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Making a Difference One Bike at a Time

Build a bike

Enjoying the fruits of my labor before handing the bikes off to the kids. (Photo credit Linas Dauska)

“Do a good turn daily.”

I was in the 6th grade when I first confidently recited the Scout Slogan in front of my troop. My uniform swallowed the frame of my entire body, but the words left my mouth with sound conviction as I accepted the challenge to perform a kind deed daily—big or small.

8 years later (and after successfully achieving the Eagle Scout Rank), I have continued to give back to the community by participating in volunteering efforts with the San Francisco Food Bank and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, as well as pro bono consulting with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I have realized that the words “do a good turn daily” have changed the way I work, live, play, and learn. This ongoing commitment to give back to the community is a challenge I am proud to tackle every day, with or without the uniform or rank.

 Most recently, I went to a Build a Bike event held by the Cisco Enterprise Product Solutions and Marketing (PSM) team.

NOTE: I’ve built IKEA furniture and complex LEGO metropolises, but never a bike.

Nevertheless, by the end of the day, I was able to cross this off my bucket list thanks to some quality Cisco teamwork, and mini assembly lines that involved attaching the training wheels, inserting the handlebar, putting on the pedals, and decorating the bike with streamers and personalized license plates. In total, we built 36 bikes for the Marine Toys for Tots foundation and as you can see from the pictures, I was pretty excited – and I’m so happy for the children who will soon be proud bike owners! I thought back to how happy I was to ride my first bike and it warmed my heart to be able to provide that experience for a deserving child.

Team bike building

The PSM team hard at work building bikes. (Photo credit Linas Dauska)

It was truly special (but not surprising) that 40 people, on the day after Thanksgiving weekend, were all willing to volunteer their time for a good cause, while having a great time and collaborating for a total team effort. This is why I chose Cisco – a company that not only has the culture, breadth, and capabilities to make a significant impact on the community, but a company where the employees have dedication and share my passion for making a difference and delivering awesome.

Want to join a great team that cares about great causes? Apply at Cisco.

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A Great Day at Cisco

There is a cultural evolution happening at Cisco, driven by our business, our innovation and technology, and most importantly, our people. It is being shaped by feedback from our employees and it is helping us define who we aspire to be as a company.

It starts with Our People Deal, which is simply the understanding of what Cisco can do for our people and what we expect in return. Our People Deal sums up what it means to be part of Cisco and it shapes everything we do. Every interaction, every communication and every experience.

By connecting everything, innovating everywhere and benefiting everyone, Our People Deal is transforming our employees’ experience by delivering on the Moments that Matter ─ those defining career and personal moments that are important to them. As you can see from the visual below, these moments range from taking your birthday off to healthcare options to focusing performance management on development.

Cisco employee career 'moments that matter'We have recently announced a few more that we are excited about.


Giving back is a part of Cisco’s DNA. Last year, Cisco employees gave a combined $12 million in donations and matched funds, as well as more than 155,000 hours of volunteer time, to the nonprofits and causes of their choice. And our employees want to do even more – they’ve identified giving back as one of their Moments that Matter. We recently announced Time2Give, a global program that gives our employees five days of paid time per year to volunteer, in addition to any paid time off or vacation they already have. Employees can choose where they contribute their Time2Give. By empowering our people to take time off to volunteer, we’re collectively helping to change the world through active participation in our communities.

Pay Parity

Another way we can provide an unmatched employee experience is to ensure everybody is compensated fairly and equitably. This is an important conversation for us, and an integral part of Our People Deal. Our Pay Parity initiative builds on our long-standing commitment to fair pay and is being integrated with our existing strategies for pay for performance and market competitiveness. Pay Parity is an ongoing commitment – not a point-in-time initiative. We are proud of the results of our preliminary review which demonstrated that we have a healthy and equitable compensation program. This new agile framework introduces more analytics, targeted strategies, new accountabilities and enhanced decision making tools built for us – by us – to support our commitment to drive and maintain a highly inclusive and equitable compensation environment.

