Diversity, Inclusion, Equality – Be You, With Us at Cisco

November 12, 2018 - 47 Comments

I count myself as fortunate.

I am supported by an amazing family and friends, a fantastic team, and a company that understands that being yourself allows you to bring your best to work.

At Cisco, it isn’t just policy or a marketing pitch to “be you, with us” – it is our culture, and that culture is what makes it so much easier to truly be yourself here. We support one another and we have each other’s backs – and I have felt that first hand from Cisco leadership to fellow co-workers since being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria.

Transgender Awareness Week, which begins today and concludes with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th, is very important to me. It’s important because I identify as a woman with a trans history and have medically transitioned in recent years. Mental and social transition is something that takes much longer and this is where every person has the ability to impact a trans or non-conforming person’s life.

My personal story began at age 11. I had an inkling that I did not fit into the stereotypical categories and crowds presented to me. With no Internet to research, and my Encyclopaedias giving me no answers – I internalized a lot. I was shy, and even if I had been gregarious in nature – I didn’t know how to talk about what I was experiencing.

I was a disengaged child. Not knowing where I fit in society, I didn’t perform well in school. But by the time I turned 17, I knew what the difference was.

It was at this point of realisation that I began to panic and look for solutions. I spent many years searching for a cure or a way to stop myself from having these thoughts. I looked for ways to try and align with ‘normal’ people and blend in. Nothing worked.

That’s when I visited a gender specialist.

I was advised during this consultation that I was suffering from a medical condition known as Gender Dysphoria, or the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.

More commonly people may refer to me as being trans or transgender, although I personally feel this does not represent the condition.

Initially, the diagnosis settled me – after years of searching for an answer, I finally had one. Knowing that there was a medical condition associated with how I felt was important, and helped to resolve many things for me personally.

Naturally, after the diagnosis was made, there were many options for me to consider. Not all people with Gender Dysphoria seek medical intervention, and there are many reasons for this. For me, however, I knew that to live a full and complete life – transitioning was something I had to do.

I spent much of my life absorbed in my work, quietly fighting off demons in my mind and hiding them from those around me. Even in saying that, my life has been interesting and full – but I made it this way so that I’d remain occupied.

It was at this point when my “ah-ha!” moment occurred!

After nearly an entire life of seeking solutions and looking for answers, there was now a path to follow – and I could see it too! This path was going to enable me to be my true self, the person I always should’ve been, and the person that could express themselves as they wish.

Transition is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a hard process – medically and mentally –and you need a good support system around you to get through it. If I could advise anyone who currently has similar issues, and this is not restricted to gender dysphoria, it would be to seek assistance – talk to someone – open up your heart, because a happier place is waiting for you. It’s okay to not be okay.  The first step is the biggest but once you are over it, things do improve.

I am very fortunate that I live in a part of the world that allows and adopts diversity and that I am surrounded by people who care about my happiness. My mother especially has amazed me, and at every stage – she categorically raises her game.  I am also fortunate in that I work for Cisco – an employer that actively supports inclusion, diversity, and being your true self.

Cisco has been here each step of the way, too. Through seven medical procedures within an 18-month period, Cisco allowed me to have the time I needed to attend medical consultations, have surgery, and recover. What they’ve enabled me to do is truly remarkable.

I have just started a new role at Cisco, and I am so excited about the challenges and opportunities that await on this new team. I am not hiding away either! My role is customer facing and each day is different, and I firmly believe that it is my experience and knowledge that earned me this position.

Today, I am me, Cheryl McKay, it’s that simple – and my whole life is in front of me!

My journey has been a hell of journey, but I am happily through to the other side. I used to say that I am the same person with a different identity – but, that’s really not the case.

I’m not the same. I’m a better person because I am my true authentic self, and a better employee for Cisco thanks to their support.

During this week, and especially on November 20th, it is a time where the Trans community and our allies come together to remember the dangers of ignorance and bigotry. Around the world throughout this week a list of names will be read. These are the names of those who have been murdered because of hatred – simply because they were honest with themselves enough to express who they really are.

This is an opportunity to reflect, to remember those who have died and to honour those who refuse to live in the shadows, and in many cases, to pay tribute to those that have taken on the largest mental and physical challenge of their lives.

Consider that everyone you meet may be fighting a harder battle, and that kindness can go so much further than hate or intolerance. Truly, a kind word or a smile could make someone’s day, week, year or life!


Want to #LoveWhereYouWork too? You can. We’re hiring.


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  1. Cheryl yore amazing, brave and super strong. Go girl!

  2. A true inspiration to all; best wishes in all you do …

  3. Outstanding courage, Cheryl! Thank you for sharing your journey.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Glad you could go through the transition (which we probably can't even imagine how hard it is), and move on with your life. Everyone should live as they see and fit – no exceptions. In addition, having support from your employer must be a huge help, not to be taken for granted. Grateful for the people who drive these changes and for leadership support & enablement. It is awesome to be part of Cisco.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing, amazing courage and authenticity.

  6. Cheryl, your words inspire me much and I truly agreed with your point:
    everyone we meet may be fighting a hard battle and kind word or smile can make people's day.

  7. Cheryl, thanks for sharing your story! Your authenticity and honesty is very inspiring! I will share with this post with all of my team in Greater China CX team!

  8. Bravo on your courage and authenticity! You are an inspiration.

  9. Cheryl, thank you for sharing your story. As the mother of a gay daughter, this hits a bit close to home. We are all thankful for her and for other brave people who have the courage to tell their stories. I am personally thankful to be a part of a company who accepts the many differences among people.

  10. Two Thank Yous: Thank you, Cheryl, for being open and direct in telling your story. I admire your courage. And thank you Carmen for reminding us readers that Cheryl's story isn't about promoting anyone or anything. Rather, Cheryl's story is just one among MANY CEC stories that depict people of all kinds who make up the entirety of Cisco. I appreciate you reminding me that yes, we are wildly different from one another in countless ways. But, I can learn from others' differences, accept them as people and respect them as colleagues.

  11. This is nothing but a lousy and pathetic attempt to cover up on a systematic discrimination based on ethnicity.
    Cheryl story is mostly personal . It is certainly not something a company should promote as many people have different opinion about the subject. .
    It is unfortunate that Cheryl is used here to promote radical leftist political agenda.
    The discrimination is here and big time:
    "The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs determined that the technology firm secured visas for foreign workers instead of hiring U.S. citizens".

    • To "Cover up?"

      I see you left your name off your comment. Unlike Cheryl you are not courageous. Cisco will be on the right side of history with its inclusive and diverse workforce/community. You are free to hold your personal opinions but not to disparage a fellow co-worker. Perhaps some more education on this topic is in order?

      • For Anonymous: looks like you are all about hypocrisy. Complaining about me not mentioning my name but I could not find anyone here with the name of Anonymous or any other brave one with this name.
        Further, no one here disparaged Cheryl and blaming other for that is totally aligned with you hypocrite posting here!

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. Your courage and honesty are inspiring!

  13. Cheryl, I'm so happy I clicked on this article and got to read about your journey. It takes a lot of courage to live authentically but so rewarding when you do and you can tell from reading this how happy you are. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Thanks for sharing your story! Very inspirational.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing your story and for showing up authentically in life and work. I'm so proud to have you as a member of the Cisco family!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story Cheryl! You are an inspiration! I hope that sharing your personal story will help others to understand what gender dysphoria is, and that it is not a lifestyle choice. Be strong! Much love to you.

  17. Thank you for sharing your story Cheryl!

  18. Courage comes in many forms and sharing your story is truly courageous Cheryl. Glad you’re in a good place and to know you.

  19. Don't understand why we are promoting these ideas. I hope that Cheryl is happy, but also hope people will make a different choice – one that does not deny their true identity by changing the outward physical appearance. I have met so many amazing people at Cisco, and we should appreciate all our differences. This type of article is a promotion of a lifestyle choice. Why post such and article on the front pages of our internal webpage? Let's work together to make Cisco successful and not promote lifestyle choices.

    Just curious, do we have any articles posted on CEC about all the great Veterans we have in this company? Those who served our country and now translate their skills into helping Cisco be successful?

  20. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story. You inspire and motivate those around you!

  21. Cheryl, what a journey for you since we first met 2 years ago – you continue to inspire, educate and amaze me 🙂

  22. Inspiring story! Cisco is truly a wonderful place to work.

  23. Woo Hoo Cheryl … Great story … So proud to know you ..

  24. Cheryl, thank you for sharing your story! Im inspired by how you just own who you are. That's much more than some of us can do our whole lives. I'm proud to work for a company that supports you, me and all of us.

  25. Cheryl, your story is empowering and your ability to share your story is truly an indicator of who you are and example for each of us on how to live our lives to the fullest! Thank you!

  26. What an inspirational journey! Thanks for sharing your story, and I'm proud to work for a company that supported you through this.

  27. Cheryl: You are beautiful and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your truth. We celebrate you and everyone at Cisco and for good reason! Authentic people are cable of changing the world for the better.

  28. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  29. Thank you for sharing your incredible story, Cheryl!

  30. Cheryl, thank you for your courage in sharing your story — I hope it can help to open the minds and hearts of those that don't understand gender dysphoria. Cisco is such an amazing company to provide this platform for education, and your honesty will make a difference!

  31. Terrific post! Thank you for sharing!

  32. So proud you did this Cheryl, thank you so much for sharing and being you

  33. What a fantastic piece Cheryl. Very proud of you and so glad you made the decision you did. It shines through that you are now truly you. Jo xx

  34. Cheryl,
    Thank you sharing your story. I am in awe of your strength and bravery.

  35. What a story, Cheryl. I have a deeper understanding of, and respect for, every person who is on this journey. Honored to work with you (even though we've never met!) and for a company that supports you so fully. Thank you for sharing your story so openly. #grateful.

  36. Thank you so much for sharing your story Cheryl! I've learned something, got an even deeper appreciation of your journey, and am inspired. Sharing your story is so important for others. I can't thank you enough for putting your story out there.

  37. It is so important for people to be supported to be themselves in all areas of their lives. CISCO is to be congratulated for its forward thinking, inclusive and equitable support for its employees. Brava for sharing this with us Cheryl!

  38. I am the Mother mentioned in this and I feel very proud of my daughter and everything she has endured to get her to this place in her life and I thank from the bottom of my heart all you people out there who not only support Cheryl.

  39. Amazing and thank you for your bravery, honesty and inspiration.

  40. Great Story Cheryl thank you for sharing your an inspiration

  41. So much love for your sharing your very personal story Cheryl! #WeAreCisco #LoveWhereYouWork #BeYouWithUs

  42. This blog post fills my heart with pride. I'm so proud of you for being your authentic self. I'm so proud of you for sharing your story. I'm so proud to call you a fellow Cisconian.

    My favorite part of this story is that you took your own situation and made it relatable to anyone who feels "different " and that's just about everyone. It's a story about not being the same, but it's not divisive, it's inclusive – and I think we could all use a little of that right about now.

  43. Wow Cheryl – thank you so much for sharing this deeply moving personal story. My mother used to say that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I think with this blog you're shining a bright light on an area where people still harbor ignorance, fear, and irrational prejudice.