Samanthat posing in a suit jacket.Athlete. Nerd. Queen. Brainy. We’ve all been labeled before. But what would it feel like to not have labels assigned to you? At Cisco, I never have to worry about stereotypes or judgement. In fact, I am embraced for my unique interests, and supported to pursue my passions. That’s why I love working at Cisco.

I didn’t always know I loved engineering. In fact, I didn’t even decide on a technical career path until just before college. That’s when I realized I was more comfortable with data and analysis over anything else.

One passion I never questioned, was my love of dance. For me (especially as an introvert) dance was how I expressed myself and allowed my creativity to shine through. So, while I was studying in college, I decided to become an NFL cheerleader for the Arizona Cardinals.

Those stereotypes are starting to crack now, huh? Good. ?

Being both a professional cheerleader and engineer never seemed odd to me, and I am forever grateful to my supportive family for never making me doubt that. Once I got into the real world and shared my interests with my community, I realized how much of a stigma there was against both cheerleaders and female engineers.

I knew I needed to encourage young women to pursue STEM. I also wanted to show them that they can be even more than whatever they study in school.

As a cheerleader, I had the honor of meeting Darlene Cavalier, the founder of Science Cheerleaders, whom I now volunteer for as the Director of Operations. Science Cheerleaders don’t just cheer for science (well we do that too), but we are a community of over 300 current and former pro-cheerleaders with STEM careers.

Doctors, engineers, math teachers, award-winning scientists, you name it, there’s a cheerleader doing it.

Working for Science Cheerleaders has been incredibly rewarding. I meet young women all the time – who may also like to cheer or dance – and have never been able to see themselves as STEM professionals. Their determination to become a future Science Cheerleader is incredible.

Cheerleaders holding up letter signs that spell out "science"

I became an engineer because I am fascinated by how things work and building innovative products. I became a project manager because I quickly realized I was more interested in facilitating the process, than the actual building of the product. Being a project manager for engineering teams allows me to use my skills to connect with the technical team and provide valuable insight, but also gives me the opportunity to work with other parts of the business where I can grow my business skills.

When I was looking for a career change, I was attracted to Cisco right away. We have so many different teams working on different products, there is an endless supply of opportunity for growth. I also learned in my interviews that the culture here is exactly what I wish to be a part of: supportive, authentic, and empowering.

Samantha as an Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader.

At Cisco, I am always excited to share the Science Cheerleaders events I’m working on and provide programs to the families of my teams. Once I started working here, I learned about all of the grants and support Cisco does for nonprofits, and it’s amazing! I was even able to register the Science Cheerleaders for donation and volunteer matching so I can put all my volunteer hours to even greater use. Cisco gives us 40 hours a year to volunteer at our favorite organizations, donates $10 for every hour we volunteer, and matches donations to approved organizations.

I was also able to apply for a Webex grant so that throughout 2020, we could host virtual events to interview other current NFL cheerleaders about their careers in STEM. Nothing makes me happier than to post these interviews with the “via Cisco Webex” logo. It’s a wonderful feeling when your ‘worlds collide’.

In my time at Cisco, I have learned how incredibly diverse the whole company is. I’m just one drop in the bucket of thousands of unique individuals. To be able to show up to your job as your authentic self without any worry is a blessing. Not only does Cisco have programs to support nonprofit interests, but every leader I have worked with thus far has taken an interest in fully understanding the diversity of their teams and how they can use that to grow and become even stronger.


Ready to join our dynamic teams? Check out our careers!

Follow the Science Cheerleaders on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @TheSciCheers to learn how you can support young women in STEM further. To reach out to Samantha directly, find her on LinkedIn.

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Samantha Marsillo

Customer Project Manager

Customer Experience (CX)