Every year, teams get together in December to celebrate the close of another calendar year, to wind down and just have some good old fashioned team fun. There are white elephant gift exchanges, team dinners, and – a Cisconian favorite – ugly holiday sweater contests.

This year will be no different. Actually, it might get a little more, shall we say, interesting? Employees never seem to back down from a challenge, and the ugly sweater competition from last year was pretty tight!

The employees in Raleigh, North Carolina are one such example.

“For the last few years, my team has had an ugly sweater contest which takes place during our group’s last All Hands Meeting of the year.” Says Ileana Le.

“Everyone is invited to wear their sweaters to the meeting whether they are in the local office or from any of our locations (or remote!). At the end, we reserve time for every person to showcase their sweater via Webex or Telepresence and share any interesting or funny details about it. After everyone has had ample time display their masterpiece, we vote through the Chat window (can be sent only to the host or public for everyone to see).

Due to stiff competition from 2015’s Ugly Sweater contest, the rules were modified last year. We had two categories—Best Stock Sweater: The most naturally ugly (unaltered and unmodified) Christmas sweater you can find –featuring sweaters made by a manufacturer or grandmother with sincere intentions. We also added Best Modified Sweater: The most creative use of materials – any sweater you or someone else has created for ugly/creative purposes.

One winner from each category won a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Woohoo! I won this year’s Best Modified Sweater, which featured some familiar Cisco faces (which I printed and ironed-on).”

Wow, now THAT’S dedication! (And we’re sure that CEO Chuck Robbins will be ordering one of these for his very own. That’s his face on there!)

Want to tap into the spirit of working at Cisco? Bring your unique style and apply for open roles here.

The Talent Acquisition (TA) team in Bedfont Lakes is no less competitive. There seems to have been tough competition, but all in good fun.

A few weeks before last-year’s break, the annual holiday dress up competition for EMEAR (Europe, Middle East and Africa Region) and Engineering TA took place. The year before, even being dressed in a full snowman suit didn’t win the prize, so the challenge was ON! Some even wrapped themselves in festive paper, but after the independent judging took place, (The VP of HR in EMEAR and her executive assistant) took points off for “trying too hard” (HA!) and announced Kathryn Zaki, a TA Recruiting Manager, the winner. Afterwards, everyone went on a pub crawl around London still dressed in their outfits, which was the best part, so says the team.


Cisco employees from Cloudlock got in on the action as a newly-acquired Cisco company in 2016.

“Inspired by ‘The Internets,’ CloudLock held its first annual Ugly Sweater Contest last year.” Says Russ Miller, Head of Product Marketing.

This led a normally fun-loving group to devolve into a group of fierce individual competitors. This year and in future years, we look forward to rallying our team spirit to challenge other groups inside of Cisco. No quarter will be expected or given.”

The competition in San Jose’s headquarters is also pretty fierce, with an edge of fun. Bryan Porcher is known for his holiday spirit! His “tree” costume is more than a sweater, and always puts people in the holiday spirit!

“I have always enjoyed “dressing” and have found it to be an authentic form of expression. No matter the occasion it’s a fun challenge to thoughtfully arrange something that’s unique but still proper for a situation,” Bryan says.

“Aside from self-expression, ‘dressing up’ does much more. For one, it’s a tremendous ice breaker. It can bring people together in ways that are atypical and can often times lead to conversations that would not be had otherwise. I set the bar high for everyone so the pressure is always on to deliver the goods myself.”

Bryan says he gets the best reactions:

“Folks are blown away by the tree costume and it’s a hoot watching them dissect the ensemble piece by piece. You never know what feature will be the most sticky (e.g. faux-bois pants, pine tree scent, personalized ornament, blinking lights or bright red shoes) but the interactions are always charged. The thing that made last December so great at Cisco was that I took the feedback of colleagues from the year before and wove in some unexpected upgrades. It inspires people to go bigger and badder for whatever the competition holds the next year. Any time strangers flock around for selfies in the lobby of building 10 to capture the moment, something is striking a chord by tapping into the holiday spirit here at Cisco.”



Carmen Shirkey Collins

Social Media Manager

Talent Brand and Enablement Team, HR