Time Swap/Job Swap

With a focus on development we will be rolling out a new program that promotes and supports talent rotations and agility. Time Swap/Job Swap allows employees to either swap ~20 percent of their time with another individual for a defined period or swap roles for a limited time. This enables our people exposure to another part of Cisco’s business, while also helping them develop their own skills and bring innovative thinking and ideas to programs and among broader teams.

We want every day to be a great day at Cisco and that starts with our employees’ experiences.  We have incredible people doing extraordinary work. Together, we’re #allin to make every moment matter.


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Reconnecting refugees with loved ones thanks to the Cisco Disaster Response Team

Last month, I had the privilege, as part of my job, to go to Greece to deploy emergency communications infrastructure. Cisco was asked by partner NGOs to support the influx of people passing through the Greek islands due to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population, more than 11 million people, have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, hoping to find a better future in Europe—and unfortunately not all of them make it across. Those who do, then face steep challenges from strained resources and minimal services due to the enormity of the situation.

This is why they need our help. The majority of the refugee community in Greece is Syrian and the rest are Iraqi and Afghans, trying to escape wars there. The current humanitarian aid effort is led by UN agencies working with the national governments and a multitude of NGO aid organisations. The overall response has been humbling to see, people providing shelter and power to sites, and the local support offered by Greek citizens in welcoming the refugees has been inspiring.

Copy of _SOS0827-PanoTen of us (from Cisco, a partner NGO and other corporate disaster response teams) have just returned from the region. We went there with one aim in mind; to install secure Wi-Fi zones and charging stations so that the refugees could contact their loved ones and families back home. For many, they had been out of touch with those that mattered for so long and this was the first opportunity they had to let them know they were safe and ok.

When we first arrived on Greek shores, most of the refugee sites had no communications infrastructure in place at all. The Disaster Response Team had been tasked to bring connectivity to various points along the migration routes, starting in the Greek islands. The importance of this was brought home, as we learned that one of the first questions refugees ask when they get rescued out of their boats is, “Do you have Wi-Fi?”

For people arriving from these boats with very few possessions, little money, and certainly no local currency, the chance to just let people know they were ok had a hugely positive effect. We often forget how much we rely on digital communications in our day-to-day lives. Once we’d set up the networks, people were immediately able to Read More »

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Cisco Employee Elves Bring Santa And Cheer to Hospitalized Children

Cisco's elves on telepresence.

Cisco’s elves on telepresence.

When a serious illness hits it hits hard, everything stalls, family life goes on hold. Routine is thrown in all directions. Calendars are no longer about days of the week and holidays, but rather they become consumed with appointments, treatment, surgery and long stays in hospital. Oftentimes seriously ill children must limit their interactions with general public by staying in an isolation ward.

It’s especially hard during the holidays, with everything going on outside, like holiday festivities and visits to Santa. During these times the tiniest of distractions can help.

Santa knows how important it is to fit everyone in, and he enlisted Cisco technology (and Cisco employees) to help. Through Cisco’s Telepresence and video collaboration technology children get one-on-one time over a live link chat with Santa in the North Pole, we call this Connected Santa. Children interact with Santa, they express their wishes, ask about Rudolf and the other reindeer, ask how the very busy Elves are getting on. It’s a real connection, a magical occasion, I mean, how does Santa know about their pets’ names or the funny stuff they got up to yesterday? There’s something about the reaction of wonder and amazement from the children as they look to their parents in awe asking “Mom, how did Santa know that?” Magic isn’t it!

Connected Santa Each year across 13 hospitals in Ireland and the UK around 350 children get to connect with Santa. An army of Cisco Elves get behind Santa & Mrs. Claus to help with the technology, organise toys, parties and getting Santa’s grotto ready. The Cisco Elves work from November all the way to December to volunteer with one goal in mind. That is to put a smile on the faces of these kids, their parents, and the staff at the hospitals.

This year was no different. The Cisco elves have made their rounds and helped Santa bring his jolly-ness to more children. They’ve helped in hospitals in Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Bristol and more. The kids have had their fun, and so have we. Here’s just a few of the things they asked for. (We want to protect their privacy, so only their initials are used.)

M. is three years old, and after having made a video singing “Let it Go” with her nurses, of course she wants anything having to do with Frozen. (That seems to be a popular request for Santa this year.)

