Yvette Kanouff

Kanouff shook things up, career-wise, by leaving Cisco last year but she found a new home, and a new focus, at JC2 Ventures. Instead of working in an industry operational role, she now helps tech start-ups succeed. Kanouff wants women to succeed, too. “I believe in sponsorship, not just mentorship. There are many ways to create environments where sponsorship helps elevate qualified minorities and women—to management jobs as well as senior positions.”

What specifically does your company do to support and elevate the women who work there?
I work for John Chambers, who is the Chairman Emeritus of Cisco and the Founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures, a venture capital company. As both the CEO and Chairman of Cisco, John worked relentlessly to help support and elevate women. As actions speak louder than words—the staff of JC2 Ventures is 50% male and 50% female.

How can the industry do a better job of recruiting women and ensuring they have a path to senior positions?
I believe in sponsorship, not just mentorship. There are many ways to create environments where sponsorship helps elevate qualified minorities and women—to management jobs as well as senior positions. I would love to see more sponsorship programs adopted by companies.

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?
Believe. Have confidence. You are amazing. Make it happen. [As a side comment, I am very concerned about the level of insecurity, depression, and anxiety that teenagers have today. Helping teenagers believe in their capabilities, helping them see (and giving them) opportunities, and helping them overcome hurdles is something we can all help with.

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