Puja Jaspal is passionate about making a difference, one life at a time. A true transformation-change agent, she drives people to reach their full potential with her ability to listen, understand, guide, and convert every challenge into an opportunity.
In her current role as Vice President for People & Communities at Cisco Systems, she’s committed to building inclusive, mission-driven teams where no voice is left unheard. All of which is continuing the commitment that led her to be named a “Top 100 Women of Influence in the Bay Area” in 2017.
An exceptional professional voyage
Puja’s educational journey led her to the University of Cincinnati, where she earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, with honors, and on to Harvard Business School, where she completed an MBA. She started her professional career at Procter and Gamble (P&G) handling high-end brand management roles and P&L responsibilities, while also gaining HR experience steering the Asian retention task force.
In 2008, she joined Google’s People Operations team and became Marissa Mayer’s HR business partner for product management and Sundar Pichai’s HR business partner for engineering and products, which included work on Chrome and other key apps. She also served as the Director of HR Strategic Planning for Motorola Mobility during its acquisition by Google.
In 2014, Puja joined Visa as a Senior Vice President, leading HR for the Global Technology division and handled people transformation, enhanced diversity and inclusion (D&I). While there, she decreased costs and encouraged innovation, which contributed to tripling the company’s market capitalization.
I have a strong sense of responsibility and purpose, invest in my relationships, and look for common goals. I build mission-driven, inclusive teams, where everyone’s voice is heard. I create an environment of trust and safety, which encourages taking risks. I help people achieve their career goals.
Today, Puja shines as Vice President for People & Communities at Cisco Systems, where she leads the talent strategy to transform Engineering and Corporate Functions. Her key responsibilities include designing for the workforce of the future, while reimagining talent management, succession planning, and D&I outcomes. During her time at Cisco, the company placed No. 1 in Fortune’s World’s Best Workplaces list for two years in a row.
Puja proudly stands amongst the board of directors at Leadershape, Inc. and serves as the HR Advisor for SemperVirens Venture Capital.
Cisco – defining a one-of-a-kind legacy
Headquartered in San Jose, CA, Cisco has been helping customers to successfully connect, secure, and automate for more than 35 years now. With a global presence of 77,000 people across 100 countries, the company is effectively connecting people through cutting-edge networking hardware, software, and telecommunications equipment for a cloud-first world.
With its enterprise-grade collaboration tools and industry-defining networking and compute technology, Cisco continues to make a lasting impact around the world. With a combination of trust, innovation, and choice — backed by an intuitive culture, mission, and people — Cisco leads in technology and corporate social responsibility. Transparency, authenticity, and empathy are the cornerstones that help the company in serving 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
Choice is a strategic imperative at Cisco. The company has positively impacted 527 million people through its social impact grants and signature programs like Network Academy and is on course to reach its goal of 1 billion people by 2025. Under Puja’s guidance, the company is concentrating on overcoming the current pandemic while helping people rise to an ever-better “next normal.”
“I am excited to help shape Cisco’s transformation and our leaders’ transformation,” Puja said. “One of the goals I am most passionate about is to lead the tech industry in hiring and retaining diverse talent and creating a culture of inclusion and belonging.”
Larger than Life Experiences
From a girl who considered changing schools after her first year at the University of Cincinnati (UC) to defining transformation capabilities at Cisco, Puja has come a long way.
Here are a few qualities that helped make her a personal success and a change agent for others.
Made lemonade from lemons – Puja overcame her doubts about UC by stretching into campus leadership roles. Her experiences as a student senator for the college of engineering, Co-op/internship ambassador between UC and GE Aviation, and student body vice president and president honed her leadership capabilities. And these experiences unlocked doors P&G as an undergraduate and led her towards brand management.
Developed a multi-faceted personality – Transitioning from an engineering student to a career in marketing at P&G was not easy. But as she focused on learning marketing, she also discovered her passion for the people function and soon shifted towards human resources.
Confidence is key – Puja chose an MBA over her job as a marketer when her father wanted her to get married. Her colleague thought that she would have a hard time getting into a top MBA program until she got admission into Harvard Business School.
Followed her convictions – Everyone said Harvard MBAs don’t go into human resources. But Puja became an intern at Deloitte in their human capital consulting practice. From there, she joined the Corporate Executive Board as an HR research consultant.
Never has regrets – Leaving Google to join Visa was a tough decision, but she never looked back. In the end, she acknowledged that her core purpose is to continue growing and helping others.
Advice for life
Puja is thankful for the ongoing support of her husband Nimesh. “Pick your life partner wisely,” she advises, “as it will determine your accomplishments in life.”
But Puja believes that “you are the creator of your destiny.” Asking for help and advice from mentors will help, but it’s your own commitment that moves mountains. She advises the young to be ambitious and embrace the power of the community as a whole.
In the end, she believes that following your instincts and giving back to society will lead to the best kind of success.