We all get caught up in our work day. Cisco provides a great work/life balance, but you can often hear co-workers joking about missing a meal, not out of necessity, but out of the love for what we do here. Time flies when you’re having fun, and suddenly the rumble in your stomach reminds you that it’s lunch time!

That’s what happened to me one Tuesday. As I looked around to my team members in the Enterprise Data Science Office at Cisco, I caught my coworker Ashton’s eye. We both knew it was time to refuel so we could have a successful afternoon.

We decided on Jamaican, and Ashton sweetened the pot: “You know,” he said, “I drove the convertible today! I think lunch is as good a reason as any to go for a little joyride too.”

He was speaking to my soul! How could you beat Jamaican food and some fresh air? What’s missing more and more in the work place, and in everyday life, is that we miss opportunities to connect on a human level with the people around us. Lunch plans can be mundane, sure. Many of us grab quick bites to eat and then scurry back to our projects, and some ignore the hunger pains altogether.

We should treat ourselves better than that. A good meal helps to restore our minds and bodies so we can be even more productive! And as our lunch plans turned into a cultural experience and stress relief, we jumped on it. We had to!

It occurred to me then that our Director, Kristen Burton, had been in meeting after meeting all morning long. I wondered if this might be a good opportunity to “kidnap” her and get her out of the office for a break as well. After relaying my idea to Ashton, it was set – we were going to convince Kristen to come to lunch with us!

Kristen leads the Digital Community Enablement organization under Operations Architecture. If you know your “Cisco Facts”, then you know where our company is headed: Kristen’s focus is one of the most important disciplines needed to accomplish the goals we’ve established around digitizing and innovating at Cisco. As such, Kristen spends most of her days, like many of us do, in meetings and charging full steam ahead through work.

We knew it was time for a well-deserved break.

Kristen, like most of us would, looked immediately at her schedule and was a little concerned that she might not make it back in time for her next meeting. Being the self-proclaimed masters of persuasion that we are, Ashton and I reminded Kristen that sometimes breaks are exactly what you need before a big meeting – besides, Ashton BROUGHT HIS CONVERTIBLE! One look out the conference room window at the beautiful day that was unfolding outside was just enough icing on the cake for Kristen to shut her laptop and surrender to convertibles and Jamaican food.

Kristen, Ashton, and I, along with our coworkers Bob and Alex, piled into the car, put the top down, and cruised to Downtown San Jose, where we feasted on jerk chicken and oxtails while soaking up some Vitamin D!

Cisco realizes that breaks are necessary to our overall advancement, so we’re encouraged to take time away from the office to recharge. So, the opportunity to hop into the convertible Mustang on a sunny day and grab a bite to eat with the team – , while connecting outside of work – is one of the many things that makes the culture on our team and at Cisco something to be treasured.

It’s in these moments of personal human interaction that we get to extend past simply being work colleagues and become something greater. As you can imagine, this improves our connection and enhances our capabilities as a team. I love that my team is a team first, and capable executors of company capabilities second. It truly makes a world of difference.

The work will always be there, but the time spent connecting can sometimes be few and far between. My advice to you is to make a conscious effort to connect with those around you – yes, even your co-workers – because it will mean a greater impact when it comes time to dive into Cisco’s most challenging problems.

Onward and forward! Preferably in a convertible Mustang! 😉


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Akeem Shirley

Project / Program Manager

Enterprise Data Science Office