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Cisco Talent Bridge Expands Diversity, Tech Talent Pool; Connects Candidates To Cisco Partners

Gina Narcisi

The Cisco Talent Bridge program and matching engine connects Cisco partners to a growing pool of more than 75,000 diverse, global candidates that include recent graduates and refugees.

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Cisco Systems is connecting a diverse group of candidates, including recent grads and refugees, with jobs at Cisco and with its ecosystem of channel partners clambering for the right skills at a time when the talent gap is plaguing the IT industry.

The Cisco Talent Bridge program, which was launched during the company’s 2017 Partner Summit, began with a goal of linking Cisco Networking Academy grads to open positions within Cisco and its channel partners taking part in the program. It has since taken on a life of its own, connecting a diverse group of candidates, including displaced people, in more than 180 countries and in 17 languages with the right job in the tech space.

Trent Dorroh, program manager and team lead overseeing the Talent Bridge for Partners Program, said that Cisco today has more than 1,000 partners that are part of the Talent Bridge program, about 6,000 active jobs on average, and more than 75,000 candidates globally.

[Related: Cisco Levels Venture Capital Playing Field With Aspire Fund For Diverse Founders ]

The Cisco Talent Bridge program includes what the tech giant calls a “matching engine” that allows individuals to create a profile indicating their level of education, any certifications they hold, location, spoken language, and other criteria. The engine on the other side allows Cisco channel partners to post open jobs and set requirements for these positions. The partners are then paired to candidates that meet those requirements and candidates only see available jobs in which they are a match, Dorroh said.

“The goal was to cut out a lot of the noise that we were hearing from our partners,” he said.

Before his time with Cisco, Dorroh spent 15 years working for a Cisco Gold partner and knows all too well how big an issue the persistent talent gap is for channel organizations and how difficult finding the right candidate can be.

“I experienced this working for the partner [organization]. I would post a job on Monster.com and I would get hundreds of applications and none of them met the minimum requirements,” he said.

Solution provider and Cisco partner Red River was an early adopter of Cisco Talent Bridge and internally has its own program for identifying and developing talent. Red River today is using the matching engine to identify Networking Academy graduates.

“The things that we post to our career page are automatically replicated out to the Talent Bridge engine, so the alumni of Networking Academy can see many different posts that are aligned to their education, background, and ideally, their career interests so that they’re finding the right opportunity,” said Richard Ackerman, vice president of Workforce Development for Claremont, N.H.-based Red River.

The matching engine is a useful tool for ensuring that people are applying for an opportunity that’s a good fit, Ackerman said. “And that makes it a good fit for us. We appreciate the fact that there’s better alignment to that common goal that we’re trying to find the right fit and [the candidates] are trying to find the right fit.”

The program has become even more relevant lately as the talent shortage plagues the IT industry, Ackerman said.

“The silver lining to the pandemic and the things we’ve been through, if you will, is the opportunity to take advantage of the right skill over the right location,” he said. “If we have a [Networking Academy] alumni that’s in Oregon or Washington state, for example, and we’ve got offices in New Hampshire and Virginia, we might have overlooked that person a while ago. But because of the tie into Talent Bridge, we know that they’ve come through the Networking Academy, and they have the skills and job experience, so it helps to identify the things you’re looking for and, in some ways, expands the talent pool.”

The matching engine is a free tool that’s available to Cisco partners today and can be accessed using their Cisco single sign-on credentials, according to Cisco.

Since its inception, the program has been such a success that in 2018, Cisco opened Talent Bridge to U.S. military veterans and their families. From there, Cisco has continued to expand the talent pool by giving ex-Cisco employees access to the matching engine. Individuals that apply for a job at Cisco are also asked if they’re interested in a position with a Cisco partner organization, Dorroh said.

Bringing more diversity to the channel is a priority for Cisco and more recently, it’s been the focus of the Talent Bridge program, Dorroh said. Today, Cisco’s Talent Bridge is reaching out to include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and LGBTQ+ organizations, along with other nonprofits for marginalized, underserved and underrepresented communities, he said.

The program is also helping displaced people due to climate disasters, wars, and political unrest find open positions. The War in Ukraine was a big driving factor for Cisco to expand the program, Dorroh said.

“Whatever we can do to really increase the diversity of our candidate pool because we hear from our partners: ‘Hey, we see what [Cisco] is doing with diversity and inclusion and we want to do the same. What can you do to share best practices and what can you do to help us?’” he said.

The program isn’t just for those that hold IT degrees or have technical skills, Dorroh said. “These aren’t just technical people or technical roles. We encourage our partners to post their non-technical roles, and [for] candidates, just because you’re not an engineer, there are still opportunities in the technology industry [because] every technology company is a business.”

The mission of Talent Bridge is to provide best practices to Cisco partners around sourcing, recruiting, and hiring -- which is the purpose of the matching engine -- but the program can also help with training and incentivizing talent. Cisco is cross-promoting additional learning opportunities for candidates through Cisco’s Networking Academy program, for example, which is helping partners to both train and retain talent, he said.

“We feel like if we help [partners] get the right people, make sure that they know the resources are available to help upskill and train, then they’re going to be pleased with the candidate and the employee at this point is going to be pleased with their relationship.”

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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