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Best vacation ever – thanks to Cisco Connected Recognition

Employee David Faik on the beach in Thailand

As I buried my toes in the sand on a beach in Thailand, I couldn’t help but say a silent “cheers” to Cisco, and my colleagues there, for making my vacation extra special.

“Why?” you ask?

It’s all due to Connected Recognition. It’s this great program at Cisco that allows your manager, your peers and anyone you work with at the company to recognize good work by giving an acknowledgement that also comes with a monetary reward. This “money” can purchase gift cards for a variety of different things.

When I joined Cisco, one thing that struck me was something that John Chambers, our then-CEO and now Chairman, said. He told us that at Cisco, it isn’t about working hard but about what you deliver. What has stayed constant through the rapid change that Cisco has undergone is that our “Cisco character” still permeates through our daily work lives.

As we’ve evolved with that character in place, things like our new “People Deal” emerge that highlights our core Cisco values and makes employees feel pretty great. By the by, our People Deal is an agreement about what we can expect from Cisco and what Cisco expects of us. This Connected Recognition program is just one part of that People Deal. The program’s DNA is timeless Cisco: recognizing and celebrating good results. The platform, tool and funding for this is, I must say, pretty cool.

For me, I got the awards from Procurement colleagues for collaborating with them on projects and from other departments when I helped them with business challenges. I saved up several rewards in Connected Recognition to help me fund a seven-day stay at Swissotel’s Kamala Beach resort in Thailand this past December.  The rewards meant that I stayed in a more upscale resort than I would have booked if I were paying for it on my own.

Of course, I was touting my awesome #LoveWhereYouWork experience on social media, and when my friends read my posts, they all started asking me how to get a job at Cisco!

I even made a video to wish them a great holiday!

What’s awesome about Connected Recognition is that there are so many different ways to spend your funds. I have co-workers who have redecorated their homes, bought furniture, gotten sports equipment, and since we’re all techies here, they’ve gotten more tech gear. It’s nice that you can either have “stuff” or experiences.

Mostly, I think it’s awesome to work at a company that values its people like this. I think Cisco hits the sweet spot in balance between results and caring about people. It’s one of many small and big things that make this a great company to work for.

#WeAreCisco, and I definitely #LoveWhereYouWork.


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Cisco Encourages Individuality

Cisco Hair Color

Can you be a professional, powerful person in the workplace while still setting trends?

May Le had always wanted to dye her hair purple, but having just started a job at Cisco, she wondered if it was the right time. Was there something in the “rule book” that would prevent it? Would it be accepted? Maybe it’s just too edgy, too much for a corporate tech company. “Purple hair might be off the table,” she thought.

But she wanted to be herself, so she thought she’d ask her manager, who surprised her with the ALL IN Cisco attitude. “If you’re going to do it – just rock it!” she said.

“Cisco has this reputation out there for being a boring, stodgy company,” May laughed. “That’s just not the case.”

May says the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and her hair has even been a great conversation starter. From the break room in San Jose to telepresence networking opportunities she’s experienced, and even amongst our Executive Leadership Team – which loves her boldness.

“Our Chief People Officer, Fran Katsoudas saw me on campus and recognized me from a photo I posted in social media, where I said #IChoseCisco because I can be myself! It really showed me how progressive of a company Cisco is, and knowing that I can be myself even at work and freely express my individuality was a defining moment in my career.”

It seems that May was a pioneer for fun hair at Cisco.

I started at Cisco a few months ago, myself. I was coming from the hospitality industry, where it was okay to have hair dyed “naturally blonde,” but not okay to add any touches that would be deemed “not normal,” because that would be disruptive.

For weeks I devoured any documentation that came my way to see what Cisco’s stance on purple hair was (as if they’d have a section called “PURPLE HAIR RULES”). Hindsight being 20/20 – I suppose simply asking the question would’ve been easier, but coming from a world where the answer was a hard “No.” – and, really, a question not to even be entertained – fear of getting rejected latched on to me.

That’s when I also saw May’s #IChoseCisco photo on Twitter, and in one swift moment I was excitedly texting my hair stylist, “I found a girl with a full head of awesomely purple hair…when can I come in?”

It may sound absolutely ridiculous, but as I sat there staring at the finished product – with vibrant purple in my hair – I couldn’t have been happier. I finally felt like “me” again. Cisco gave me that.

