Here’s a fun game Cisco employees love playing: try and have your friend or partner explain what you do for work. For most of us, it isn’t that easy! Working at Cisco can look like all sorts of things, and if your designated descriptor isn’t in the world of tech, the result can be quite amusing.

When my husband (bless him) tries to explain what I do to people, it usually sounds something like this, “Well she works at Cisco, the tech company, and she does stuff with the cloud and the internet and innovation but she’s working to save rhinos”.

He gets an A for effort, and honestly, he isn’t all that far off. 😉

For the past 18 months I have had the opportunity to lead Cisco’s wildlife conservation program, an employee volunteer initiative that began as a grassroots effort to use Cisco’s technology to protect endangered species. You may have seen this work featured in our “Never Been a Better Time” campaign, or in reference to our work with Dimension Data and our Connected Conservation program, but since then, Cisco conservation has evolved to include new partners, new projects and new species.

This program exemplifies the potential that Cisco has to make a difference in the world, and how employee passion can be turned into real impact. It is a showcase for our ‘Tech for Good’ and ‘Global Problem Solver’ narratives, pushing us to ‘Be the Bridge’ between endangered and protected. It is a beacon for other enterprises to join us in making a sustainable impact on the world.

The only issue was, we weren’t being loud enough about it.

So how does a grassroots, volunteer-run program showcase the good that we do? How can we be as ‘loud’ as our CEO Chuck Robbins encourages us to be? Well, there were some ups and downs, but we finally decided that going big – National Geographic BIG – was our only option.

And it worked!

In October 2018, Cisco’s conservation program brought Dave Ward, SVP, CTO Engineering and Chief Architect, and Ruba Borno, VP and GM of Managed Services, to South Africa to be a part of the National Geographic documentary, Save This Rhino, and to highlight the benefit that Cisco’s technology provides to conservation efforts. The documentary focuses on the problems and solutions surrounding the devastation that is wildlife poaching, and the people working to save the critically endangered rhino.

There are a number of tactics being used to save rhinos that they will never know are in place. For example, Cisco’s pilot conservation solution, developed with strategic partner Dimension Data, uses a network of sensors, cameras and machine learning tools to monitor the people that are entering the reserve, legally and illegally.  This Internet of Things play that has reduced poaching incidents by 98% in the past three years, and it was this success that drew the attention of the National Geographic team.

I was fortunate enough be on site to represent Cisco behind the scenes, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To witness the environment and wildlife first-hand makes the gravity and tragedy of the situation just that much greater. Personally, I couldn’t believe that Cisco had allowed me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of seeing rhinos in the wild. Professionally, I was still in awe that this ‘little program that could’ had managed to pull this whole thing off.

Here we were, with two senior execs, in the middle of the African bush thousands of miles away from Silicon Valley, filming a National Geographic documentary just through the sheer willpower, passion and dedication of our employees. Our people really are Cisco’s greatest asset!

Since the filming of Save This Rhino, the conservation program has been brought into the Chief Technology and Architecture Office, as a pilot program that will emphasize innovation, engineering and sustainability. These three concepts individually are integral to enterprise transformation, especially as expectations rise for corporations to take on social responsibility. Cisco is making a power move to lead the pack by combining all three – and is looking to expand these efforts for potential Connected Conservation opportunities to save additional species.

It’s true, it may not be ‘easy’ to define what each of us at Cisco does – but if there is one thing that is certain, we are all working to truly change the world through Cisco technology and our dedication to improving our planet to benefit everyone – and everything.


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When can you watch Save This Rhino?

Australia/New Zealand – May 23rd | United Kingdom – June 20th

Internal screenings at our San Jose Headquarters and and Raleigh, NC campuses in the United States – April 25th.

In the meantime, check out the trailer at www.savethisrhino.com.

This Earth Day, read more about how Cisco employees are driving leadership in Sustainability.


Cayla Yang

Program Manager, Wildlife and Sustainability Innovation

Innovation Programs and Strategy- Cisco Innovation Network