Each blog post on Life at Cisco usually tells the story from one employee, but this is a story that needed two viewpoints, so it’s written as a conversation – similar to ones we have every day. 

Carmen: Every job requires that you wear a lot of hats. Usually, we put on our social media manager hats and amplify the great and powerful stories that employees share with us about what it’s like to work at Cisco.

Giving Back on Florida’s Gulf Coast in 2016.

Casie: Specifically, we put on our blog hats, our Instagram hats, our Facebook hats, our Snapchat hats, our LinkedIn hats, I know I’m missing some hats in there, somewhere. 😉 But these are the @WeAreCisco channels where you’ll find our team behind the scenes putting Cisco employees front and center.

Carmen: Sometimes, though, we forget that we’re employees, too.

Casie: We want to share all the great stories, that we put our own stories on the back burner.

Carmen: But not this time. This time, we put on our “We are also a Cisco employee” hat, because we had such a “moment that mattered” in our own lives, and we really wanted to share it.

Casie: Let’s start with the backstory. Fact 1) We both live in Florida (though two hours away from each other.) Fact 2) Hurricane Irma – the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic – was a Category 5 nightmare that haunted us for weeks. Would it come our way? Would it turn?

Carmen: Fact 3) It turned. At the worst possible spot in the worst possible way. This hurricane was so big that there wasn’t one place in the entire state that would be out of its path.

Casie: We won’t even talk about the stress that comes from watching the forecast, prepping your house, checking on friends and planning your strategy.

Carmen: Or the stress of empty gas stations (could I go anywhere if I wanted to?), empty shelves where bottled water should be, and how many cans of soup you could realistically expect to eat. (And why were the candy aisles still full? When I apocalypse, I need chocolate.)

Casie: Then you start thinking about what you’ll do about work. How will you get online with no power? The very real, and very scary possibility exists that you might not have a home to have a home office in.

Carmen evacuated Sarasota and went to Jacksonville with her cat, Zucca, and her husband.

Carmen: Cisco made that part easy. It was one less thing we had to worry about. Our manager (she’s the best ever) and Cisco’s HR team emailed us before the storm. The email said that they were there for us. If we needed time off – take it – it wouldn’t count against your regular vacation time, because what about living through the worst hurricane ever would constitute a relaxing day off?

Casie: They also gave us numbers to call. Call this person if you need temporary housing. Call this person if you just need to cry and shout and vent to someone about how scared you were for yourself, but also family and friends.

Carmen: And we got an email after the storm passed. (And text messages from each other and our manager making sure everyone was okay.) There were three options in the email to click. 1) I’m okay and all is good. 2) I’m okay, but I need help and 3) I’m not okay, and need help. I am sure if we’d clicked the third option Chuck Robbins would’ve swooped in on a helicopter (maybe not, but we know Cisco would’ve acted fast.) I’m so glad that we could both click the first option and report in that we were good.

Casie boarded up in Orlando to ride out the storm with her pup, Kimber, and fiancee.

Casie: Hurricanes are funny that way. A tornado can take out one side of the street and leave the other side perfectly fine. (This happened in my parents’ neighborhood just a few streets over.) We had minor annoying things (we even kept power, while most of the state was without it – for days) but compared to our Floridian neighbors in other cities, we came out better than expected.

Carmen: It wasn’t just Cisco corporate. I don’t think we had a meeting for the whole week after where someone wasn’t asking us how we were, what could they do to help, how were we feeling? Heck, we even had a colleague offer us her house if we needed somewhere to go! I’m sure we could’ve had a room in any Cisconian’s house that we could’ve driven to, if only we asked.

After the Storm, Rainbows over Orlando.

Casie: And when these people asked us how they could help, we told them. We don’t need the help. But there are lots of people that do. Cisco set up a way for employees to contribute specifically to Hurricane Irma relief for both Florida and the Caribbean (just as they did for Hurricane Harvey, the earthquake in Mexico and more critical situations around the world) and Cisco would DOUBLE the contributions made OVER AND ABOVE the existing match they make for our charitable contributions all year. So we told people to DONATE! YOU could donate.

Carmen: Someone on our team even drove from North Carolina to help out in Jacksonville. Another teammate was gathering supplies locally to help those that still needed it. We “joke” that we have hurricane PTSD, but it’s one of those times that make you grateful for what you DO have, and it still affects you for weeks after. We try to make light of the situation to help ourselves cope, but there was nothing funny about living through Irma. Ask the Florida Keys.

Casie: Or Naples, or Jacksonville, or St. Thomas, or Puerto Rico, or anyone that was/has been affected by something like this.

Carmen: I’ll never forget that Cisco was there. In a big way, but in a way that wasn’t “in your face.” I get emotional thinking about it.

Casie: It’s what #WeAreCisco is really all about. And we should know, because it’s our jobs to know.


Are you a Cisco employee wanting to help with Disaster Relief? You can donate here. If you’re not an employee (yet!) — you can still help! Give your time or donate to an organization you know that is helping!

Want to join a company that is there for their employees? We’re hiring!


Carmen Shirkey Collins

Social Media Manager

Talent Brand and Enablement Team, HR