Five years ago, I found myself sailing across the Arctic Circle to participate in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s largest exercise since the Cold War. Walking down the maze-like passageway, I passed miles of cable supporting the network onboard the large deck amphibious warship, where data would pass through hardware with a familiar “bridge” symbol. Standing watch in the Combat Information Center, we utilized phones with the familiar “bridge” symbol as well. Everything was in sync as it needed to be, which was only possible because we were afforded the best hardware in the industry.
However, after 15 combined years in a uniform and many nautical miles traveled, I decided to begin my transition out of active duty into the Naval Reserves. During transition training, there was palpable anxiety about whether to continue serving in the reserves and how much information to reveal about this decision on future job applications. Just as with medical conditions, you are not required to disclose your military service commitment, but I knew that I did not want to be part of an organization that did not support military service in the reserves or National Guard and wanted to be upfront that there would be times that I might have to step away for training to fulfill my commitments. Ultimately, I knew that the right organization would accept me and my decision to continue to serve in the reserves and that transparency was the best option.
One of my friends was doing a Department of Defense SkillBridge program and told me to check out the opportunities at Cisco. I applied for a few roles, and then things fell into place when I applied and interviewed for a sales role within U.S. Commercial Services Sales. While I lacked industry-specific experience, both the recruiter and hiring manager had faith in my ability to make a valuable contribution to the team. They saw in my background a tenacious will to be successful with fewer resources and the ability to adapt and overcome unknown challenges. They learned, through speaking with me in interviews, that I don’t see failure as an option, and I work to enhance efficiency and effectiveness when achieving a solution. Ever since that day they took a chance on me two years ago, I’ve been fortunate to be embraced by a supportive community of Cisconians, making my transition from a military background to the tech industry exceptionally smooth and seamless, personally and professionally.
This past March, I had the chance to participate in and support Exercise Freedom Shield for my Navy Reserve annual training, an air, sea, and land simulation exercise with the Republic of Korea. I braced myself as I prepared to inform my Cisco leadership of my impending leave of absence. I was actually caught off guard when I was met with nothing but support and encouragement. Their initial reaction was, “How’s your family handling the news? Will they be okay?” I was taken aback by their genuine concern for my family’s well-being. This kind response from my leadership alleviated much of the anxiety I had about the entire situation.
After arriving on the Korean peninsula, I wanted to make the most of the time available before the exercise’s commencement, so I took a train to Seoul to check out the Cisco office in the Gangnam District. Even with a language barrier, I was welcomed by the same supportive culture that I always experience in RTP. After three seemingly long weeks away from family, where the familiar “bridge” logo was present on the watch floor utilizing the world’s finest telecommunication gear, Cisco VoIP phones, my time in Korea came to a close following the successful exercise. Finally, I reunited with my family, and it felt good to be home.
I appreciated the opportunity to put on the uniform again, but I’m even more grateful for a company that is considerate and assists with my time away. Lots have changed for me in the past few years: I once wore steel-toe, non-slip boots, but now wear shoes and flip-flops on the weekend. I hung up my camouflage uniform for a button-down shirt and slacks. I maneuvered warships in formation and now help the team drive sales for some of the world’s most recognizable and fun brands. I used to eat in the wardroom on board with department heads, discussing naval tactics and operations. Now, I eat lunch in the cafe, collaborating with professionals in Business Development, Customer Experience, Operations, Finance, and Engineering. It wouldn’t be feasible without the positive teamwork I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by. I hope hiring managers and recruiters will look to veterans even more when recruiting new talent because of the incredibly diverse skills we can bring to expand the business and even include a few sea stories along the way. I am forever grateful to Cisco for being my “Bridge to Possible” and the best place to work!
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