Cisco Blogs

Living My One True Life at Cisco

August 16, 2018 - 29 Comments

My husband David and I are six months into our lives as U.S. expats living in London, and while it wasn’t easy – it’s been a road paved with moments that have highlighted what an incredible company Cisco is to work for.

There were 14 months of career conversations with multiple Cisco leaders and many roller coaster twists and turns. But even when the rollercoaster seemed like a runaway ride, I stuck with it, made sure my seatbelt was fastened…and now, here we are.

Two major events in my life set this dream in motion.

In March 2002, I sat at my father’s bedside, and in February 2017 I did the same with my mother, as they each took their last breath. Each time I asked myself, “What will you do next?”.

At age 37, it took my father’s death for me to realize that we only get this one life, and I had better get to living it. It was during this time that I made some very big career and personal decisions that started me on a wonderful ten-year adventure – and that eventually led me to my life at Cisco. I started as a Contractor in 2012.

After my mother’s passing, the 20 year dream David and I had to live overseas kicked into high gear. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Pleasant Valley, Iowa. It never crossed my mind that I would live in San Francisco for 27 years, and then move to London.

Trust The Process.

What I’ve found over the years of gradually giving myself the freedom to have “Why not?” conversations – is that amazing opporutnities are often found in the answers.

All of this has not been easy, so don’t let that fool you. Everyone has different thresholds for risk, adventure, and inspiration. In my case, as the number of birthday candles increased each year and the hair got grayer, the more comfortable I became with the uncertainty of each “Why not?” decision.

Over the 14 months that led to our move, David and I often repeated the mantra “trust the process”. We knew we couldn’t let every speed bump or fork in the road derail our goal. We nearly had our bags packed for Singapore.

And even during the finalization of paperwork and visa details – just three words made it all easier, “trust the process”.

Cisco Leadership

You often hear how wonderful our Cisco Leadership is, and what you hear is true. We would not be in London today if it weren’t for three leaders in particular.  My manager and mentor, Jennifer Hewlette walked me through each step as she had studied abroad and worked her first 10 years in Europe. She fully understood and supported my desire to work abroad.

Michelle Chiantera, my Senior Leader at the time, encouraged me to have as many conversations with as many Cisco leaders as possible. Not only that, but Michelle is someone who supports moving Cisco talent to other organizations for the good of the person and the good of Cisco. You’ll often find this theme throughout Cisco in that we see the “big picture” – teams don’t selfishly hold onto talent here.

And, finally, Sven Jirgal, my new leader, has lived in many countries with many jobs throughout his career. Sven immediately embraced my desire to move outside the U.S. and chose London as our port of call.

With that, David and I packed our bags. “Why not?”


We’ve only been in London for six months and already people want to know “What’s next?” I say with extreme confidence and enormous joy, “I don’t know…” 😊

I have only visited 24 of 194 countries. I have only met thousands of the 7.6 billion people on this planet. I don’t know what country I will visit next. I don’t know who I will meet tomorrow. I don’t know what opportunity will present itself next week, next month, or next year.

Cisco is amazing and I am proud every day to work here. When CEO Chuck Robbins takes a public stand to fight homelessness, empowers our Corporate Social Responsibility to positively impact 1 Billion people around the globe, and stands up for the rights of his employees, regardless of politics, I know I am working at a very special place.

And I am so proud that Cisco has encouraged me to chase my dreams – wherever they take me next. I will leave you with some advice, though, and – I think it’s advice you can take with you wherever you travel:

1.Saying “Hi” to someone new each day unlocks unknown possibilities. “Hello” is such a powerful word – use it!

2.Material possessions really don’t matter (except maybe a good kitchen knife) – It’s amazing when we pack up and move how trivial most of the items we have in our day to day life become. David and I have found so much more joy in the experiences that life brings us, rather than the stuff – packing just 3 bags each for our move across the pond. But, like I said, a good kitchen knife is still required. 😊

3.I am the only one with the power to “make it a good day” – You have a choice to choose every morning. You can make it a good day, or…not. I hope you choose to make it a great one!

4.And to whatever your adventure awaits, “trust the process”. Trust yourself, your supporters, and your sponsors. People want to help you – they absolutely want you to succeed!

Sometimes all you have to do is ask for a little bit of help along the way.


Want to join a company that encourages you to life your dreams? We’re hiring. Apply now.


In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Love this Mark! You are an amazing, inspiring leader! Cisco is lucky to have you!

  2. What a wonderful, inspirational story!

  3. Mark, so glad to hear how well things are going and see you continue your journey! Hope our paths cross again at GSX or PS! In the meantime keep truckin’ on! – jeremy

  4. Great story Mark and live is a journey.
    The Cisco family is amazing! I’ve had a number of great roles, hard & fruitwork and moved continent too with my wife and young kids (all under 5 yrs of age at the time). Great to look back and say I would not change a thing even on the tough days.

    A career in Cisco rocks!!!…. buckle up:-)

  5. Mark, what an inspiring and amazing journey! Thank you for sharing, well done!!

  6. Mark, I am so happy to hear about your journey! Thank you for sharing work/ life lessons. Even some of us who have been on our “own journeys” need to be reminded of what’s important! My best to you!
    Cheers to living our dreams, wherever they may take us!

    • @Kim: BIG BIG LOVE coming your way. We'll always have "M&Ms" to remember our time together! 🙂 Yes, I honor your journey…and the goodness that presents itself through it all… #PEACE

  7. Mark you are such an inspiration! You absorb life to the fullest! So great to see that in you! 🙂

  8. Love that you are living your dream and you are helping shape a path for others to live their’s. All the Best to you and David and Go Hawks!

  9. Love your post – glad you are living your dream!

  10. @Vicki: 🙂 Thanks so much
    @Sam: Love being in the U.K.

  11. Lovely story to read. Thanks for sharing Mark. There's so much out there to experience. You go get 'em! Being an old lady myself I'll be staying right where I am! Well other than the several holidays to far reaches of the world each year 😀 Lovely to have you and your fabulous energy with us here in the UK xx

  12. Mark – Your blog is incredibly inspiring and encouraging! What is even more inspiring and encouraging is that you are not only writing about it, you are doing it by example! Glad to hear the move has been so wonderful! I'm choosing to "make it a good day"!

  13. @Jordan: Keep going…keep on going…! 🙂

  14. @Cindy: Thanks!

  15. Hi Mark.
    Great post! Terrific lessons for life…including the kitchen knife!
    My best,

  16. Bravo Mark!

  17. Mark –
    Reading your post has reestablished my trust in "the process"; Thank you for that. I moved to Oslo, Norway from Boston last week and am simultaneously going through the moving process and the application process to Cisco Norge. I hope to call wonderful Cisconians like yourself my coworkers one day soon!

    Jordan Symonds

  18. @Justin: Thanks…so very much! 🙂

  19. Mark you are an inspiration to us all in many ways. I've only recently met you since you're move to London and I instantly liked you; how could anyone not like you? I'm proud to have you in our Cisco team so a warm welcome to David and yourself to the UKI Cisco family. Fantastic blog!!

  20. I enjoyed reading this bruther. Thank you for sharing

  21. What a great story, Mark! Love it!

  22. “Hello” !

  23. Why Not? Such an amazing company with awesome leaders and colleagues that inspire us everyday! Thanks for the inspiration today, Mark!!!