Last year, when I joined Cisco as a QA engineer on the Windows@Cisco Team, I remember being particularly worried by all the anti-trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric appearing in the news at the time. So, I knew I was going to attend Pride, and Cisco gave me the opportunity.

Two caucasian males wearing glasses, one in a pink t-shirt, one in a green t-shirt, standing in front of a big rainbow-logo Cisco pride parade float.Luckily, London Pride was coming up a few months after my starting date. I joined the PRIDE Inclusive Community to meet other employees via Workday, which was very straightforward. The UK & Ireland chapter organised things very well before the parade, where we would have a Cisco float.

The night before London Pride, my flatmate, Anthony, who also works for Cisco, and my partner at the time, who was welcomed as my plus onemade the 2-hour train trek from Cardiff to London in the middle of a heatwave to join in the fun. We dropped our bags at the hotel and went to pick up our t-shirts at the Cisco Finsbury Circus office, seeing Cisco adverts for Pride on the Underground in Central London along the way. We got used to seeing the ads around the city as Cisco was not only a London Pride sponsor but also helped supply the Wi-Fi infrastructure for the event’s essential communications.

The t-shirt design stood out in pink and green. It featured a Pride version of the Cisco logo with flowers above to incorporate our theme of sustainability and transformation. We were told to come as bright and colourful as an English garden to match our amazing float. Some people even dressed up as butterflies or bees!

Once the parade started — later than planned — bubble machines turned on from our float. We handed out Cisco rainbow umbrellas, initially meant to cover us in case of the unpredictable British weather, but during the heatwave, most of us used them as cover from the heat and to prevent sunburn. When we set off, music started, and bubbles were in full flow; it felt much more like a party than a parade.

As is often the case, not all of the crowd came to support the cause. When we walked past the protesters, I kissed my partner, the music grew louder, we continued dancing, and I took comfort in knowing that, at least for this weekend, their views were in the minority.

So, I can hear you now, “That story was lovely, but what’s the point, Liam?”

My point is Cisco is a great company to work for as a queer employee. I’ve always felt encouraged to bring my entire self to work. It was mentioned to me during my interviews when joining the company and frequently throughout the induction week. But in my experience, you can never be too sure until you’re working day-to-day with your team. At previous companies, I remember feeling somewhat self-conscious about what I wore, feeling the need to beige myself or tone myself down, especially when going into the office. I’ve not felt like that once since joining Cisco. I’ve always been the type of person who wears a bright and colourful shirt. I try not to think about it too much, as they are just clothes at the end of the day, but wearing what makes me feel comfortable helps me focus on my work, whether that’s a knitted vest covered in happy and sad faces or a yellow shirt with cartoonish in-flight safety cards on it.

A stack of rainbow-colored Cisco pride logo signs, and other signs leaning on a fence in a park.Cisco’s Inclusive Communities, like PRIDE, make it super easy to connect with other LGBTQIA+ employees (and allies, don’t forget the allies) and branch out to meet other people outside of your immediate team, office building or department. I have also felt comfortable and found some helpful tips amongst the chatter in the Neurodiversity Webex Space as someone with dyspraxia myself. It’s a sub-community made in partnership with the Connected Disability Action Network (CDAN), another Inclusive Community. However, muting the notifications helps me focus because the chat can get a bit rowdy. 🙂

Looking back at my experience of my first eighteen months at Cisco, I really was able to bring my full self to work on my Windows@Cisco Team, Device Experience Team, and the communities I’ve found through PRIDE and CDAN. With Pride celebrations finally upon us, I look forward to going to London Pride again this year. Maybe I will see some of you there.

Be you, with us. See all the ways Cisco is powering an inclusive future for all — it’s Our Purpose.

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Liam Hale

Technical Systems Engineer

Information Technology