Purple hair was my “normal” – and at Cisco that kind of disruption was welcomed energy. In fact, it was almost a non-issue. Why would the color of one’s hair, or a tattoo, or any representation of self keep you from doing great work?

This colored-hair thing was something that my colleague, Carmen Collins, had wanted to try for a while as well.

“When I posted May’s photo on Twitter from the #IChoseCisco contest, I didn’t know her story. I just thought ‘cool hair! I want!’ My issue wasn’t whether Cisco would approve, it was whether everyone else would. (Silly me.)”

Carmen and I would talk about taking that step. We would talk about it here and there throughout our week, and while she would weigh the options – I would egg her on. “Just do it!” I’d say, “It’s just hair color!”

“As I learned May’s story, and saw Casie rocking the look, I decided to let my inner rocker show!”

A few days later, an ombre look with bright pink tips was Carmen’s new adventure. “I decided to go as far as to change my profile images and use the one with my pink hair – even on LinkedIn! I felt like if you’re going to interact with me – you should know who I am. And this is who I am.”

We recently ran a story on our blog about 3 Things to Look for When Choosing a Company. After the “hair revolution of 2015” at Cisco, the three of us thought it would be appropriate to add a fourth reason. Choose a Company that Encourages You to Be Yourself.

I think it’s safe to say that for May, Carmen, and myself – we’re glad we chose Cisco. Where being fun, powerful, and professional – while expressing your individuality – is not just encouraged, but expected too.



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Love Where You Work!


Read just a few stories on this blog, and you’ll notice that people love to work here. Whether it’s the people, the innovation, the giving back, or a combination of all of those and more, love is in the air.

Since February is a month of recognizing love – and this year, there’s a whole extra day for it! – it’s the perfect timing for employees to take to social media to tell the world why they love where they work.

Just to make it interesting, we’re adding a bit of the competitive flair by creating an employee contest.

Employees – we’re asking you to take a photo that helps communicate why you love working at Cisco. Post it on Instagram or Twitter, tell us why working at Cisco is awesome, and tag it #WeAreCisco and #LoveWhereYouWork. (Or, upload your entry into the Our Big Picture Mosaic with the hashtags in the description.) A panel of judges will pick the best ones – here are some examples of what we’ll be looking for:

Best Use of Photography Techniques
Best Sense of Humor
Best “Tugs My Heartstrings” Photo
Most Creative Backdrop/Scenery
Most Creative Prop
Best Representation of Our People Deal
Most Humanitarian
Best Executive Representation
Most Inclusive/Diverse
Best Use of Technology
Best In Show

Employees can enter multiple times, but can only win once!

The first 200 entries will receive a Cisco selfie-stick, for more picture taking fun at work. The winners in the above categories will get a Cisco t-shirt to wear proudly!

Only full-time Cisco employees are eligible to enter (full rules here), though anyone can search on Twitter or Instagram for both #LoveWhereYouWork and #WeAreCisco you’ll be able to see the love story unfold! Like and share your favorites!

Stay tuned for the winners in March! Meanwhile, here are some early examples.

LoveWhereYouWork example


LoveWhereYouWork example

LoveWhereYouWork example




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4 Things That Make a Great Team “Cook”

Team Cooking Together

The team that cooks together, stays together.

Recently the Cisco APJC (Asia Pacific, Japan, China) leadership team got together for an offsite meeting in Bangalore, India – one of the main hubs for Cisco in the region. It was a great few days and one of the personal highlights for me was a team cooking session.

We started by dividing into teams. Each of us was given a workstation, some raw ingredients and some impressively sharp cooking tools.

As I launched into the task I was given (cutting onions and fighting back onion tears), I started to notice that this cooking activity could teach us a thing or two about how great teams work together.

Everyone participates.

The first thing that made an impression on me was how eager everyone was to participate and get involved! I don’t know if that was a genuine love of cooking, a willingness to demonstrate expertise or if people we simply hungry as we had delayed lunch. The intention was that each team shared their dish amongst the whole group, so we were all working towards a common goal of feeding each other and not causing stomach distress.


I’m cooking away!

Everyone is important.

As we got into the swing of things after a brief from our expert Head Chef it became clear what a great leveler this activity was going to be. I am no great cook, the plain fact is I only cook one real dish and that is, if I don’t say so myself, a quite authentic Thai beef salad.

