This post was written by guest blogger Linas Dauksa, Marketing Manager, Picture1Enterprise Segment, and DIRT volunteer

A few months ago, I picked up my friend, Audra, at San Francisco airport. During our drive, we chatted about her full-time work at a charity in Canada and my volunteer work with Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps). We realized there are some interesting parallels between a non-profit health organization in Toronto, Canada, and a high-tech company in Silicon Valley.

From an outsider’s perspective, Cisco provides companies with network capabilities. The charity organization Audra works with funds research and provides support to patients and families. At both organizations, making good things possible is based on a set of competencies, innovation, and passion.

As a volunteer on the Cisco TacOps team, I apply my technical skills and work experience, along with my company’s core technologies, to help support communications during natural or man-made disasters.

Cisco TacOps volunteers training on deployment of a portable satellite uplink
Cisco TacOps volunteers training on deployment of a portable satellite uplink

As a manager at the charity, when Audra seeks volunteers, she needs more than people who will stuff envelopes. She requires high-value skills such as graphic design or copywriting to help develop, for example, an advertising campaign.

The commonality here is the use of expertise, creativity, and innovative products and solutions to support local and global communities. Not only does this integration create real change for those people with the biggest needs, but it also impacts employee satisfaction, drives new ideas internally, and increases brand affection and loyalty.

The financial return on investment (ROI) becomes clear very quickly when you think of the costs associated with recruiting and retaining employees, and when you recognize the cost of promoting innovation and creative thinking.

A few days after I had this conversation with Audra, a colleague forwarded an interesting article that resonated with me: “Millennials are more fervent in their support of corporate social and environmental efforts and are, above and beyond, more likely to say they would participate in CSR initiatives if given the opportunity,” the article stated. “Millennials are also prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about.”

Closer to home (actually, work), I know an MBA student who chose to join Cisco instead of another company based on our CSR program. She is impressed by what Cisco solutions offer in real-time crises, and she appreciates the opportunity to give back. She believes it’s a real differentiator.

Cisco TacOps team deployed in Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan
Cisco TacOps team deployed in Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

As we prepare to meet and mingle with the world’s thought leaders on creativity and innovation at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, we would like to challenge you to innovate around your company’s or your own core competencies when offering volunteer and CSR opportunities.

As an example, perhaps your company is in the hospitality services. Do you have a plan to leverage your wonderful assets to help the community if there is a major catastrophe such as an earthquake? Do you know where to start this preparedness conversation with the larger community?

Can you market your product to change the way people see it so that you reach a new and deserving audience? Can you redesign the way you collect, analyze, and share data to reduce strain in struggling areas or to allow for new growth?

Hopefully, we have sparked some creative juices here. Share your thoughts, ideas, and possibilities in the comments below. Or, tweet your thoughts at @Cisco, @CiscoCSR, and @canneslions using #canneslions2016!

Be sure to join our #CiscoChat tomorrow (06/16) featuring two amazing Women in Tech: Sue-Lynn Hinson of Cisco TacOps and Lauren Woodman of NetHope!

More information about Cisco TacOps, including how to reach out to the team, can be found at:

If you are a full-time Cisco employee and would like to volunteer: go2.cisco.com/dirt


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco