Cisco Blogs

Finding My Cisco “Den Mother”

December 5, 2016 - 5 Comments


When you start working at Cisco, you quickly realize folks here have their own language. Sure, there’s tech lingo and acronyms galore, but it goes much deeper than that. You hear, quite a bit, in those conversations that people have a “Cisco Family” – and when you first start, you aren’t quite sure you even know what that means. Maybe you’ve never experienced “family life” before in the work place, maybe you just don’t think that’ll happen to you…but, then…it all comes together and you GET what everyone means. We are more than just co-workers here.

A little over five years ago I began the interview process after graduating college, and in January 2012 I got the call – I was hired by Cisco! I found out that I would be working out of the office in Raleigh, North Carolina (affectionately known as “RTP” by Cisconians). During my on-boarding experience I realized that everyone had a local team while my team was mostly based in Cisco’s San Jose Headquarters – clear across the country. Not wanting me to feel left out or underappreciated, my hiring manager Tara Fortier hopped on telepresence and met with me right away. We had an instant connection.

Tara said of that time, “It is not often you meet someone and connect so deeply and instantly with.  I remember how nervous I was getting a brand new hire, on a different coast in an infrastructure team, who had a degree in marketing!  I thought, ‘Oh man, I have to make this work and make it meaningful!’”

Tara took “meaningful” to an all new level, as I look back on that meeting and think of her first words to me, “Marcello, you’re my very first college hire! So, I’m going to be more like your Den Mother and you are my cub!” And Tara was right. She was there every step of the way as I began to navigate life at Cisco.

I never once felt like I was alone in RTP, and even through some more difficult times Tara has always been available to me. Whenever I had a question or concern, I’d just ping my Den Mother and she would respond immediately.  It didn’t take long for me to understand what the “Cisco Family” was all about.

A little while into my career at Cisco, I had an opportunity to move out to San Francisco – but I wasn’t sure I was ready for such a big move just yet.  When I told Tara about it she encouraged me to take it and told me never to underestimate myself. So I went for the job, and I got it!

Tara’s role as my Den Mother doesn’t stop there though. When I told her I had landed the job, she was even willing to go apartment shopping for me and was sending me photos in her free time of places where I could live.  Now that I’m here in California, she still takes care of me and is my mother away from home.

To this day, we have a reoccurring meeting on our calendars – neither of us usually attends the meeting – but it’s a sitting reminder to check on one other at least once a month, to look out for one another. And isn’t that what family is all about?

Love, and family, like this is special – and for it to come from your very first manager out of college? It’s no wondering why I love where I work! This way of life is a core to what working for Cisco is all about. We are truly family here, and I hope that is something every new hire gets to experience for themselves as they begin their journey with us here.

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  1. I’m sure this comment will be removed as “derogatory”, but that’s just the company reps white washing everything that disagrees with what they want outsiders to think.

    The “Cisco family”is a thing of the past. I get that lay-offs happen and I’m not bitter about being laid off. But a family doesn’t let people go who are loyal, hard working employees who care about Cisco’s success because they’re “expensive”. Before Chuck took over, lay-offs typically affected an entire business unit that was being closed down or was spread across the company and impacted the worst performers. Now, under Chuck, the reductions are impacting hard working people in higher pay grades or people who were paid above the median for their pay grade.

    A family would keep the top performers, even if they’re older and above average compensated. They’re compensated above average for a reason; they outperform the younger workers they’re being replaced with.

    Are there great managers like Tara at Cisco? Yes. Are there bad managers there too? Yes. It’s not all roses at Cisco. Frequent lay-offs and the loss of hard workers with 10, 15 or more years experience is killing morale.

    • @Edward, I think it’s good you were confident enough to post your thoughts and that our leadership needs to hear feedback like this to keep the morale of the company high. I encourage you to share your thoughts with leaders in many of the #AskAnything meetings that are put on by the ERO’s and BU’s.

      • @Marcello, it will be a little hard for me to ask your leaders at any of the #AskAnything meetings. I’m no longer a member of the “family”after Chuck’s first annual workforce reduction, limited restructuring, or whatever politically term HR wants to call it next time. I’ve heard on other forums that the leadership promised to answer the top voted questions but then failed to answer them at the next meeting, so I’m not sure that asking them would make a difference.

        I truly felt like Cisco was a family back in ’06 when I joined Cisco as a contractor. Like you, my manager was in another state and managed me remotely. Shortly after that manager converted me to an employee, he quit Cisco and my ‘family’ troubles began resulting in my leaving Cisco as part of the “workforce reduction” of ’11. But another great manager gave me the opportunity to come back in ’13, where I reported to two different managers under him between ’13-’16.

        But, somewhere between ’11 & ’13, that sense of ‘family’ had changed. And it continued to change, not for the better. I will cherish my time at Cisco, and I was once proud to call Cisco home. But looking at the ages of the people let go from my BU, it sure looks like it was age related, even though the official answer was that age had noting to do with it, that it was a matter of reducing costs.

        What hurt the most was not getting let go, but the fact that contractors were being hired into my team after I left. So, obviously the work I was doing still needed to be done, or there was work that our team needed to do that I could have performed only I was deemed “too expensive” to keep. I know that I wasn’t too expensive for my industry/job title as I made the same salary from ’06-’11 and then the same salary from ’13-’16 and I’m making even more at my new job. The other thing that hurt was that Cisco is giving the impression of replacing older workers with a younger, cheaper generation. While you need new blood and skills coming into the company, kicking out older workers is not the answer. If companies won’t keep older workers employed at the wages they’ve promoted to, or earned via annual cost-of-living increases over time, then how can the government keep social security running? There’s talk of raising the retirement age because our healthcare has advanced enough where people are living longer lives and can work longer, but not it companies like Cisco won’t keep them in favor of younger, cheaper workers. If older folks don’t make more than the younger generation, how will they put their kids through college to create the next generation of young workers?

        Good luck to you and all the deserving hard working people still at Cisco. Don’t let it turn into a wage factory. Sorry for my long rant, but “Cisco family” is a sensitive term for 5,500 of us this year.

  2. Being new in Cisco can be a very challenging experience, and it’s really good to read stuff like this; it re-assures a new hire. It’s been just over 2 months for me at Cisco, and I really hope to find that ‘family’. Loved your blog!