I never imagined myself in tech. Even though I was strong in math and science in high school, when someone suggested I go into computer science – I couldn’t see myself “making video games” or “having a role that wasn’t people focused.” Instead of jumping into a career path, I took some time to figure it out by working in the real world.
Still, I was missing something – a purpose, a higher calling to help others. I found all that, and more, when I joined the United States Marine Corps and served between 2007 and 2011.
Any service member will tell you about the bond, camaraderie and sense of purpose that comes with serving your country. It’s something that each of us embody and hold dear to our hearts – a shared experience that transcends age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, race and strips us down to our souls.
When I returned to civilian life, I had not much more than a couple of gym credits and a very hazy understanding of what Twitter was. The world had changed drastically but my time serving as an Administrative Chief (where I learned queuing theory and Six Sigma to redesign our out-processing methodology) provided me with a new appreciation of technology. It led me to enroll in a single course at a local community college: Java I. The rest, as they say, is history.
It has also always been important to me to support and give back to the community, which led me to finding Cisco. I was amazed at how much Cisco was doing out in the world and their vow to corporate social responsibility. This was a company I wanted to be a part of.
After joining Cisco through their IT University Program, I found myself in a different bucket of peers, mainly traditional college students who had not served. I felt at this time, my involvement with veterans was ending – but I was okay with this, assuming it was only natural. My goal had been achieved to find a meaningful post-service career as a Software Engineer at an amazing company.
When I found myself yearning once again to be connected to veterans and to make a difference, Cisco helped answer the call and I realized I could blend both of my worlds and passions. I started out by joining our new hire experience and intern program. Later, a manager connected me to a stretch assignment focusing on the Cisco sponsored Cyber Vets USA. The project involved helping launch an industry-led initiative providing free online training, certification, and employment opportunities to transitioning service members and their spouses.
I was amazed at how much Cisco was doing to actively engage, attract and encourage veteran talent into a technology career. It was good to see that networks like this still existed – and in a way I had not previously seen.
I began to network with passionate veterans that worked at Cisco, and through those connections was selected as a lead volunteer for the Valor Games Southeast (VGSE). The Valor Games (in typical years) is a Cisco sponsored three-day sports competition for veterans and members of the armed forces hosted in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.
Immediately on the first day of volunteering, I felt like I had found my home. Surrounded by veterans and members of the Cisco family – I saw each was answering a higher calling to give back to their community.
In 2020, I had the honor of acting as the Cisco lead for VGSE which was turned into a virtual conference powered by Cisco WebEx and WebEx Events. Through a grant I procured, our technology enabled the nonprofit to continue its core day-to-day operations as well as connect, empower, and check in on their veteran athletes around the world.
Now, I am the Global Co-Lead for the VETS Employee Resource Organization (ERO) at Cisco. As a lead, I can combine my technical leadership skills with my passion for helping others. My experiences and this role help enable me to educate our managers on how to leverage and promote veteran talent while we continue to grow Cisco as a top military friendly employer.
Even after leaving the Marine Corps – Cisco has empowered me to stay connected to the very thing that made me call the recruiting station all those years ago: service above self.
So, did I see myself ever having a career in technology? No. But Cisco is the place I have learned to stretch myself, network with others, and continue to give back to my community and to the veteran population in ways I could have never fathomed.
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