E24 - Riikka Sihvonen at Network PlayRoom

Holly Staff
Riikka Sihvonen

By Holly Staff & Riikka Sihvonen

On today’s episode of the Women in Tech spin-off series, we’re joined by our host Holly Staff, Network Consultant here at Hamilton Barnes and our special guest Riikka Sihvonen, a Network Engineer with over 12 years of experience in design, implementation, and support. During today’s episode, Riikka shares some pivotal moments that she went through during her career that got her to where she is today. She also tells us what her experience has been like being a woman in the tech industry and some of the challenges that come with that.

Riikka’s journey in the tech industry began in 2008 when she went on her academic journey at her local university. During her first semester, the world of networking was introduced to her through the Cisco Network Academy’s CCNA courses. It was in these classrooms that she experienced her first moments of knowing this is what she wanted to do as a career. After completing all available Cisco courses, she graduated from university with a degree in Engineering specialising in ICT.

Following her graduation, Riikka took on a role as a data centre technician for a local service provider. In this role, she wasn’t just confined to this role, she also ventured into consultancy and sales as well. Following this she dabbled in network engineering roles up until now.

Turning Point…

In 2015, she found herself at a crossroads. While her aspiration was to specialise in networking, her circumstances at that point were leading her down a more generalised career route. With limited opportunities, she made the choice to leave her job and go on a four-month-long journey travelling. During those 4 months, the break from her routine allowed her to reflect on her goals which led her to reach out to her contacts at Cisco. This was a big stepping stone in her career because she managed to secure a role at Cisco for when she returned.

Woman in Tech

During her career, she has observed a noticeable shift in the industry’s gender dynamics. More doors are opening for women to step in and make their mark. This shift is not just about the numbers but also about the collective impact that women are having on the industry’s culture, innovation, and direction. One of the driving forces behind this evolution is the visibility that social media gives. Platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have emerged as tools for networking, learning, and advocacy. The reach and influence of social media have made it easier for women in tech to find like-minded communities, share their experiences, and amplify their voices.

For Riikka, challenges coming from gender bias have been obstacles she’s confronted head-on.  One of the big realities she highlights is the bias that undermines the competence of women in the tech space. Often, women find themselves in situations where their qualifications, skills, and accomplishments are questioned, even when they are on par with their male counterparts. She also points out the double standard that women often face when it comes to their demeanour and communication styles. A man’s confidence is often perceived as a sign of competence, while a woman expressing the same level of assurance may be labelled as assertive, complaining, or even annoying. So, there is still generally a lot of work that needs to be done to stop this.


Riikka’s journey has been backed massively by the Cisco Learning Network. It’s a hub where tech people, learners, and professionals come together to share insights, resources, and experiences. One of the standout features of the Cisco Learning Network is its collaborative nature. Engaging in discussion threads, participating in forums, and sharing insights allowed her not only to learn from professionals but also to contribute her own experiences to the pool of knowledge. Her involvement in the Cisco VIP and Champion Program is another testament to the impact of tech communities. These exclusive groups give people opportunities for engagement, networking, and growth. Being part of such programs allowed her to interact with industry leaders.

Tune in on the 24/08/2023 to hear the full episode!