The pandemic was a unique time. Suddenly the world was forced to reconcile with a virus and social distancing. It was tough! A human being is a social being. We cannot live disconnected or in isolation for extended periods of time. When Cisco reopened its campus, it was a new lease on life for me. Just the act of waking up in the morning, dressing up, and coming to the office was a blessing. As more and more started coming back to the RTP campus, I started exploring campus opportunities and events that made Cisco a great place to work. As I was scrolling Webex messages one day, I saw a leadership opportunity advert that caught my eye. ICON RTP — Indians Connecting Network Inclusive Community, (formerly known as) Employee Resource Organization — was looking for a new Chapter Lead. I regularly volunteer with the Women of Cisco Inclusive Community. I enjoyed the experience, but in my heart, I knew I wanted to do more. Without thinking twice, I applied for the Chapter Lead position. After a series of conversations with the Global Team leads, I was selected. That moment changed my life.
I had no idea what to expect. I was immediately thrown into event managing Festival of Lights, ICON’s flagship event. It was a steep learning curve. A lot of things came down to the wire. After frantic phone calls, technical glitches, and excellent teamwork, we pulled off a miracle. It was the first ICON event on campus after several years. To add a cherry on top, we got a fantastic response! People were excited to come back to the campus to connect and network!
Since we set the bar high with our flagship event, the ICON RTP community wanted to know what was next in the pipeline. With ICON’s flagship event under my belt, I grew more confident. I wanted to do more for the community. With the attrition in December, the overall mood was somber. The community needed support and a feel-good event. During one of my nature walks with my husband, I discussed ideas for where and how ICON could help the community. With Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors, just around the corner, my husband whimsically noted, “You should do a color run.”
At first, I thought it was a preposterous idea. More than half of my team was gone. So, my first order of business was to put a core team together with people who were passionate enough to represent ICON values. More so, people with the same drive as me — to go above and beyond and put together meaningful community events. I feel blessed that I found the right people at the right time, people who shared my vision and passion for leading ICON to new heights.
Once the idea was conceived, it was only natural to approach LifeConnections Fitness Center, Cisco’s on-site fitness center for employees, to become our partners for their experience conducting the “run” part of the “color run.”
At that point, with ICON Global team’s blessing and support, we were able to pull off yet another magical event.
ICON RTP’s Executive Sponsor, along with a few LifeConnections Health Center members enthusiastically participated in the fun run. With color stations strategically placed along the path, people were doused with a healthy dose of color as they made their way through the greenway trails to complete a 5K loop. The trails and parking lots of RTP were filled with a myriad of colors, food, music, fun, and lots of laughter. We added even more pizzazz to the occasion with a cleverly planned flash mob dance.
Similarly, the ICON Austin team chose Holi, the Festival of Colors, as the event to officially launch their chapter. The Chapter Lead and leadership team kicked off the event by lighting diyas and speaking about the importance of cultural events and Inclusive Communities at Cisco locations globally. There was an overwhelming presence of Cisco employees, who joined in celebrating the day with much fanfare. For a moment, it looked like there were more people than they had the capacity to accommodate, but eventually, all things fell into place, and the crowd had a wonderful time during the 2+ hours of celebrations with songs, dances, music, and of course, colors!
The ICON Poland Chapter followed suit and celebrated the vibrant Festival of Colors with equal enthusiasm at the Cisco Krakow office, where attendees joined the event in person and virtually. Leaders and guest speakers shared the significance of the Festival of Color and an inspiring life story associated with it. Fun activities like a Holi quiz, and fantastic dance performances, followed by scrumptious Indian food, took the festive atmosphere with colors galore to the next level!
As I looked back at the events, I had a feeling of deep satisfaction and pride seeing my culture celebrated across the world. On a personal front, I was dealing with stress, overwhelm, and turmoil. Being a part of ICON RTP helped me connect, heal and grow. It made me accept my present reality yet focus on the positive side of life. It gave me exposure to other Inclusive Communities, their cultures, and individualities. It broadened my perspective and gave me a chance to explore my own strengths, creativity, and leadership capability. I learned to do things outside of my comfort zone, which made me appreciate the way Cisco operates as a company. As Oprah notes, “Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your personality — your gifts that you have to give — with the real reason why you’re here. That’s the number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself … and to fill yourself up and keep your cup full. Keep yourself full.” If your own cup is empty, you will have nothing to give others. Being part of an Inclusive Community made me feel that I could keep refilling my cup by sharing joy with others. The more I gave, the more I received.
This year, Cisco topped the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in the U.S. list for the third year in a row. Christian Bigsby, RTP’s SVP, Workplace Resources, attributed that in part to the vibrant Inclusive Communities that allow employees to express themselves and harness their passions. I completely concur with his assessment. According to Cisco’s Chief Social Impact Officer, Brian Tippens, “Inclusive Communities provide the ideal dynamic for establishing and growing one’s network.” Being part of an Inclusive Community that speaks to you is the quickest way to connect with like-minded individuals and find the strength, support, and motivation you need to be creative and productive at work. Better yet … be an elevated version of yourself, just as I’ve found. Cisco also provides us an environment where we can have a sustainable work-life balance. It is this, collectively, that makes Cisco the #1 company to work for.
Are you ready to become the best version of yourself? Join our inclusive teams.