Jen Keating is a woman who has seen a lot during her career – including time with CDW, Solar Winds, and Palo Alto Networks – but it is her role at Cisco that has been particularly interesting. Starting at Cisco in March of 2020, no one knew what the next two years would hold when offices first started to close down, and employees began the long hybrid work experiment that has continued to the present. Throughout it all, however, Keating has learned a lot and recently joined EDGE360 to share what she knows about the current needs of federal IT.
As the Director of Partner Sales Organization, Keating is uniquely qualified to offer insights on the ever-changing role of technology and IT solutions. Keating shared her advice for partners looking to get an advantage over their competitors, but the conversation morphed into a reflection on her career in the channel and her belief that diversity is an important key to success.
EDGE360 Editors: Over the past few years, there has been a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion, especially at Cisco. Why is this important to the organization?
Jen Keating: Building an inclusive future for all is at the core of Cisco’s being. Technology is central to our work, allowing everyone to have a seat at the table, even if they’re not sitting in the same room. We embrace full-spectrum diversity and inclusion across the company, bridging the digital divide to create a future where everyone can connect, collaborate, and thrive.
Over the past few years, as society is more conscious of the impact of what being diverse and inclusive can mean for our future, Cisco has been and remains committed to helping the world community thrive. Cisco gives days to its employees to give back to causes in their communities. Involvement in social justice through our social justice and actions office provides strategic partnerships and development programs for early-in-career and next-generation training for new leaders. Cisco also teaches inclusive skill-building and invites employees to join various inclusive groups to feel welcome and contribute to things that matter to them.
EDGE360 Editors: A lot has happened since we last spoke at Fed Summit in 2020. How has this focus on diversity and inclusion helped Cisco during this time of disruption?
Keating: This has been a difficult couple of years for everyone. By offering all these different opportunities to employees, Cisco has provided us with the opportunity to thrive by being able to take time out from hectic and stressful times to give back, focus on what matters to us, and make a difference in the world with our actions. This helps keep the focus on what matters and builds a tight-knit sense of togetherness across a very large company.
EDGE360 Editors: In March we are also looking closely at how public sector technology needs have evolved as many are embracing a new hybrid environment. What does the latest new normal look like?
Keating: It will be hybrid. Whether that means you work five days a week at home and gather with your team for activities and connections every once in a while or are in the office five days a week leveraging the collaborative office configuration and technology to connect to your colleagues around the world, Cisco is there to help public sector customers adapt and excel in a hybrid world.
EDGE360 Editors: How is federal IT prioritizing budgets to embrace this new hybrid environment?
Keating: Hybrid work is an opportunity for Federal agencies to capitalize on getting the best workers while they continue to compete with the private industry already making accommodations to attract talent. It isn’t meant to be just an accommodation they need to provide, but a chance to sustain talent in a hybrid world.
EDGE360 Editors: What are the core areas of the current federal IT focus?
Keating: For hybrid work models to work, federal agencies need to address these four areas of their IT environment to make it a safe reality moving forward:
The first area is asking how to optimize remote work. I’ll speak to the solution I am most familiar with, which is Cisco Webex. We encourage partners to recommend using a collaboration tool, like Webex, since they can solve for an optimal experience through our collaboration platform built for video-enabled meetings, calling, information sharing, and data management. Secondarily, utilizing software like Webex means creating an adaptive infrastructure that can scale to use fluctuations easily and efficiently through Cloud-enabled, SaaS-driven solutions.
The second area to approach is asking how to secure and manage a hybrid work infrastructure. I should point out that this includes full security from the core of the network to the end user’s access. Again, speaking of the solutions I know, Cisco Secure has products and a platform to safely connect your workforce to its workloads and applications securely. That is something that all VARs or partners should be able to provide to their end-users.
Third, ask how to create an inclusive and supportive work culture. I don’t believe anyone would be surprised anymore to find out that there is a difference between working on-premises and being remote. Finding ways to bolster that culture despite the distance is key. Cisco recommends utilizing training and inclusion modifications to showcase how solutions can be used to do just that.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how to get employees back to the office safely. The pandemic is still ongoing, but there are signs that companies, enterprises, organizations, are all looking at a hybrid future. Cisco is looking at that, too, and has developed solutions to help make that process as easy and safe as possible. Specifically, through Cisco DNA Spaces, partners can add solutions that demonstrate that creating a safe environment is possible.
EDGE360 Editors: How can Cisco partners help agencies prepare for a more permanent hybrid world?
Keating: A new era of work requires a new approach. One that spans collaboration, security, networking, cloud, and applications. Cisco helps bring it all together to achieve greater agility by driving efficiency, resiliency, and growth wherever and whenever needed to enable workers, to reimagine offices, and transform any workspace.
For employees, I can provide three key considerations:
- Secure access: Provide consistent and flexible identity-based secure access to the network for users and devices.
- Secure collaboration: Flexible and secure collaboration tools for inclusive team engagement and productivity.
- Enhanced visibility: Provide real-time visibility into distributed application, security, network, user and service performance.
- Home office: Enable enhanced experiences at home for workers with specialized functional requirements.
- Individual office spaces: Support more effective hotdesking, hoteling, and personal workstations.
- Meeting and common spaces: Transform meeting and common spaces to safely connect people in new ways.
- Industrial asset and facility monitoring: Improve efficiencies and safety by providing visibility into industrial assets and facilities.
- Hybrid operations: Maintain operations independent of location with secure policy-based remote connectivity.
- Sustainable facilities: Enable an energy-efficient and managed environmental footprint.
Ultimately, Cisco Partners have access to the tools to help every one of their federal IT end-users be safe, efficient, and productive no matter the shape or form of their hybrid work needs. Just reach out and talk to us and we’d be happy to contribute to their success in the IT channel and help bolster their offerings with our solutions.
To learn more about how VARs and Cisco Partners can help their federal IT end-users embrace hybrid work, click here.