Crystal talking with her two young boys. I was well into the Cisco interview process in January 2022, at the height of the Omicron COVID variant, and it was by far the hardest month of the entire pandemic for me.

That month, I received 32 emails from daycare announcing 44 cases of COVID, which evolved into a daily case report and peaked with a staffing crisis. Ultimately, this led to my five-year-old’s daycare asking parents to keep children home due to the COVID surge.

On top of that, my six-year-old’s school moved to e-learning. If you endured the e-learning experience during the pandemic, you could probably appreciate how impossible it is to work and teach while keeping a shred of your sanity—especially with young children.

To compound the situation, I didn’t have my village. My husband’s employer had returned to the office. My in-laws were both immunocompromised and unable to risk Omicron exposure. My parents were both working full-time and living in another state.

On one especially difficult night, I found myself staring at an email to my Cisco recruiter. “I am sorry, but I will not be able to continue with the interview process.”

I had already rescheduled a few interviews, but there was no end in sight to the surge, and I felt like I couldn’t reasonably ask to hold interviews for an entire month. Regardless of how interested I was in the role with Cisco, I feared I did not have the mental capacity to be present for the interviews, and, irrespective of Cisco’s renowned culture, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to keep both my kids occupied and would spend the entire interview parenting.

I stared at those words long enough to collect myself and then quickly delete them. In their place, I wrote a confirmation for the interviews and hit send before I could reconsider. Later, I joked with my husband that I would put Cisco’s culture to the test. That week, I did my best to prepare despite working exceptionally late hours to make up for lost productivity during the workday. I also created a plan to keep my kids distracted during my interviews, including their entire daily allotment of screen time and Oreos (desperate times).

Fast forward to interview day, and it was time to put my plan to the test.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

Oreos sitting on a desk.

As I was finishing my second interview, my office door flew open. My five-year-old rushed through the door in full dramatic measure and yelled, “DID YOU TAKE MY OREO?”

Well, I certainly did not sneak downstairs in the middle of my interviews to hide an Oreo, but five-year-olds do not see reason. So, there I sat, at the end of my interview, with my son yelling at me in a way that made clear to anyone listening that all roads led to chaos.

I joined Cisco two months later.  

I am a working mom of two young kids, and in a moment of absolute chaos, my interviewer could not have been kinder or more understanding. At that moment, I was fully embraced for who I am.

At Cisco, I have experienced the most supportive culture for working parents (particularly mothers) in my career. Cisco’s hybrid and remote work options allow me to be more present for my family, and their paid time off for volunteering (10 days for the calendar year in 2022) makes it possible for me to spend time giving back at my children’s school. With Cisco’s Conscious Culture, team members are empowered and held accountable to create a positive culture where everyone thrives—and these examples only scratch the surface.

Cisco says, “Be you, with us,” and, for me, that is a mother.

If you are a parent, check out the open roles at Cisco. Don’t worry about the Oreos. You won’t need them.

Two young boys sitting on the floor watching Spongebob Squarepants on TV.


Crystal Brown

Executive Communications Partner

Executive Communications