In my first few weeks at Cisco, I was already blown away by the many great initiatives and possibilities this company offered. There was a fiscal year kick-off trip to Las Vegas, early in career networks to help motivate and inspire, and we were even able to exercise with Jessie Pavelka! Amongst all that greatness, however, I think what stands out the most to me is Cisco’s dedication to giving back.
Through a program called Time2Give, employees are not just able, but encouraged to invest time in giving back. Cisco believes in this effort so much that they give employees five days every year to volunteer to organizations that matter the most to each respective employee!
But where does one start in finding a place to give back? For some, they know exactly where their time will go as they’ve been dedicated to a particular cause or organization over the years. Yet, many of us struggle to know quite where to give back, and sometimes finding a worthy cause can feel quite overwhelming.
As part of the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) which is a 5-month long bootcamp to learn about the latest solutions within Cisco, I had the unique opportunity to work alongside 12 other graduates between two hubs, Stockholm and Frankfurt. Early on, we decided we’d like to volunteer together and created a plan to do just that!
We’ve come to know how powerful just one person taking action can be – and we were each inspired by what 12 people, over the course of one full work week, could contribute to our community and our selected destination to volunteer.
Coordinating 12 schedules and six days, however, was easier said than done. We researched many opportunities to give back, and finally found an opportunity where we would each get to do something with our hands, for a community that was greatly in need. We were also excited that we’d be experiencing a new city and, of course, would be getting away from our computer screens for a while.
Our volunteer time would take us to a location known as “Trash City” in Naples and would be a two-part project. The first part would take place in an area called Gaiola near the southwest corner of Naples which is mostly run by volunteers. They have a limited workforce and resources to help keep the place tidy and clean. We got to work quickly helping to renovate their office; clean up the beaches of cigarettes, plastics, and glass; and removing dirt and plants that were blocking access trails. We also repainted a tribune close by.
The days we spent at Gaiola were, without a doubt, shocking in terms of the amount of debris we humans leave behind on the beaches. We were also surprised by how quickly we tired from the physical exertion in the hot sun.
The second part of our project took us to the University of Naples Federico II for two days. On the first of those days, we would spend time with the st
udents and professors at the Cisco Tech Lab – which opened just one year ago! We were excited to have one-on-one conversations and really get to know the students while answering some of their questions about our onboarding experiences, how we work at Cisco as Virtual Sales Account Managers and explain some of the projects we are currently working on.
The second day was dedicated to a Hackathon that involved the Cisco students from this location as well as other students from Spain and Portugal. We were to help the groups in the early phases of their development in how to pitch their ideas.
Perhaps the highlight of our week was when we learned that the Cisco students outperformed most participants – taking home three first place and three second place awards in different sponsored cases! Overall, though, the week was incredibly powerful and taught me so much. I also enjoyed that I got to experience this with my fellow Cisco CSAP team, and that we committed to spending our volunteer time together.
How can you get started in giving back and using your Time2Give volunteer hours? Here are five key-take-aways I can share:
1. Go all in! A lot of time and effort was devoted to our project prior to our trip to Naples. Take time to develop a diverse week that is fun, and you can be proud of!
2. Be flexible. You may have an idea of how your plan and trip will take shape, but know that that is likely going to change. Everything takes a bit more time than expected, and changes may occur – but this is a great way to look at your experience with different eyes. Planning a week like ours must begin early, but also make room for those plans to change at a moment’s notice.
3. Volunteering is for everyone! Many of us had never experienced any form of volunteering at this level before. We all found it hugely rewarding and the feeling we shared at the end of our time together made it that much more enjoyable. Don’t feel like you must go at it alone – invite someone from your team to join you in volunteering!
4. Teamwork is the key. Before, during, and even after our project it was important to use each other’s strengths and weaknesses to come together as a successful team. That may be something we’re used to doing inside the office – but it was great to see how we used those skills outside the office as well!
5. Ask for help! The amount of help you will receive if you simply ask for it is incredible. As we are all early in career, we took advice from our managers and fellow co-workers and people we knew who had done this level of volunteering before. The constructive feedback we received from those discussions helped us to develop the best project plan for our volunteer hours that met everyone’s needs.
So, what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to use your 5 days of volunteer time every year to give back to your community (or another community in need) – it is a powerful way we can all create change.
What ways are YOU giving back in 2019? We’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.
Want to join a company that encourages you to give back? We’re hiring. Apply now.