Prior to working at Cisco, I never volunteered much. It would always come to my mind with a powerful dose of heroic motivation, but mostly it would fade whenever errands of all kinds would flood my calendar. Been there, done that? We´re all humans after all.

The Cisco team giving back at SEMEAR.

Since I started working at Cisco, I found the perfect opportunity to engage more often in give back activities. Cisco not only carves out time for us to volunteer collectively as a team, but also encourages us to utilize the 5 days that they give us every year to give back to organizations we’re passionate about. Apart from contributing to make someone’s world better, helping a cause through volunteering triggers neurological benefits in specific brain areas, which helps coping with stress, anxiety and mental issues.

Cisco knows that by investing in humanity, we embolden our culture for collaboration that fulfils our Cisconian hearts. Also, in doing so, we all win!

I recently had the incredible opportunity to give back in Portugal with  – an association that promotes inclusion for individuals with intellectual and cognitive special needs, in a program they have called SEMEAR (which means ´to sow´). This program helps to train these individuals and provides a farm where they can learn about agriculture, food waste management, production, packaging, and even selling of the food items. Delicious jams, chutneys, cheeses, seasonings and biscuits are some of the products you can find at the SEMEAR grocery store.

Our activity consisted of labelling and packaging the seasoning bottles. It was a simple activity that brought loads of smiles and an enormous feeling of contribution to the larger goal of SEMEAR. Humanity is indeed a wonderful ingredient.

It also inspired me as the holiday season is upon us, which means the season of giving is here. How can you give back through your gift giving this year? It’s so simple!

SEMEAR olive oil.

1. Think Local: Purchasing gifts from local artisans often means a gift made with love and care. These are mostly handmade goods, often done with sustainable materials, and you will be contributing to small businesses or local organizations in need.

2. Do Good: Often, many charitable organizations offer holiday gift baskets or hampers that can include wine, seasonings, and chocolates. These come in a beautiful, neat presentation – complete with a ‘wow!’ factor – that benefit the organization and are certain to be fresh and of high quality. Giving back while purchasing gifts – now that’s something we can all strive for this season!

3. Be Inspiring: Foundations sometimes have a range of products that can make for a useful and inspiring gift. Headbands of Hope and Love Your Melon benefit children fighting cancer, for example. While the  Maria Cristina Foundation has a book written by their founder, Maria Conceição, who was the first Portuguese woman to summit Mt. Everest, that also shares her story of how she provides education to children and families in Bangladesh. The book is an inspirational gift, but also boosts motivation to accomplish goals, pursue dreams, and find empowering life opportunities – which is great ahead of the new year!

4. Wrap Sustainably: We are all looking for ways to be more sustainable and cut back on waste. Do your best to wrap gifts in brown paper (most of the colourful and shiny wrapping papers are sadly not recyclable) – think brown paper is boring? Think again! Use your creativity to spruce the brown paper up with other recyclable/sustainable materials – there are many great resources online to jump start your creativity here.

When choosing a company to work for, there are many things that go into a person’s decision – what is their culture like? How happy are their employees? Is there a larger purpose for my work or will I become a clock-watcher waiting for the day to end? Are there opportunities to give back?

I’m proud to say that, thanks to Cisco, I have become a better global citizen and am now an active participant in giving back to our world.

It’s no secret to as how Cisco became the world’s #1 best workplace, where our culture brings us together, our work – both inside and outside the office – is meaningful, and that giving back is truly in our DNA year-round.


Want to join a company that is dedicated to giving back? We’re hiring! Apply now.


Maria Lopes

Content Specialist

CX Digital Lifecycle Journeys EMEAR