The International Girls in ICT Day is a global initiative to empower women and girls to consider careers in the information technology field. As a part of the initiative, Cisco hosts Girls Power Tech events around the world, which allows girls age 13–18 to consider education and career paths in STEM. This year, high schools in Maryland were invited to the Cisco headquarters in Fulton, Maryland to participate and enjoy in the festivities, including hands-on exposure to the latest technology and engagement with industry professionals.

Cisco Networking Academies offer training courses in the IT field to teach students hands-on skills needed to earn industry certifications while they are in high school. About thirty girls from Cisco Networking Academies from Damascus High School in Montgomery County, Laurel High School in Prince George’s County, and the Applications and Research Laboratory in Howard County attended the Girls Power Tech event.

An exciting day was planned for the girls and it started off with an ice breaker, so the girls could get to know each other. Introductions were made and the welcome was presented via a YouTube video of Cisco Networking Academies from around the world. Some of Cisco’s awesome female executives spoke to the girls about maximizing their interest in STEM subjects and to choose fulfilling careers.

Cisco Networking Academy is celebrating its 20th year, and the impact the organization has made around the world took the spotlight.

A team of women from the Talos Group, Cisco’s elite Threat Intelligence and Research Group, talked about the paths they chose to become leaders at Cisco. They also talked about their day to day activities, and how to detect vulnerabilities in data analysis. The girls were very intrigued with the possibilities of ethical hacking as a career. Talos Group Director Chris Marshall encouraged the girls to differentiate themselves from the pack by participating in extra-curricular activities and competitions. He mentors the women in his group and encouraged the girls to use their drive and passion.

During the day, a Global TelePresence was held and Cisco sites from all over the nation joined in. Katie Holloway, 2016 Paralympic volleyball champion, talked about her challenges growing up with a rare birth defect. Her strength and courage only made her stronger and more determined to succeed. She stressed the three Bs: be aware, be resourceful, and be passionate.

The day was filled with encouragement and support. The girls realize they are at the forefront of an exciting evolution and they have the keys to improve outcomes all around the world. There is an open door to education and training for them to write their own tickets to success. They can all be winners.