Leaving college to enter the “real” world always was a scary thought for me. At the end of the day, a new job means presenting yourself to a new group of people. There is always anxiety when meeting new people, however, for those in the LGBTQ+ community – this anxiety extends into many more layers and ultimately needing to find safe spaces where we can truly be ourselves.
In 2016, I received a call for an interview to become part of the incubation program for new graduates here at Cisco. That day, the manager that interviewed me gave me a brief tour around Mexico’s Center facilities. As I was passing by people’s desks, I was not only astonished by their amazing work set-ups – I also noticed that each space was personalized. Many people had photos of their friends and family and their significant others with them.
I thought maybe one day I’ll have my own desk at Cisco and can make it a piece of my home.
Time went by, and I joined Cisco as an intern within the Customer Experience Academy. After finishing my internship, I became part of the Global Technical Assistance Center (TAC) for Wireless Technologies. I finally achieved my goal of having a desk at Cisco and met the amazing people that would be my teammates.
I got to work thinking about how I could make this space my own.
There was this one photo of me and my boyfriend during my graduation ceremony that I always liked because it captured a very sincere emotion. I thought of bringing that photo with me, so that he could be by my side in this new adventure I had just started…but I could not bring myself to do so. I am proud of being who I am and my relationship, but I also felt self-conscious of the perception that others may have of me.
Simply, I didn’t want to face the “Who’s in the photo with you?” question every time someone saw this photo.
As I got to know my teammates a little more, I started to gain confidence and open up to them. I realized that in limiting myself because of what I feared others might think of me, I wasn’t being true to myself. But, still, I kept my favorite photo at home.
I did begin to get more involved in projects and innovative initiatives throughout Cisco and continued to grow my career. Within a few short years, I was already a team lead! Cisco helped me develop my abilities, and I am grateful of all the opportunities they have given me. I was able to meet with people from different centers all around the world. But most importantly, I was able to develop as a better LGBTQ+ advocate.
When I joined Cisco’s Pride Inclusive Community, my thoughts on what it meant to be part of the LGBTQ+ community expanded. I was able to attend multiple conferences about our current issues and how companies, like Cisco, have been addressing them. It has been and inspiring and fulfilling journey.
Then came 2020 – and all the challenges of these times. The world started to work from home, and something in me changed a bit. Suddenly, I was able to work from the boundaries of my home, and I could create my own working space. I ordered a desk (the first piece of furniture in my life that I ever put together) and did my best to emulate my workspace back at the office. Then, the idea came to me, at home I don’t get asked about my photos.
I brought the photo from my nightstand to my desk, and my place was finally complete!
Having this photo with me has given me strength and support during tough customer calls or stressful days. More importantly, it has shown me what truly helps me to be my best every day at work – and that is far more powerful than my own self-consciousness of being asked about the photo. The moral of my story is this – do not let your own thoughts hold you back. Show up as you are, and Cisco will embrace you. There are people who will support you and make you feel a part of something bigger!
I learnt that bringing my full self to work is key to becoming better and inspiring others. Now I am sure that once we can go back to the office, I will not be going alone.
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