Six-year-old N. wants a book. If Santa would also like to throw in a puppy, she’d be fine with that, too.

Three year old H. is a boy with a plan. He loves Minions. He wants all the Minions for his present.

E. didn’t tell us her age, but she did make sure to tell Santa that her 1-year old brother pulls her hair! She wants sparkly unicorns (who doesn’t?)

10-year-old J. told Santa to just surprise him.

I’ve been volunteering with the Connected Santa program for eight years now. It’s true to say that every volunteer has a heartfelt connection with the Connected Santa program. It’s a humbling experience and it sure puts everything in perspective. It makes us appreciate the holidays with our families even more, and just puts a feeling of hopefulness and cheer in our hearts that carries us onwards with jingle bells and a few sparkles on the side!

Come join us at Cisco.

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Employees Give Cisco Cats a “Paw Up” In Life

Cisco Cat

One of the Cisco Cats awaits its friends in the Cat Club.

Everyone knows that cats rule the Internet. Since Cisco’s focus is the Internet of Everything, it would make sense that when they are abandoned or lose their homes, cats would want to gravitate towards the Cisco San Jose campus (even enter the lobbies!).

Cisco cat at the lobby

Time for work! Let me in!

Employees that work in San Jose, however, knew that these cats needed a little help, and they would all be “grumpy cats” (and maybe be in mortal peril!) if left on their own.

Cisco employees always seem to jump at the chance to help those in need, even the furry ones. Thus, the Cisco Cat Club was born.

“There are some people who say that we shouldn’t do anything for the cats, but we couldn’t just turn our backs on them and do nothing!” says Jennifer Hull, “Chief Cat Club Coordinator” and Executive Assistant with Cisco Capital.

Jennifer and almost 100 other employees volunteer to help the cats as much as possible. Spay and neuter is their first priority, using humane traps (by trapping experts, and the traps are never left unsupervised.) For those that they can’t catch, or newcomers (there are a surprising number that get abandoned at Cisco, and they’re pretty smart and wily) the volunteers spend their own money to buy food and work from a feeding schedule to be sure the cats get to eat. They also all pitch in if one of the cats is injured and needs extra help.

Of course, a lot of these cats end up being re-homed. If they’re caught early enough, as kittens, they can be easily fostered and adopted (many by Cisco employees – so they stay Cisco cats forever!)

For those that have been on their own for too long and are too feral, the Cat Club makes sure they’re still taken care of, rather than sending them to a shelter to be euthanized.

“A lot of people think these abandoned cats can survive on their own,” Jennifer says. “But when they’re used to being cared for and then dumped off, they can’t.”

By the Cat Club’s rough count, over 150 cats have been spayed & neutered, and a good number of those adopted. Cisco has a program that matches employee volunteer hours with donations, so the cats get extra help. Once the Cat Club submits their hours, the Good Home Animal Society gets funds that help pay for the spay and neuter program.

Cisco Cat

Flaco is one of the Cisco Cats that Jennifer Hull adopted herself.

Even Jennifer herself has a few Cisco cats. One cat, Flaco (which means “skinny” in Spanish,) especially captured her attention (and her heart.)

“We called him ‘the greeter’,” she recalls. “Every time a feeder would come, Flaco would show up to greet us. He was an older fellow, and when we caught him, we discovered he had no teeth! That meant special feedings, but we loved him, so it was no problem. I wasn’t sure how he’d adapt to a home, but I couldn’t help it, I took him in. He had several health issues, and that, combined with his age meant that he was only with me for a year. But he was the best cat I’ve ever had!”

Jennifer’s excitement for helping these cats is contagious. Just ask new volunteer Rebecca Amato, a Business Analyst for Cisco’s IOE (Internet of Everything) Market Development Ops group.

“I just started feeding the 20+ cats that live near my work,” she says. “Jennifer explained how they really take care of the cats: wasp traps, food bowls inside of water bowls in the summer (to avoid ants from getting into the food bowls), spay and neuter, etc. The cat club goes beyond providing food and water for the cats. I am looking forward to watching the cats gather after I fill the bowls for the first time!”

Does working for a group of people who give back like this appeal to you? Join the Cisco family!

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