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Cisco Intern: From Homeless to Helping Others


Tia Pope loves being a Cisco IT Engineering Intern, not only for the opportunity it gives her, but for the opportunity she has to share her story with young girls just like her to help excite them about technical fields. And boy, does she have a story!

Tia was raised in a single-parent family with seven siblings where they moved around a lot and were even homeless for a time.  Often, her education was secondary to ensuring her younger siblings were taken care of after school which left her with very limited time to complete her own homework. There were very few encouraging figures in Tia’s life as a child and frequently she was left to learn by trial and error, yet she was determined not to let her circumstances define her and continued to persevere.

Tia excelled in IB and AP level programs that were, unbeknownst to her, putting her on the right track for a higher education.  After graduation she thought she would simply join her siblings working on an assembly line – that’s where she was wrong.  A high school guidance counselor called her into his office one day and showed her a list of colleges that wanted to give her scholarships and enable her to continue her education due to her incredible GPA and time on the track team.  Prior to this moment, Tia wasn’t even aware of colleges beyond the technical school in her local community.

“I knew I wasn’t any of those things that others said I was – I wasn’t stupid, or lazy, or irresponsible.  So even though they discouraged me with those words, I didn’t want to believe them.  I had a dream and I knew not to ever give up on that dream,” Tia asserted.

Tia was living in a laundry room at the time she decided to attend the University of South Carolina for Civil Engineering, and took that acceptance letter to refuel her passion and ignite the direction of her future.  She was going to do something with her life!

Even in college, as the seemingly lone-female in predominantly male courses, Tia was given grief with a professor who even proclaimed that he “didn’t have to teach her” as she was already behind her classmates.  Again, Tia accepted the challenge and walked away with the second highest grade in the class.  On the verge of dropping out due to lack of support and guidance, however, Tia was then encouraged by her Dean to change her major to IT after she had helped to fix his computer one day, not even realizing who he was.  She took his advice and later, upon graduation, received 27 job offers in the midst of a tech boom.

Tia took the role that perhaps was not the shiniest, however it was where she knew she would learn and grow the most within the industry.  She became a Process Control Engineer and though she had no academic or professional background in this position, she was promoted four times in two years and became a Lead Engineer and managed multi-billion dollar, continuous improvement projects.  This lead to even more doors opening for Tia as she wanted to expand her knowledge even further.  She applied for grad school at Georgia Tech and is now working on her masters in computer science, which landed her an internship with Cisco.

What drew Tia to wanting an internship with Cisco was seemingly simple, of course, she loved Cisco’s products, but beyond that she loved the culture and dedication in giving back to our community, “I haven’t met another company that compares, yet,” says Tia. “There are a lot of cool tech companies that computer science students can choose.  I’m interested in security and networking, so that makes Cisco a prime candidate.  But this is the place to be!  Culture is what makes you want to stay with a company and build your entire career.”

Tia also loves that she’s been able to go to several schools and talk to young children about Cisco and what we do here.  It’s brought back memories of where she has been, and continued her passion into where she is going. She says many of the children aren’t quite sure about the tech industry but when they finally learn a little more about it and can understand how they can make an impact it truly opens their eyes.  Tia loves teaching the community about tech, but also how to gain further knowledge and opportunities in connecting and applying that knowledge.

She began a Google community called Nerdy Bones just for this very reason. What started as a way for women in tech to connect has now become a group with over 100 members that was recently designated as an official Georgia Tech campus organization that inspires both men and women to chase their dreams in the tech industry.

As Tia finishes her internship here at Cisco and heads back to complete her masters at Georgia Tech she is looking towards the future, and while she hopes to return to Cisco someday as an employee, she knows she will take forth the skills and attributes she has learned here.  She will continue to give back to her community, and empower and encourage women in computing and technology and the passions they possess.  Her advice to future interns?  “Don’t give up.  There is nothing that you cannot do, and you are capable of learning it all.  It is not impossible to learn.  Search out opportunities to grow – don’t just ask for help, go out there and find your own answers.”

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How Can One Cisco Intern Impact the World?

When I arrived in early June for my 12-week internship in Cisco Corporate Affairs, I began to read You + Networks = Impactx everywhere on the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) website. For me, it was just a tagline – part of a marketing campaign for Cisco CSR.  I didn’t understand it, and wasn’t sure if I completely believed it.  It wasn’t until I became a part of the Cisco CSR family and plugged myself into the equation that You + Networks = Impactx became much more than a tagline; it became the heart of my work at Cisco this summer.

