco," says Jyoti Sarin, lead for the Innovation, Strategy and Planning Organization in Cisco IT. "It’s more than a motto. It's something that I wake up to every day feeling excited that I'm doing something to help the company as a whole."

Not long after Jyoti joined Cisco in 2006, she saw an opportunity to get outside her comfort zone and rewrite her job description. She was in enterprise architecture and datacenter operations management—what she was recruited to Cisco for.

Listen to Jyoti talk about leading and motivating teams to create exponential impact.

"I had a feeling that I was a misfit," Jyoti said. "IT as an industry has typically been about keeping the business running, making incremental improvement and mostly managing risk. But I saw a way to leapfrog it forward."

With two servers, a few resources and not much funding, she started a virtual innovation and research lab within our IT department to help people run experiments. It's grown to a central organization for innovation in IT and a leading practice within the company, with its "no boundaries, no silos" approach.

"I'm so glad that I actually took that leap," Jyoti said. "I just jumped in head first without even knowing what it means to build an innovation organization."

A number of employee programs have come out of this organization, including Cisco Barbarians, the Sales Street Smart Innovation Program and the HackIT hack-a-thon, which involved over 50 stretch resources from across the company.

Speaking of stretch resources, Jyoti partnered with HR to build the Stretch Assignments Marketplace, where flexible rotation opportunities allow employees to grow their own careers. And she has built the IT Incubator, an internal accelerator that shepherds all ideas (not just within IT) from inception to delivery.

But what really excites Jyoti is building and inspiring teams of the best, brightest and most energetic individuals from inside and outside her direct reporting chain. She brings them along in the journey, making sure the team members are collaborators in the vision and stakeholders in the decisions. When that happens, she says, the results are exponential.

"Initially, I failed, I tripped, I fell, and I had a lot of bruises. And that only made my resolve even stronger. And I came to actually realize that I have a deeper tenacity than I had ever thought I had."
– Jyoti Sarin
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Pictured fourth from the right, Jyoti was featured with other Cisco women leaders in Diversity Woman Magazine in 2013.
The HackIT hack-a-thon has grown exponentially since it started in 2013. Jyoti is pictured here (center) with the group in San Jose during the third event.
Jyoti (to left of TelePresence screen), with Rebecca Jacoby and other members of the IT leadership team, received the IT Champion Lifetime Achievement Award for Risk Taking and Innovation in 2013.
Two of Jyoti's passions are art and education. She volunteers as an art teacher at a local elementary school. This photo is from the school's art fair.

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