Rethinking Networking In The Digital Workspace Helped Cisco’s Chloe Ifalore Find Her Voice

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The transition from uni to the office was already daunting enough. Like countless 2020 graduates, Chloe Ifalore almost had to go it alone. 

Unlike many 2020 graduates, Chloe Ifalore secured her graduate job in December 2019, when COVID-19 was still a distant threat. Having previously interned with Cisco, she was assured as soon as the threat arrived on British shores, that her position was secure and that her transition from student to young professional seamless. But how does one establish themselves and develop a network when social interaction is on pause? For Chloe, the key has been to be intentionally proactive.

When I started hearing certain assumptions about Black people, it made me feel like I had to prove my worth and prove that I am here for a reason. I felt like I had to show that we can do it, we are worthy, we do have the skills and the talent to be where you guys are. And I still continue to feel that”

BYP: You’ve come into a space that can be challenging for women of colour during a time wrought with change. What challenges have you encountered so far?

Chloe: The first challenge was coming into a huge company on a grad scheme during a pandemic. That was overwhelming because, if I was starting in person, I would be seeing, meeting, and networking with new people. I struggled more to build those connections. I’m not a stereotypical salesperson, that’s not what someone would think of when they first see me. And what I did to overcome that was, when I go on virtual calls with my customers, I always make sure that my video is on to show them who I am and what I look like and help break down those barriers and stereotypes.

BYP: How did you overcome the challenges with networking?

Chloe: I actively have to reach out to people. Because we aren’t working in the office five days a week. If I come across someone within the company who I think is very interesting, I’ll pop them a message and ask them to connect with them. And that has definitely helped build my confidence in the long run. 

BYP: What are some methods you’ve seen around you that you felt were helpful in terms of eliminating biases?

Chloe: At Cisco, we’ve got the Proximity Initiative, where senior leaders have one-to-one conversations with Black people, people who are different from them. Through having those conversations, you build a rapport, you build a relationship. And you come to realize that these are just people, the same as you. I think that’s a much better way than spending your time reading articles on “How to talk to Black people.” 

BYP: How did your background and upbringing prepare you for some of the challenges you’ve faced?

Chloe: Growing up in the Sutton Surrey area, every school that I went to was predominantly white. That shaped me because there were situations where certain things would be said and as a child, I didn’t know that it was directed towards me because of the colour of my skin. Through that, when I started hearing certain assumptions about Black people, it made me feel like I had to prove my worth and prove that I am here for a reason. I felt like I had to show that we can do it, we are worthy, we do have the skills and the talent to be where you guys are. And I still continue to feel that.

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