A wise man once told me, “There’s no better title than ‘Dad’.” We were talking about career achievements and family, and how to balance the two. I have to hand it to him — he definitely put things into perspective for me.

That title carries a lot of responsibility, not only in providing for a family, but more so in educating the younger generation. ‘Dad’ and ‘Mom’ are titles given to us as soon as our children are born. It’s a very simple, straightforward process. But, how do you earn that title?

One of the things I enjoy most about working at Cisco is the company’s commitment to the community, to volunteering and to inspiring others to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Educating the next generation and inspiring them to learn, create, and innovate is in Cisco’s DNA!

When I received an email from We Teach Science about a year ago, I immediately knew I wanted to volunteer my time and earn the title of ‘mentor.’ The nonprofit pairs high school students who struggle in math and science with IT employees, who mentor the students in STEM education over the Internet.

With the school year coming to an end, I reflect back on my time mentoring a high school student — for privacy’s sake, let’s call her ‘M’ — and what we learned together this past year.

We talked about the importance of linear equations and how we use them on a daily basis.

M: “Why do we need to graph y=10+7x if I solved it for y=59?”

E: What happens when you get $10 from your parents and make $7 an hour babysitting? How many hours do you need to work to make $100? $200? And how much do you really need?…

We talked about how often I use math in my job and day to day life.

E: Every day!

We talked about Cisco and what the company does, how the Internet works, and how new technologies are enabling digital experiences in companies every day (Starbucks, for example).

M: “That’s pretty cool, I never thought about how I’m able to get to Google or Facebook from my iPhone or computer. I just took it for granted…”

We talked about jobs in the IT industry.

M: What do you do?

E: I’m a product manager

M: What’s that?

E: I manage a product. Let’s say you go to Target, and you’re looking for a broom. A broom can come in different sizes, handle lengths, colors, packaging, instructions, and prices. Someone needs to decide what the size, length, color, package and price are, who would buy that broom, where to sell it, and a million other decisions that need to be made about that broom. That’s what a product manager does.

M: “That’s a really cool job! I think I’d enjoy that…”

And at our last meeting, ‘M’ said to me in her shy demeanor, typical of a high school freshman: “I really learned a lot from you. You helped me quite a bit this year. I was thinking maybe I’ll go to engineering school in college…”

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And that is a title earned — the title of a mentor.

It’s a title more precious than any grade level or promotion; it’s the knowledge that you have helped and inspired another person to learn more, to push themselves further, and to aspire to more.

Ultimately, my friend was right, but not quite. ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’ is the greatest, most precious title. But equally important is the title of ‘mentor.’

There has never been a better time to volunteer and mentor the next generation of global problem solvers.

Learn how you can volunteer with one of Cisco’s many partners as part of the US2020 initiative!


Efrat Noy

Product Manager