Thist post was written by Cisco Sales intern Anna Xu.

As a first-year college student studying Computer Science, life and internships have two very particular things in common for me – I didn’t know what to expect from either of them.

I was, however, drawn to apply for my first Cisco internship as I had completed an enjoyable summer externship program with them the year before. I thought this might be the ‘something meaningful’ I was looking forward to doing over my summer break this year.

After a long application process, I was lucky enough to get a position as a Technical Sales intern in the Early in University program. Now, after having finished 5 weeks to mark the halfway point of my internship, I’ve learned a few things about Cisco that I wanted to share.

1. Everyone, no matter their level or position, is friendly and wants to help YOU succeed. Coming into my first internship, I had always pictured the classic strict managers, competitive interns, and higher up employees demanding you to grab them coffee. I could not have been more wrong. Everyone I’ve met so far, from my fellow interns to my manager to executives, and yes — even our CEO Chuck Robbins, are all unbelievably kind and genuine. They’re dedicated to helping us succeed and want us to be an integral part of the team.

2. One of the best ways to learn is to listen. I knew I wanted to be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge while developing my skills as I possibly could by the time the summer ended. While I thought that would mean a lot of me doing things, I soon learned that I was the best sponge when I acted as a fly on the wall and just observed.

Some of these “fly on the wall” experiences included shadowing my manager on calls or customer meetings, attending the AWS cloud summit, listening to executives talk, analyzing a technical whiteboarding session, watching my mentor setup a network, listening to intern presentations, and much more. It’s incredible all you can soak up just by listening!

3. Not everything is black and white. In fact, the gray area is the best part. Being a Type A person, I’ve always appreciated structure and routine, effort and results. This translated into how I thought of my future career; I thought that studying Computer Science, while guaranteeing job stability and employment, meant that I would have to code 100% of the time for my job—something I definitely did not want to do.

However, since talking to different people at Cisco and seeing the huge range of roles and opportunities here, I’ve realized I was completely wrong. Just as a title did not define what the people I met at Cisco did in their day-to-day jobs, a major does not define what I could and will do in the future. Rather, it’s just a jumping-off point into my future career—and I’m ready to take the dive.

4. You are your best self both in and out of the office. Another stereotype I’ve held is the conception of one’s “work self” and “normal self”. I thought of the office as a place to be buttoned down, formal, and quite honestly, a bland, watered down version of myself.

I was wrong yet again! The most influential people I’ve met so far are those who seamlessly integrate their personal and professional selves into one cohesive person. Those who can crack a joke one minute, ask about your life the other, and focus on work the rest of the time. I’ve found that there is no such thing as someone’s “work” personality at Cisco, and I aspire to keep blending those two pre-conceived versions of myself until I am just wholly Anna- both in and out of the office.

5. There’s always more to learn. This is one thing I knew from the beginning, just not to the degree I do now. Having just spent 5 short weeks here at Cisco, I’ve been able to learn so many new technologies, concepts, and life skills. However, I know there’s so much more knowledge untouched, not only in Cisco but the world. I hope to continue learning for my whole life, and hopefully with Cisco!


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