When I started at Cisco over three years ago with the Security & Trust Org’s (STO) Global Certification Team (GCT), I made the decision to be open about the fact that I’m gay. Not in an in-your-face, wear-it-on-your-sleeve kind of way, but rather in an authentic about who I am as a person kind of way.

It was scary to take that step, and it was a decision made not knowing exactly where Cisco, or more importantly, my direct team stood on these matters. I’m glad that I had the courage to make that decision for the first time in my career though, because it allowed me the opportunity to bring my whole self to work every day and to do the best work that I can for Cisco.

Another unintended positive side effect, has been the impact my openness has had on some of my co-workers. I’ll admit that the thought of influencing someone was a bit intimidating at first, but I came to understand that good intent in how we go through our lives is particularly important when it comes to mentoring and being a good example for others.

During this time, I also joined our Pride Employee Resource Organization (ERO) for LGBT and Allies.

It may not be obvious but participating in the Pride ERO is definitely stepping out of my comfort zone. Not only am I an introvert, but I’m also the kind of engineer that is used to working quietly in a lab where my closest contact is with a router or a switch. When I started in the IT field over 20 years ago, a good IT worker was rarely heard from, and they may have even worked in a dark, quiet basement somewhere.

But I decided that in a company full of IT type personalities, it’s important to take new risks and get involved in the company culture.

With Cisco’s commitment to diversity in the work place and their leadership in corporate social responsibility, it’s an exciting time to be involved in the Pride ERO or any ERO for that matter. Cisco’s leadership has the foresight to understand that the company’s edge in technology comes from its people, and as part of Our People Deal (our employee value proposition), Cisco is committed to connect everything – including (and maybe even especially) its employees.

I had the honor of working with the Pride ERO and representing Cisco at Out! Raleigh. Which is an event that celebrates the Triangle’s LGBT community in North Carolina and promotes diversity awareness and inclusiveness for the community and its allies. I’m proud to say that Cisco is a corporate sponsor for Out! Raleigh, and it’s a great fit with Cisco’s focus on diversity and inclusiveness in the work place.

The event had over 60,000 people attending this year with an impressive number of corporate sponsors. Who did we speak to? Almost everyone, as the people that came by our table were diverse in their connection to Cisco, too!

  • Cisco employees that were excited to see the company represented.
  • Cisco employees that were unaware that the Pride ERO even existed.
  • Friends and families of Cisco employees that stopped to grab a sticker and tell us that they know someone that works at Cisco.
  • Cisco partners that were eager to talk about how they work with us.
  • People looking for a job opportunity within Cisco.
  • And even former employees that simply wanted to chat!

Volunteering for this event with the Pride ERO gave me the opportunity to interact with co-workers that I may never have run across during my typical work week. I enjoyed getting to know all of them and felt really comfortable wearing my Cisco Pride on my sleeve for the day.

Even if it’s not your usual thing, I would encourage you to explore Cisco’s EROs – consider participating in a way that works for you and, in Cisco terms, “Connect the unconnected”.

Want to join a company that encourages you to be yourself? We’re hiring. Apply now.


Kristy Knowles

GCT Network Engineer

Security & Trust Organization