This post was authored by Kat Falcinelli, a recent marketing intern on our Global Events TechX team.

Young blond woman standing in front of neon #WeAreCisco sign with index fingers pointing up. To my Gen Z peers entering the work world:

If you, too, feel disillusioned by the “all talk, no action” companies hiring interns, I ask you to hear me out! Coming of age in the wake of the Great Resignation and the Covid-19 pandemic, I was inherently skeptical of what the corporate ladder had to offer. However, that sentiment changed during my time as a Marketing Intern at Cisco.

What changed my perspective? Well, here are three ways Cisco is redefining what it means to be a summer intern at a large corporation in 2022.

1. Company Culture Extends to Interns

Shortly after completing orientation for the Intern Program, I began working alongside who I now know as a mentor and friend: Jim Thein. At the time, I made many presuppositions around why I’d been assigned to work with Jim and how we would interact as coworkers. I felt certain that I’d function as an assistant to Jim rather than an equal and receive advice but never be asked to share my own. While that assumption may seem antiquated, it was based on my learned experiences both as a young woman and as a Gen Z-er entering the work world.

I knew about Cisco’s rating of #1 Best Workplace in the U.S. Still, I assumed that company culture didn’t extend to interns, and my mentor/privacy law guru, Jim, would undoubtedly assign me to unfinished projects and fail to acknowledge my capabilities.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since day one of working on projects with the Global Events TechX team, I’ve felt that my input is valued. I lead and take full ownership of projects assigned to me. Not your standard summer intern busy-work projects either. Projects that directly impact the profitability of Cisco events!

I truly did not expect the weight my opinions and ideas would hold in conversations with fellow Cisconians. To give an example, my manager, Kelly, puts into practice a policy of mutual mentorship. Regardless of gaps in our career experience and age, she frequently asks for my advice! Yes, twenty-year-old undergraduate student me!

I feel empowered by the immense respect I receive from coworkers across the board. Knowing my ambitions won’t be shrugged off gives me the confidence to pursue projects that interest me, even if I don’t yet have the skillset to tackle them.

2. Work Life ≠ Personal Life

What’s a “Day for Me”? This is the question I asked upon finding out I had a paid day off in the second week of my internship! Cisco offers several “Days for Me” throughout the year for employees to recharge and prioritize their mental/emotional wellbeing. This was an entirely new concept for me!

Sure, most companies say they support their employees’ mental health, but a company actively enforcing the boundary between work and personal life? Wow. I’m able to give 100 percent when I clock in because Cisco ensures that even we interns take the time to rest. I feel cared for as an individual, not just as an employee or a production machine.

Young woman wearing black Cisco t-shirt stands in office building courtyard.Cisco’s intentional division between work and home life doesn’t just address employee wellbeing, though. It responds to the challenges in the work world that myself and Gen Z are entering, where hybrid and fully virtual positions are the norms.

Like most undergraduate students, I have various commitments outside of my internship. But unlike most undergraduate students, I manage those commitments with ease because Cisco’s hybrid work model offers true flexibility. Jim regularly reminds me to take breaks between meetings, which prevents me from feeling drained after working from home. My team expects that I shut my laptop at 5 p.m.

Gone are the days of overworking summer interns to the point of burnout. Cisco invests in their interns, granting them all the privileges of full-time employees. I’ve had a glimpse into how this company is changing the industry standard, and I like where it’s heading!

3. The [Cisco] World is Your Oyster!

During week 6 of my internship, a longtime friend asked, “What do you actually do?

I responded with, “Well, a little bit of everything!”

That answer didn’t quite satisfy them, but it’s true. On paper, I’m a Marketing Intern, but opportunities for growth at Cisco are limitless in scope.

As I write this, I’m working on a project to integrate data privacy best practices for lead acquisition. I’ve also developed messaging and strategy for the Pride Month social media campaign: two undertakings in considerably different realms of marketing!

Outside the more niche projects assigned by my team, I’m free (and encouraged) to explore different areas of interest! Cisco stands out in that way from past employers. There is no pressure to know exactly what role you’re best suited for, as long as you’re willing to learn.

So, to my fellow Gen Z-ers curious about what a summer internship could offer:

My experience serves as proof that Cisco’s providing the blueprint to internships that are anything but the corporate status quo.


Want to make an impact with us? Explore internship opportunities here.

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