This post was authored by Fareed Balogun a recent Customer Experience intern.
With this being my final summer before my senior year at Howard University, the pressure felt enormous for me to maximize all the learning opportunities before I plunge into the world as a professional in the tech industry. The road getting here hasn’t always been easy and I was thinking of every worst-case scenario that could occur during my Cisco Internship:
Would I be assigned menial tasks?
Would I become yet another annoying intern, impeding our team’s delivery efforts?
How will I acclimate and get to know the culture of Cisco working remotely and not in person with the team I will be on?
How did I get this opportunity?
Am I good enough to be here?
These thoughts now feel like distant memories after my 12 weeks here, but I can vividly remember the level of angst I had before starting my Cisco journey.
The chance to work for Cisco felt like a dream, as my desire to study computer engineering was born out of a love of understanding how technology works for as long as I can remember. Now that Cisco has provided me with this internship, that came with the prospect of full-time employment, the normal angst of starting anything new was amplified to the feelings I alluded to earlier.
But how wrong was I! Over the course of my 12 weeks, I not only worked on an impactful project for my team, but also a mission-critical project for the Customer Experience (CX) global organization. Three other interns and I were tasked with helping to fix the feature delivery process, allowing engineers to be able to deliver features faster and safer to our customers. Engineers also stood to benefit from using our code as a template for future work. The project results could have a much broader scope than just the CX org and could potentially be a model for other organizations within Cisco to model their feature delivery process after.
I really enjoyed the freedom and trust my manager and mentor, James S. and Erik S., gave us in finding workable solutions that we could build and present. I never once felt like I couldn’t ask them a question, and they guided us into finding the best solutions. To know that, even as an intern, I made a true impact was the best thing I could wish for and that put to bed some of the initial angst I felt coming into Cisco.
Besides my project, I was also worried about the culture and if I would be seen as an inconvenience due to my lack of experience being an intern. I have to say, even with such an amazing project that I received, Cisco’s culture stood out to me the most. Despite being virtual, there was such an emphasis on how valuable collaboration can be. During orientation, we were put in break-out rooms to make connections with our fellow interns, and I have been able to make so many close friendships with other interns that will last even after my internship.
Even though I was an intern, my team made me feel like I was a part of a family. There were team bonding exercises like lunch and learns and Friday game time. This allowed me to feel closer to my team and understand who they were as people as well as colleagues. My manager, James, also emphasized collaboration in my project. Working alongside three other interns, I was able to learn so much from them. We helped each other succeed as we leveraged our individual strengths while realizing our collective skills were greater than the sum of our parts. This allowed me to not only learn so much on the technical side, but it helped me further develop my soft skills like team collaboration, leadership, presentation skills, and professionalism. All that will be necessary for a successful career in tech. You cannot hope to accomplish anything as a team if you do not know how to collaborate.
There is always a bit of imposter syndrome when starting internships (or anything new for that matter), but I have never felt as comfortable being myself in a work environment until I came to Cisco. I felt valued by my team and peers in a way that felt real and genuine. With Black employees and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) being supported at Cisco, home always felt close by. These spaces educated others on Black history, Juneteenth, and Black culture. That added touch, seeing my culture reflected within an organization like Cisco, made me feel even more valued and proud to be a Cisconian.
All in all, my time here at Cisco has changed my perception of working in the tech industry. Work doesn’t have to be so stressful, and you can go to work looking forward to collaborating with an enthusiastic team and solving impactful problems together. I couldn’t ask for anything better!
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