I had this longtime dream of volunteering in Africa and working with sea turtles. This year, I had the chance to fulfill my dream because of this incredible company. Cisco incentivizes employees to give back — providing us with 80 hours of paid time off in addition to our regular paid time off called Time2Give — and this is just part of our amazing culture. No wonder we are the #1 best place to work in more than 12 countries!

Turtle being inspected.

For almost four weeks — a combination of Time2Give and paid time off submitted for Cisco volunteer donation matching hours, another incredible benefit — I worked and learned with biologists and the local guards from Programa Tatô, an NGO in Praia Jalé on São Tomé & Príncipe Island.

It was a challenging experience that developed my resilience and helped me overcome many fears. I slept in a tent on the beach that tore a little more each day during huge storms. I faced cockroaches, lizards, snakes, and rats. I ate instant noodles daily, had no tap water or electricity, and spent two weeks without cell phone coverage. Most of my time was spent ALONE, walking many miles on the sand or in the mud. When I wasn’t by myself, it was a completely opposite experience, deep diving into the locals and their culture, habits, and food and learning their local language called “Angolar Creole” to communicate. Even though some times were tough, I felt stronger than ever. Nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling my dream and purpose for being there.

… and the sea turtles. I was truly blessed!

Although not the high season for nesting, it was the high season for baby turtles. Every day, I helped many babies on their journeys to the ocean, protecting them from super huge hawks, dogs, and pigs. And despite the season, I was still lucky enough to assist a sea turtle nesting every week.

Cristina holding a sea turtle on a boat.

What I loved the most during my time there was monitoring turtles at the feeding area near Ilhéu das Rolas and being invited to fishermen’s homes, tasting their food, and hearing their stories.

I also had the chance to work with tourists, present my ideas and proposals for improvements to the NGO and their team management, and identify some parallel markets, naturally incorporating some of my daily business operations expertise even though I was far away from my everyday life.

Being a sea turtle conservation volunteer was an amazing experience, patrolling beaches day and night, helping mothers and babies survive their enemies, and overcoming personal fears. I’ve grown so much as a person, made many friends, and left part of my heart in São Tomé.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my Cisco family and our company’s unique culture, which encourages our spirit of giving back with paid time off to do it. Thank you, Cisco, for helping me fulfill my dream.


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A beach.


Cristina Lobo

Business Operations Manager

Rev Ops Sales Incentive Compensation