As a young teen, when my family moved to the United States from Thailand, I struggled to fit in. The kids in high school shied away from me because I looked and sounded different. The isolation I felt then is a feeling I never want anyone to experience. As I learned to embrace my identity over the years, I aimed to work for a company where there is a culture of respect for differences and acceptance of diversity – Cisco is that place for me, and I am proud to be the senior director of Customer Experience (CX) Design, leading a team of innovators and designers who support Cisco products.
At Cisco, we understand that our differences in perspectives, background, age and upbringing meld together to create a more rich and powerful experience. It is our differences that make us stronger. It is our diversity that adds to our innovative spirit and collaboration.
My favorite quote by poet Maya Angelou has been a guidepost for me as a leader: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Angelou knew that feeling good is a powerful motivator and is a foundation for lasting memories. In the work setting, a sense of belonging makes for a thriving culture and strong teams.
So, how do we do that here at Cisco? Often, it’s in celebrating the moments that matter!
In our CX Portfolio Product Development organization, we support our customers and partners throughout their Cisco lifecycle, so it makes sense we would extend that support to our team members for the important moments in their lives as well.
Here are a few of my team’s favorite moments that highlight how we celebrate one another:
1. A Grandbaby Shower: Throwing a surprise baby shower to celebrate the new arrival of our next, tiniest Cisconian might sound familiar as many teams have done this for co-workers who have excitedly added to their families. For our team, however – this was no ordinary shower.
The honoree who beamed with a proud spark in his eyes was a long-time Cisco Customer Experience team member with thick salt-and-pepper hair, and a big, distinctive mustache. Ali Ebtekar had become a grandfather for the first time, and the extraordinary event was his “Grandbaby Shower.”
Ali was touched by the mindful attention he received from his Cisco family – complete with pink balloons, cupcakes, sparkling lemonade, and a table stacked high with gifts – but even though the event was a surprise, he says having such a celebration “really did not surprise” him at all. You see, recognizing our team members and celebrating their milestones is, in his words, “all in a day’s work” at Cisco.
2. Mystery Lunch Events: Our team loves coming together to commune around foods from different cultures, so we can spend quality time with one another and learn from each other. A recent lunch happened to feature one of my favorite cuisines – BBQ— and turned out to be a surprise party for my 10th Ciscoversary!
We are big on celebrations around here, especially for our people and the things that they care about. From baseball’s Spring Training (baseball-shaped cake pops, anyone?) and congratulatory messages in our Webex Teams chats for a colleagues’ son entering college, to honoring our Superhero Admins – we take pride in celebrating all moments that matter, from small to big.
3. Team Building and Giving Back: Even during intense strategy and planning sessions, we incorporate team-building activities, games, and always include a give-back event. We just had a three-day planning workshop, where we decided our professional goals and milestones for the next fiscal year. Equally important, and perhaps more memorable, are the hygiene kits we assembled for the homeless, and the deeper connections we made with our colleagues through an “Iron Chef-style” sushi-making contest at a local restaurant. (Team “Tootsie Roe” won!)
Our love of building strong, diverse teams is something felt throughout Cisco – from our executive leadership on down.
In fact, our team’s new VP, Tony Colon, also believes that it is important to build a foundation of trust, which translates directly to productivity. People who love where they work will be more excited about the work they do. Tony shared his personal approach with us by saying, “I will shed 50 percent of what I know, retain 50 percent of what I know, and take 50 percent from all of you. Together, we will build an extraordinary team.”
Building extraordinary teams is a Cisco value, one which is personal for me.
It really is different here at Cisco. There is no better place to work, to build a team, to honor diversity, and to celebrate your moments that matter than with your extended family at Cisco.
Just ask Ali, a joyous brand-new grandpa, who believes so much in the conscious culture here that he labels it “the secret to success.” #LoveWhereYouWork is not just a hashtag, for many – and in particular for those of us in the CX Portfolio Product Development organization – it’s a way of life.
Want to join our teams? We’re hiring. Apply now.