I am part of an amazing team – it’s something you hear a lot of at Cisco. But I had an unusual path to get to where I am today as a Business Operations Analyst in our Global Virtual Engineering (GVE) organization.

Before joining Cisco in July of 2020, I was a student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. In school, I was a business major studying Operations and Information Management with a focus in Business Data Analytics. I loved my major, was very interested in what I was learning, and I was excited to pursue a career in this field.

A selfie of Parker with the words "Grow, Learn" behind her.

When it came time to apply to jobs for post-graduation, I was looking at analyst roles, but came across an opening in the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) for an Associate Systems Engineer (ASE) position. I had an interest in technology on top of my love for business operations, so I thought I would give it a shot and apply. I ended up getting accepted into program, and I knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Being offered a position at the best place to work and for a company with such an amazing reputation, I was excited to join this team – but I was a little nervous, too.

I knew that CSAP was an intense program and that I would have to put in a lot of hard work, specifically since I had spent the past four years as a business major. But, on my first day I felt more than welcomed and was reassured by many. I felt confident that I had made the right decision by joining CSAP.

Although this was a position I knew would get me out of my comfort zone, I was ready for that challenge. It helped that I was surrounded by so many other amazing, intelligent ASEs. We worked together, learned from each other, and I definitely could not have done it without their support.

A few months into the program I successfully got my CCNA, DevNet Associate and was working towards obtaining my CCNP. I had gone to a variety of assessed role plays, 7 months of boot camp learning all about Cisco technology and participated in other trainings and activities on how to be an effective Systems Engineer. When it came time to start looking for field positions, I kept thinking back to my time at school. I couldn’t let go of my love for operations and analytics. I knew that if I pursued an SE career that I would be successful and provide value, however my true passions were elsewhere.

Parker and fellow co-workers.

I struggled with this feeling, knowing that I have been trained for and prepared for a completely different role. I asked myself, “Have I been wasting my time? The company’s time and resources? Did I take this spot away from someone who knew systems engineering was their passion?” In the midst of this confusion, I decided to have a conversation with my manager to tell him how I was feeling. I was scared that he would be upset, tell me it’s too soon in my career to make a change, or try to persuade me into why I should keep on this track. His reaction was far from that.

Instead, he encouraged me to network with people at Cisco in operations and analytics and helped me find those individuals. He commended my strength in recognizing my passions and standing up to admit that becoming an SE wasn’t for me. He even told me that he would do anything in his power to help me find what I was looking for at Cisco. I could not have been more grateful and relieved.

After numerous conversations with my manager, I had a completely different outlook. CSAP was helping me to discover my true passions and grow my strengths! They gave me the opportunity to explore other options, and they not only encouraged it but helped me every step of the way. Although the CSAP program was designed to prepare me for an SE role, I soon found out that it was much more than that. I gained so many skills that prepared me to start any career, especially one at Cisco.

I soon learned that Cisco was an even more amazing company than I ever could have imagined. The people at this company are invested in YOU, and have the ability to identify your strengths and help you use those strengths to the best of your ability. Through a lot of hard work, dedication, and the help of some of the most amazing leaders I’ve come to know I was able to find a position at Cisco that I not only love, but can thrive in.

I graduated the CSAP program in July 2021 and began my new role as a Business Operations Analyst in GVE. After transitioning from one incredible team to the next, I realized that I in no way wasted my time. I grew as a young professional and as an individual and have been given the chance to continue doing so. I have learned and am still learning skills that I wouldn’t be able to learn anywhere else.

CSAP prepared me for something truly remarkable in the end. I have never been more grateful to work at a company who not only encouraged me to follow my true passion but helped me achieve something I didn’t even know was possible.


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Parker DiNatale

Technical Solutions Specialist