Keither taking a selfie in his homeWhen you think of Cisco, you might think we just connect computers or make the Internet run (already in itself a rather large feat). But I am here to tell you that in all my years as a Cisconian, I have seen the impact we have – globally, locally, and even directly within my family. At the end of the day, at this company with heart, connecting people to people is what we’re all about.

I joined Cisco back in 1999 and at that time we said we were going to change the way we work, live, play and learn. Never in my wildest imagination did I think we’d make such a tangible difference on the global stage. I certainly never thought I’d feel that impact on a more personal level.

I have the privilege of being the Systems Engineering Manager for the State, Local, and Education Team in Florida.  My team and I focus on our customers who happen to be state governments, local county governments, and education customers, and I can’t think of a better team to work for within Cisco.

We work to enhance the citizens’ lives across every facet of our halls of government. We work to assist our teachers and professors as they teach our children and students. Every day we have an impact, but there are so many other ways I’ve seen Cisco show up for others.

Global Impact

Early on in 2020, there was a lot of fear and doubt about the state of the world and what we were all experiencing.  At Cisco, we didn’t shy away from talking about that. Instead, we leaned into helping our customers to make sound decisions as they were working to determine how to provide education for students at home, or how to provide essential government services for a workforce that’s traditionally only been within a brick-and-mortar facility. We burned the midnight oil and worked closely with our customers as words like socially distant, and N95 masks became common phrases.

Cisco leadership took notice of the work we were doing, and the associated stress that came with these times – and Cisco responded! I don’t normally make it a habit of replying to Cisco execs when they send out an email. But I made an exception to thank Francine Katsoudas (our EVP, Chief People Officer) after she sent out an email giving every Cisco employee an extra day off in 2020 that did not count as a PTO day. We’ve since had a few more of these “Day for Me” days.

Keith’s family showing their Cisco Pride mug.

These days are an unexpected blessing and gift. They allow us to collectively pause around the globe without fear of missing an email or ping. On these days we’re able to rest, refocus, and reflect upon the impact we are making not only at the local level, but more importantly on a global level as well.

Of course, during a year and time in history where we are all blending our home and work lives, Cisco has provided a lifeline of proactive assistance and open communications to their employees. It’s rare that a company of Cisco’s size takes the time to listen to their employees. But Cisco does listen, and more importantly they act! It makes us all stronger in the long-term.

Local Impact

During the past year and a half, time has not stopped, nor has Cisco. We continue to work directly with first responders, the American Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations that provide emergency assistance to natural disasters and those in need – without any expectation of getting anything in return. We do it simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve worked with the Cisco team and other technical volunteers who put themselves at risk, traveling to disaster sites with whatever equipment they can collect and carry in. They then work to re-establish voice and data communications after hurricanes, floods, wildfires, etc. Cisco has helped build the emergency communications networks that allow medical relief agencies and government officials to direct critical rescue and recovery missions.

We’ve responded to a countless number of events over the years around the world. Recently, I saw that Cisco offered to open our facilities in Richardson and Austin, Texas to assist those employees impacted by the snow, ice, and power outages in that state.

Personal Impact

Keith’s family wearing their Cisco gear.

Cisco has made a positive impact on not just me, but three generations of my family. That’s the thing about Cisco, they don’t just see the employee – they see our families too.

Over a decade ago, the day before her wedding, my daughter was admitted to an emergency room in a small South African village due to a critical illness. Cisco offered to fly my daughter out of the remote area, because the hospital couldn’t provide adequate medical care. Luckily, she got better and the need to be evacuated out of the bush via helicopter never materialized. Knowing that we had this support available to us eased what was already a very stressful family event.

More recently, my elderly mom was admitted to the hospital and I found myself trying to coordinate her healthcare while I was in another state. I remembered that one of the newer benefits Cisco offers is assistance with eldercare. Cisco provides a Caregiving Concierge benefit through Wellthy and I’m working with them and getting assistance as my mom faces long term care issues. Again, knowing we have these benefits available to help our family’s is an awesome way Cisco has our backs.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work for such an amazing company, especially after a year unlike any other where they provided a lifeline that allowed us to voice our opinions, ask our questions, and offer input and direction—not to a faceless company, but directly to the people who make decisions that impact our lives and our customers’ lives.

Oh, and by the way, a decade later, my daughter is following in her dad’s footsteps – she recently joined us at Cisco as a Security Product Marketing Manager. My youngest daughter is also beginning her interview process in hopes of joining the Cisco family too!

So, you see, I have a tremendous amount to be grateful for. To me, Cisco is the real deal.


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Keith Ridgway

Leader, Systems Engineering

Public Sector