Eleven years ago, I received a phone call that changed my life. A childhood friend called asking if I would like to join her newly formed nonprofit as they traveled to Nepal on their first medical mission to perform total joint reconstruction surgeries for the under-served.A WOGO patient lies on a hosptial bed in a leg brace.

She said they needed a storyteller and a marketer – after all, their expertise was in joint replacement. I was a field marketer at Cisco helping our sales team tell the Cisco story to their customers. And that’s how I found myself on the first of many global missions to help tell the story of the non-profit, Women Orthopedic Global Outreach (WOGO).

On that very first trip in 2010, I used a Cisco product called the Flip Camera (long gone, but not forgotten) to film the medical team in action, and I was so proud of the “movie” I created about our very first patient. While it was certainly not award worthy, it was an initial taste in telling the team’s story in bite-sized clips to get people interested in what we were doing – and I was hooked. From our shared experiences as a team to the narratives of each patient and the incredible strengths in the female orthopedic surgeons that led our team – I couldn’t get enough!

When we weren’t in surgery, we were able to explore the cities we were helping. During our trip to Nepal, the beautiful Buddha Stoupa drew me to it each day and getting to experience the culture of this region left me fascinated while I fell more and more in love with the mission of WOGO.

Shawn and one of the WOGO doctors, Dr. Hakanson, at the Monkey Temple in Nepal.After I returned from Nepal, I couldn’t stop talking about the trip and the work we accomplished – or how I had used so many of my day-to-day “Cisco skills” on this medical mission! Yes, I used the Internet and social media to help share our story, but I had also raised a pretty large sum of money for the team and it felt great to be able to help even more.

Since that time, I’ve become the logistics and marketing lead for WOGO, managing WOGO’s social media, trip logistics, fund-raising and more. I’ve traveled more than 50,000 miles, to three continents in both hemispheres and hundreds of knees have been replaced. I’ve managed a team of 64 people, moving them through a new city and keeping them happy, healthy and able to work hard at the hospitals we visit, all while growing my career at Cisco.

Through Cisco’s volunteer hours, I receive 40 hours of paid time each year that I can take for these medical missions. Having this time enables me to throw myself into the hard work of each mission knowing Cisco has my back.

My ability to work remotely as a Senior Manager for Cisco’s Employee Communications team also makes our medical missions easier. On longer trips, I can work from the country we are located in on our non-surgical days. I’ve led training meetings from Guatemala, participated in team meetings from Tanzania, and completed tradeshow plans while in Cuba. The rhythm of work never skips a beat when Cisco tech enables you to work from anywhere!

And Cisco’s global nature never ceases to surprise me, either.

During a mission to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 we had completed our surgeries for the day and decided to take a trip outside of the city to the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary to visit the Bonobo great apes. It was a beautiful, wild refuge for the apes as we hiked through the jungle to our viewing location.

And right there, in the jungles of Congo, my WOGO teammates started commenting how all the people around us seemed to be wearing Cisco t-shirts. How strange!

Shawn and her peer Calvain Nangue smiling with one of the Network Academy students in the Congo.As I looked around, I noticed it too – there were a lot of Cisco t-shirts surrounding me! I started asking questions, and lo’ and behold, it was a local Cisco Networking Academy that had taken a day off from their studies. We were all excited to meet each other and talk about Cisco and its global footprint.

It was one of the most unique and fun things that has ever happened to me. I mean, who else can say, “While deep in the jungles of the Congo, I bumped into colleagues from my company?”

That’s something that I feel can only happen at Cisco.

Volunteering for WOGO is a great joy in my life and has led to many adventures, many hands held, and many stories told. Being a part of restoring mobility to people so they can resume a life filled with movement, work and community is an incredible gift.

Working at Cisco, a company that supports and encourages employees to give back and pursue their passions, makes me feel incredibly lucky. I love where I work, and I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Ready to change the world? We’re hiring. Apply now.


Shawn Tylka

Culture Evangelist

People & Communities