A lot of people gawk when I tell them that I work with my spouse. Those looks become even more exaggerated when we tell them we not only work for the same company, but at one time we worked in the same organization, in the same building, and on the same floor. But then I caveat with- do you often talk to your spouse about work? Do you always know the exact context of what the other person is going through, the challenges they face, the climate of your jobs? We do. And we talk all the time. To the point we often find ourselves passionately talking about work during our date nights. But we love it; and we both love to work for Cisco.
Despite going to the same engineering school in upstate New York, and being from the same state, Christopher , my husband, and I had never interacted until we joined Cisco as Software Engineering Interns through the IT University Program in 2015. We became roommates and then natural friends through our internship and remained friends throughout the school year, through another Cisco internship where we even worked on the same team, and through earning our accelerated Masters. We came to work full time at Cisco in 2017, both under the Information Technology organization (now Digital Enterprise Solutions, or DES) and had remained friends, close colleagues, and roommates.
I can’t exactly pinpoint when it happened but at some point, after being in the workforce together, living together, solving problems together, we realized we wouldn’t want to do these things with anyone else. We got married in 2019 and shortly after had our first son, Porter, and most recently introduced our second son, Cole. We are a Cisco family through and through.
In our nearly 6 years of internship and full-time experience, we have pushed each other, competed against one another, celebrated promotions together, aired grievances, and have frequently burst into the other’s office space to get help on a tricky problem to solve. Even though we are both software engineers by trade, we differ in programmatic styles and scope. Chris is more of the heads down in the code engineer, driven by precision, industry standards, and best practices. He would often challenge himself to reduce his response times to sub-millisecond numbers. I was always the more process oriented and procedural engineer, looking at the high-level logic and trying to cover all the corner cases, happy with delivering a well-designed system that someone else could implement. Together we complement each other, and I like to think, strengthen our skillsets with a constant ping-pong of ideas.
Although we started off as Software Engineers, our career paths have taken off in unexpected but exciting directions. We both made a big shift last year to explore different parts of the company. Chris is now a Leader of Engineering in the Customer and Partner Experience (CPX) organization, and I went to become a Business Operations Manager in the CPX joint Chief of Staff and Operations team. However, last month I accepted a position as a Strategy & Planning lead in CPX’s newly formed Product and Strategy organization and could not be more enthusiastic about the role and getting to work closer to Chris again. Shifting organizations and roles is something many of our mentors have encouraged us to do but Cisco is uniquely positioned to support. It is true when they say Cisco is like its own city; you can do nearly any job without ever having to leave the company. Your career path can be straight forward, if you desire, or it can be a game of chutes and ladders. This flexibility allows us both to experience different facets of the business and ultimately grow our knowledge to understand both technical and business problems from different viewpoints and scopes. That in turn helps us to challenge each other’s problems through a variety of different lenses and teaches us to remain objective.
Now, it isn’t always roses. Since our lifestyle is different than other couples and we don’t have ‘traditional’ family roles, when our deadlines overlap it is a not-so-pretty happening at the Renus household. We often jump back online after putting our boys to bed, we switch drop off or pick up duty in a pinch, and we occasionally take meetings while making dinner or giving baths. However, we are empowered by our management and senior leadership teams to flex our time and make up for those hectic nights. We often use the ‘Day for Me’, which is a generously gifted day off given by our executive leaders, to do something as a family: phones down, no work talk, quality time to be the Renuses.
Now, maybe at this point you still think we are crazy to enjoy working together – and that may be! – but it works for us. We are able to remain present in each other’s lives, feel supported in our careers, and maintain a well-integrated work and family life balance. Not many get to say that their work spouse is their real life spouse, but we get to every day.
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