How many people can say that in a moment where the unthinkable has happened in their life their company CEO has taken the time to send a personal note offering his support? We hear it a lot at Cisco that we “have each other’s backs” or that “we’re a family” – but you don’t know how true those words are until a phone call changes your life forever.

I’ve worked for Cisco for 21 years. In all the years I have been here, I have experienced its continued core value that we are truly a family, and that when you are going through even the toughest times – you know you are not alone. Cisco is here to support you, and that is exactly what happened to me.

February 22, 2018 started like any other day in our house. I was working from home when my son Kyle came home from his classes at the local community college. Since he didn’t have school the next day, he was going to a friend’s house in Santa Cruz to hang out and would return home the following morning.

He grabbed a bag of clothes, gave me a quick kiss, said, “Love you, Mom,” and walked out the door.

Later that night, the phone rang – Kyle was being rushed to the hospital. The doctors informed us that he had suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

How was this possible? Kyle was a healthy, active, 18-year-old kid with no known heart issues. Two days later we were told Kyle would not survive.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I returned home in shock and completely numb. I was upset, and angry. Everything was a bit of a blur as family and friends came to support us.

When I told my manager about Kyle, he immediately got on the phone with HR and our benefits departments to handle my bereavement paperwork. My co-worker jumped on a plane to San Jose from Raleigh to cover an important meeting for me. Our team’s Senior VP called me from the airport offering any help he could. And then there was the personal message from our CEO Chuck Robbins.

At every turn, Cisco was there to let me know that I was not alone. I wouldn’t have been able to get through losing Kyle without the unwavering support I received from my colleagues and Cisco.

Kyle was a loving, smart, kind, funny, and humble young man who had so much to give to life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through to lose him, but he lives on in the foundation my family started in his honor.

The Kyle J. Taylor Foundation raises awareness of SCA in youth, explains how SCA can be prevented and detected, and looks to provide free youth heart screenings.

I want to spread Kyle’s energy through this foundation, so he can continue to make a difference in other’s lives just as he did when he was here with us — especially since February is American Heart Health Month.

Here are just a few things to know about SCA:

  • SCA is not a heart attack. A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is blocked. A Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a change to the structural part of the heart or an electrical malfunction which causes the heart to stop.
  • Every three days, a student-athlete dies from SCA in the U.S. (Any youth that spends 4 to 8 hours a week doing physical activity is considered a student-athlete.)
  • 1 in 300 youth have an undiagnosed heart condition that puts them at risk of SCA
  • SCA is the #1 cause of death on school campuses and of student-athletes
  • SCA cannot be detected with the standard medical physicals our children receive. It can only be discovered through heart screening, an electrocardiogram — ECG or EKG — and/or an echocardiogram.

I am using my love for Kyle to raise awareness of SCA and make a difference by helping others. I share my story with the hopes that other employees know thatCisco truly is here to support you. We are a family, you are not alone.


To read more about Jennifer’s story, please visit the CEC.

Want to work for a company that cares? Apply now.

For more information about Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youth or the Kyle J. Taylor Foundation, please visit kylejtaylor.org



Jennifer Sarmento

Business Operations Analyst

S&TO Data Protection & Privacy