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share of awards. Despite being a veteran of the notoriously hard-driving tech industry, she is described by colleagues as “collaborative,” “compassionate” and “optimistic.” Pathway to Nonprofit Work Katherine Toch grew up in Castro Valley, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Admin- istration from California State University, and without missing a beat, launched her career in the nonprofit sector. Toc h spent most of the 1990s in leadership roles with community organizations. She kicked things off as the Salvation Army’s Director of Operations. That experience convinced her that she was on the right career track. “Even in the beginning, I knew that I wanted to work in a nonprofit setting, in a management role,” Toch said. “I wanted to give back in some tangible way through my career.” Working to Alleviate Poverty CISCO'S KATHERINE TOCH A Career of Social Impact Written and Photographed By Robin Sheperd K atherine Toch likes to go “all in” and yet she still manages to strike a balance between her career and personal life. For her part, Toch says she’s lucky to have work that is both professionally and personally rewarding, but she comes across more as someone who makes her own luck. Toch is Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing at Cisco, a leadership role she enjoys at a company that has won more than its 86 At age 30, she became CEO of YWCA Silicon Valley, one of her favorite jobs. Under Toch’s leadership the organization grew its volunteer base to more than 500 people and doubled its revenues to $4 million. Her team made progress on behalf of women and at-risk children in terms of transitional housing, daycare for single working moms, and a rape crisis center. “Poverty is a systemic issue. A mom can’t get a job without English language skills. She can’t go to work without day- care for her kids. And she can’t do any of that without a safe place for her family to live. We took a holistic approach to helping people make the transition to becoming self-sufficient. There’s a lot of joy and gratification in being able to see that what you’re doing is making a real difference.” Revitalizing a Neighborhood Toch then joined Community Foundation Silicon Valley where she led a multi-year effort in support of the Mayfair Improve- ment Initiative, a sweeping neighborhood revitalization project funded by the Hewlett Foundation. “We identified dozens of projects GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 to help transform a troubled and disadvantaged neighborhood in East San Jose. We worked with local residents, law enforcement, the county, schools, and private sector partners. The neighborhood decided how donated funds would be allocated. Given time, support and opportunities, they developed capacity to bring about change within their own community.” Toch was working as the Director of Community Outreach for Valley Transportation Authority when she got the call from Cisco. Pioneering CSR Initially, she was hired to lead marketing for Cisco’s then-fledgling Networking Academy, a program created to equip youth, military veterans, and people changing careers with tech skills that would open doors to good jobs. “We grew like gangbusters, adding states and even countries every day.” Today, Cisco Networking Academy curriculum is offered at more than 10,000 locations in partnership with high schools, community colleges and universities around the world. “The academies help students develop highly marketable skills through online and instructor-led courses in networking, cybersecurity and the internet of things. We’re constantly developing new courses and we make them available to schools at no charge.” Toch was promoted to Director of Marketing for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in 2018. She said Cisco began setting goals around major global issues, from climate change to human rights, “long before anyone called it corporate social responsibility.” For some companies, CSR tends to be all talk. Not so at Cisco. One of many examples of CSR in action is Cisco’s Tactical Operations team, which uses the company’s core competency to help people and communities restore communications when disaster strikes. In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico leaving one million people without shelter, clean water, food, medicines, or fuel for their cars. They also lacked electricity and internet connectivity. Without