In collaboration with Emily Cousins.
Traditionally, the graduates and interns who join Cisco and work at our Bedfont Lakes office form tight-knit bonds with each other. It is what takes them away on holidays together, after work get-togethers, and cosmic mini-golfing, go-karting, or fancy team dinners. It’s a family unit forged in the shared experiences of starting a new chapter in their lives. When all these in-person moments dissipated with the onslaught of a pandemic, some worried that the incoming interns and graduates might not get that experience.
In September 2020, 12 interns and 21 graduates joined Cisco remotely for the first time. While it was a struggle to find common ground, they have bonded in new ways – virtual escape rooms, virtual Christmas lunch, and weekly virtual coffee catch-ups, all with the help of Cisco’s collaboration solutions.
What is your role at Cisco?
Paige: I joined Cisco as a Site Reliability Engineer in September 2020 as part of the Collaboration Assurance and Analytics team. We use industry best practices to automate and connect tools to provide products for other engineers to use, with our end goal to help improve availability and reliability of services. For example, I worked on the ‘Device Report’ tool, which uses multiple data sources to gather device information from server infrastructure to create a report for engineers. This means that when an engineer performs changes to the infrastructure, they can compare reports to see if there is a difference that could indicate a problem.
Emily: I am a Computer Science student at Loughborough University currently on my placement year at Cisco, also in the Collaboration Assurance and Analytics team. My Software Engineering Internship began in July 2020, so I’ve been working at home for the duration of the internship so far. My favourite project has been creating a tool called ‘Infra-Manager’ to view and change information stored about devices from a user-friendly page, which allows network engineers to easily keep track of their platform devices and monitoring configuration.
What did you discover when you joined Cisco?
Paige: I knew it would be a fantastic place to work as Cisco had won the World’s Best Workplace, and by reading the blogs shared on Cisco’s LinkedIn I could tell that employees were enthusiastic and engaged in initiatives like Time2Give. Even at my interview I could see how friendly and connected the community was when we went for lunch and all the graduates sat together at a giant canteen table.
There are lots of amazing communities to get involved with such as Women of Cisco and Social & Charity, who organize a wide range of events. Recently, I helped interview aspiring students at Virtual Work Experience to help them develop and practice their communication skills needed for university and work. My favourite activity so far was transcribing handwritten documents from the 1800s on south sea fish for the Natural History Museum, so the work can be accessible to everyone.
Emily: Before joining Cisco, I had the expectation of a friendly environment from what I had experienced at the assessment centre. Everyone made an effort to welcome us.
Once joining Cisco, I discovered a real sense of community which has grown stronger over time; initially this was from people telling us about culture in the office and events Cisco holds, for instance summer barbeques, Christmas parties, and sports days. I really began to see it for myself with fun remote events, the openness to help each other, and the honesty from local to global discussions, particularly on mental health/working from home. The regular Check-ins/’All-Hands’ mean Cisco becomes more transparent even as a multi-national company and shows care towards employees. We have still been given plenty of opportunities to enjoy events remotely such as a Christmas meal video chat, virtual escape rooms, and the UK & Ireland Cisco Christmas Festival.
How did you feel about joining your teams remotely instead of in person?
Paige: I was really excited to start at Cisco and meet my new team! I thought it would be hard to integrate with them as I had only met a few of them in person at my interview, but we all keep in regular contact using Webex, which has been really important for collaboration and getting to know everyone. I was also worried that setting up my laptop would be difficult virtually, however Cisco provided a personal ‘New Hire IT Support’ Webex Space with IT specialists who quickly solved a mail syncing problem I ran into. My team also arranged multiple Webex Meetings so I could share my screen and they could walk me through setting up what I needed for everyday work.
Emily: Joining remotely was both an exciting and daunting experience, especially during the pandemic. I believe that joining remotely has made it harder for anyone to overcome the fear of feeling like you don’t deserve to be there or ‘fit in’ – imposter syndrome. It’s been hard to understand the culture around you as well as feeling confident being a woman in a majority male industry. However, during this journey our intern group became incredibly close and the many discussions we had about these topics made me feel less alone and more understood. Right from the start, managers and other colleagues haven’t been afraid to bring up these conversations which shows the genuinely wonderful people working here and helped me overcome fears. It takes time, possibly longer working remotely, but with regular calls on Webex and support you overcome this.
How was your first week?
Paige: The first week was really organized. I learned a lot about Cisco and its culture in that first week. We attended seminars on Cisco products, informal Q&A sessions with management, and virtual socials like Pictionary to get to know the other new hires. During the first week, I was given a mentor from another business area. I still have regular informal meetings with my mentor to catch-up on any work/life updates. A team member also setup a daily ‘tea break,’ like we would have at the office, to call and check how I was getting on and help with any problems.
Emily: Cisco prepared for our virtual arrival. They sent equipment needed beforehand and helped every single person on a Webex Meeting to onboard our devices. Onboarding was a great balance of ice-breaker activities and informational talks about Cisco, its architecture and people’s roles. A treasure hunt adapted to being remote by collecting items from around my house and racing to be the first back to the camera set us at ease with each other.
How have you started building your network remotely?
Paige: I’ve found networking can be difficult virtually as you don’t get the same interactions like you would at the office, so I’ve made sure to get involved with virtual Careers Fairs and attending events like the UKI Women’s Circle, which has been a fantastic way to speak to new people outside the team who work in different business areas.
Emily: For me, an amazing networking opportunity has been the UK interns of 2020/21 (aka Quaranterns) ‘Be Our Guest’ series. We invite people to discuss their day-to-day roles, life at Cisco, and advice they have for us, as well as other topics such as Outlook organization or working remotely.
What do you envision for your future at Cisco?
Paige: I want to keep learning and undertake more technical certifications. I want to continue volunteering for events within the Cisco community and further develop my skills. In the future, I’d like to become a mentor and help advance the careers of others at Cisco.
Emily: I hope my future at Cisco will continue to be a learning experience with challenge and accomplishment. I’d like to understand more technologies and programming languages. Cisco offers opportunities to learn by offering courses. The Cisco culture also means everyone you meet is willing to help you succeed.
Have you had joined a company virtually? Tell us your story in the comments below!
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