This post was authored by Allison Liu, a recent UX Research Intern on the Experience Design & Incubation (XDI) Team, part of the Customer Partner Experience (CPX) Team.

Allison with three other interns.

When I started at the University of California, Irvine, I was a music nerd looking to teach little children music. But then the pandemic hit, and I saw its impact on various musicians. It ranged from being unable to play music in person in orchestral, chamber music, and solo playing situations to struggling to transition to online teaching settings. This hit me hard since I didn’t know what to do if I could not pursue music alone. I didn’t feel secure.

With more time on my hands, I decided to explore new areas I’d never experienced, especially technology. I focused on taking fundamental computer science, along with joining clubs related to that field. However, I realized the logic behind detailed code doesn’t click inside me.

It wasn’t until one day I stumbled upon the UX/UI Design field, which unveiled that creative thinking in technology through a different approach was possible. From learning the fundamental design process to building my first project, I love how I can leverage real-world data from users to come up with creative and innovative solutions. I added a second major in Informatics, which examines the interplay of people and technology. From there, I gained the fundamentals of design and worked on solo and nonprofit projects, helping those needing assistance redesigning their website platforms. I was fortunate enough that all those experiences in school and extracurriculars led me to my role at Cisco as a UX Design Intern in 2022 and UX Research Intern in 2023.

You might wonder why I would return to Cisco for two summers in a row. The main reason is that I’m gaining valuable career experience as a full-time intern and am still able to pursue my passion for music because Cisco offers flexibility in both my personal and work life.

Allison and her string quartet team.

When I heard about the emphasis Cisco places on work-life balance, I was skeptical at first. Now, back for my second year, I know the company has a true focus on employee well-being, and this is just part of it. My manager fully trusts me to get my work done, allowing me to have a flexible schedule, attend intern events, attend meetings, have solo work time, and take breaks when needed. During those break times, I study the scores for potential music that I’m interested in playing, practice my instrument, or even take a quick stretch outside for some sunshine, and when I come back, I’m more engaged with my team, more focused on my design and research work, and less stressed. Then, when I wrap things up, I fully shut down work and turn on music mode.

I volunteer at various music organizations, including Through the Staff, where I mentored two cello students who were unable to afford music lessons, and the Jenny Lin Foundation, where I played in a string quartet to raise funds and promote the importance of child safety and music education. I also spend time jamming some chamber music with my friends around the Bay Area. We play a variety of music, including anime, pop, classical — you name it.

In the end, Cisco helps me achieve my dreams as a musician while making me a better employee. I’ve gained valuable career experience, enjoyed a flexible work schedule, completed project work that interests me, and experienced the work-life balance Cisco is so well-known for, making it a great place to work.

Are you ready to strike the right balance in your career? Find an opportunity now.

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Allison and the XDi Research team.