During my 12-week internship, I learned how human and technology networks can multiply impact on people, communities, and the planet.

During my 12-week internship, I learned how human and technology networks can multiply impact on people, communities, and the planet.

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The Intern’s Perspective

“Am I just a very small fish in a big pond?” – That is what I originally thought when I first joined Cisco as a Public Relations Collaboration Intern. Turns out no one bites here, which definitely has helped the process while I have been attempting to get settled in. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. Instead of “Hey intern, do this for me,” I am asked, “Corinne, can I help you with anything or do you have any questions?” It is reassuring to know that I am around genuinely good people beginning my, as I like to call it, “adventure” here at Cisco.

After getting settled in with all the gizmos and applications on my one of a kind ThinkPad, I finally have a routine when I come into work. My mornings consist of reading, lots and lots of reading. From press releases, to news articles, to tweets … anything related to technology or social media I will most likely know about it. I’ve noticed most conversations don’t involve people’s input on the Kardashians or how the next Twilight is going to play out, so Cisco’s Newsroom has become one of my new best friends here.

Once my brain has reached overload, I usually have meetings or my kind colleagues will invite me to meetings to sit in on. I’ll catch myself looking like a “deer in headlights”  at times because all I think about is, “Hmm…what did that acronym stand for, I better write that down” or “I wonder why Telepresence originally had an upper case ‘P’ but is now changed to a lower case ‘p’”. To be honest, during the first PR meeting I ever sat in on I thought they were talking about the show “Futurama” on Comedy Central for a half second until I realized they were referring to something else. Thankfully, I haven’t asked too many dumb questions because they keep inviting me, which has been a great learning experience in order to become more familiar with how the Cisco Public Relations team works.

After lunch, I’ll work on the projects I have been given. I am no Greg Justice, but I try to be as creative as possible when deciding how to execute these assignments without looking stupid. I’ve never made so many to-do lists in my life, but hey, it works! Stay tuned on what I’ll be working on throughout the summer. This includes more external and some internal blogs, strategic analysis presentations on our company and the dark side AKA our competitors, as well as some fun and informative videos.

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Disability and Technical Expertise from Cisco interns

“When I first got here, the [intern] orientation was talking about all business stuff…supply chain..and I’m a computer science major, and I was thinking, uh-oh, I’m in the wrong place.” Kelley Duran said as we settled down to talk about her internship here at Cisco.  Her classmate Samuel Sandoval had the same reaction: Honestly, I thought I was in [the] wrong group since I’m in IT [information technology]”

Internships are a great way for students to make the connection between their studies and the business world.  Combining education with practical application through internships means an easier transition into the workforce after college.  Even better is when education and personal expertise are both channeled into the right internship.

Kelley and Samuel are studying Computer Science and Information Technology respectively at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I sat down with Kelley, Samuel and their Cisco mentor Shraddha Chaplot to get their thoughts on how to create a successful internship program for college students with hearing disabilities.

Samuel Sandoval, Shraddha Chaplot and Kelley Duran spell Cisco in American Sign Language at Cisco Headquarters

Internship Projects

Samuel and Kelley interned for 11 weeks in Cisco’s Software Engineering Accessibility team.  The Cisco Accessibility team is focused on ensuring Cisco products are accessible and usable by people with disabilities, whether by design or through compatible use with assistive technology.

Samuel worked as a lead developer for real time text chat on the Read More »

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Adventures as an Intern: Digital PR Awards

Greetings from hot and humid New Orleans! I’ve been down here in the South for a little under a week, and I’m already starting to say “y’all.” This week has been busy getting settled and preparing myself for school to start next Monday; my textbooks are all lined up and ready to go on my desk right now. However, I had just enough time for another adventure, but this time with a different kind of newsroom.

Since the launch of The Network, Cisco’s Technology News Site a little over two months ago, the social media communications team has been hard at work developing and curating Cisco’s very own newsroom. The hard work is starting to pay off: We’ve been nominated for the Best Online Newsroom at the Digital PR Awards. The other contenders are Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide’s remodel of the Intel Newsroom (not to be confused with the Intel Free Press, which I explored in a previous post), the Baylor Health Care System Online Newsroom, and Fahlgren Mortine’s revamp of Crown Equipment’s Business to Business Social Media Newsroom. The finalists all shared many similar characteristics that have been helpful in making their newsrooms a success.

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