I’ve heard that life at Cisco can be described like a choose-your-own-adventure story where you’re free to decide how YOU want your personal life and career to grow. I’ve seen inspiring examples of colleagues who had sudden life changes that didn’t have to sacrifice their career to be fully present for those events. The personal success stories are endless, and they make me proud to work at Cisco.
Cisco does a great job of allowing flexibility for you to handle the curve balls that life throws at you, or even the curve balls that you throw at yourself. But what if the exciting twists and turns your life takes aren’t in spite of your job, but in a way, because of it?
I realize that Cisco hasn’t just played a passive role in my life’s journey, even though that’s what I expected when I joined in 2015. In a time where work and life aren’t balanced, but rather intertwined, it’s gratifying to look back on my time here and see the profound influence of Cisco’s culture, our marketing organization, and the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
My first day at Cisco was in July of 2015, the same day that Chuck Robbins was introduced as CEO. I was part of a talented group of 15 marketing new hires and we were all ambitious and eager to learn how we could make a unique impact on such a big organization. As a part of the Early-in-Career program, we were provided with all these exclusive opportunities to learn, network and even just have fun together. We had a great sense of camaraderie, but I remember one social gathering better than the rest. A colleague threw a Christmas party for all of us in the new hire group and as the gathering was coming to a close, in walked her roommate.
And that’s where my first life curve ball started to take shape…
Her roommate was a smart, funny, gracious graduate from UNC Chapel Hill and was a highly-skilled nurse at a nearby hospital. You may have guessed it, but fast forward two years, and that roommate is now my wife, and the Cisco colleague who introduced us was a big part of our wedding in 2017.
My wife is inherently adventurous, while I’m much more, well, calculated.
During our engagement, she shared with me that it’s always been a dream of hers to become a traveling nurse, where you get to travel the country working on short term nursing assignments. She had already accepted this as just a pipe dream though, a dream left unfulfilled – especially now that she was marrying a man that worked in an office within the corporate world.
And that’s where we got to choose on our own adventure…
After working at Cisco for a few years, I knew that not only would it be possible to work remotely using our collaboration tools, but also that we have the type of culture that would support it wholeheartedly. I knew I could do my job just as effectively and continue to grow my career, all while traveling to support my wife’s personal and career aspirations.
I first ran the idea by my manager, who completely supported it. Then I set up time to ask my VP, who not only supported it, but encouraged it. Being less adventurous, I was skeptical about the entire idea initially, but the vote of confidence I received from my colleagues and superiors shifted this idea in my mind to something I could do, to something that I should do. So, we packed up half of our things into one car, sold or donated the other half and my wife signed her first contract in Reno, Nevada.
I was officially a Digital Nomad.
In the year and a half since we began this adventure, our lives have been so enriched by this experience and by Cisco.
I was, however, warned by outsiders that this could potentially stunt my career growth since I wouldn’t be getting face time with people in the office. But with each physical move, the transition has been seamless. I turn on my laptop, turn on my camera, and do my job to the best of my ability. I was even offered an exciting new role during this time period as an Ecosystem Partner Marketing Manager, where I get to work hand-in-hand with our partners to bring some of our joint industry solutions to market.
I’m motivated by how Cisco has taught me to leverage my circumstances for both personal and career growth. We’ve lived in four places as travelers and one of them was strategically the San Jose area. We only lived there for three months, but I got more face time with my manager and San Jose colleagues in that time than I would have in years of working out of the Raleigh, North Carolina (RTP) office.
My story is just one story.
I often think about that group of new hires that were so eager to “figure it all out” during our orientation back in 2015. I look at that group now with their own stories, all spread out around the country contributing to different organizations, and I see a group that used Cisco as a foundation to “figure out” that success, whether personal or professional, is rarely ever linear.
I have professional ambitions that on paper, seemed to conflict with a unique life opportunity. Instead of forcing one to take a backseat, Cisco and my colleagues have helped give me the tools to seize both.
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