So no surprise I quickly found myself relegated to, “Chris can you peel onions..? Good – there are 5 – hurry up please boss.” Everyone was working towards a common goal, and there were no problems with “who’s in charge?”

Everyone has a role.

As I painfully progressed and after 5 minutes or so (1 onion down,) I noticed that the team I was in had socially, amicably and very efficiently divided itself into various tasks. There were no arguments, discussions yes on how to prepare and in what order etc and all with a focus on the end common goal. A goal which was shared for everyone in the room, not just our team.

Everyone has fun.

Somehow it was more than just a goal of a completed meal, it was a celebration!

Working together, having fun along the way with a hint of competition between teams yet with common goals in focus.

The constant, vibrant, constructive animated chatter and laughter.. yes laughter – actually seemed to contribute towards productivity.

Was it that we were cooking food later to eat? Was it simply time away from the office? Or was it that the teams were clearly engaged in working towards a common goal good for all.

The five-hour session ended in the consumption of delicious Indian dished of many varieties, much more laughter and friendly banter and much congratulating and back slapping.

I started to ponder, why isn’t work like that all the time?

I think teams that great effectively demonstrate these 4 aspects have the “secret sauce.”

My last thought before attacking my email inbox was, how fortunate I am to a member of a great team.

Want to join the great team at Cisco? Visit our Careers site now!

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3 Ways to Waste Less At Work

Reuseable water bottle

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Many millennials like myself are looking for ways we can change the world. It’s one of the things that brought me to Cisco. Cisco changes the way we work, live, play, and learn – my mission as an individual is similar: change the way we waste.

I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, so apart from my full-time job at Cisco, I am a DO School Fellow and run a social venture called packageless, which is my journey of living with less packaging and less waste.

Because I studied packaging as an undergrad, I know that our nation makes up 5% of the world’s population but generates about 40% of the world’s waste. This incentivized me to want to do something in regards to the unhealthy amount of trash we were planting into our planet.

Although I currently work in the IT division, I still try to live a packageless life and drive change wherever I am. My first 3 months at Cisco were filled with the traditional orientation activities, but also figuring out how Cisco is currently reducing its waste, and finding opportunities to improve the current system. I’ve chatted with amazing individuals who work on Cisco Sustainability, and found groups such as Pack it Green and Cisco Recycling that take ownership of decreasing our waste and handling it responsibly.

Chrstine Liu

While Cisco has set several sustainability programs in place, my “new eye” as a new hire has noticed quite a few potential areas for behavioral change as a working individual: there’s room for all of us to improve the amount of waste we create. So in light of the fact that the average American produces about 5 pounds of waste every day, here are three simple tips of how to change the way you waste at work:

  1. Bring your own water bottle, mug or thermos.
    If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 lbs of waste in one year. Cisco offers its employees convenient paper cups for water and hot beverages, but it doesn’t take too much of an extra effort to bring your own bottle to work. And hey, a bottle or thermos will be sure to prevent coffee spills on that work laptop of yours.
  1. Pack lunch in a reusable container, or enjoy a sit-down meal at the Cisco Café with a friend rather than getting it to-go at your desk.
    In 2012, 7 million tons of solid waste was attributed to one-time use plates and cups. It’s simple to order to-go, but how many of us end up sitting in the restaurant we’re visit anyways? Go ahead and find a fellow coworker to sit down and have lunch with, whether it be at the Cisco Café with reusable plates and utensils, a nice restaurant, or with your own packed lunch. Life’s too short to not take lunch breaks.
  1. If you use paper towels, learn to make the most of them.
    This 4 minute TED talk puts it nicely. There is a right way to use a single paper towel efficiently: shake excess water from your hands first, fold the paper towel in half for optimum absorbency, wipe, and find a recycle bin! This is definitely a better alternative than pulling out 3-4 paper towels that are quickly used and crumpled into the waste bin.

The reason why I chose Cisco as a company is now becoming clearer: I find that I can be my packageless self and explore outlets for creating change, such as writing these few tips for you all here.

It’s been barely 100 days here as a new hire, but life at Cisco has been only encouraging for my intrapreneurial efforts, vision for driving impact, and passions for a more sustainable world. I feel so privileged to work at a company that aims to transform our society for the better, and I hope that we too, as individuals, can follow that same model of wanting to be the change we wish to see in this world.

Join the Cisco team and make your own change.

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