Technology often gets pegged as an “isolator” – accused of taking people away from the world around them. However, what many miss is that technology is also a connector – connecting us deeply to people, places, and ideas around the world.

At Cisco, we find community builders on every step of our journey with technology.

Photo by Aaron Hockley

I work as a technical writer on Webex Teams, and our team – like many at Cisco – is spread out around the world. Our technology makes this possible, and it even allows for me to telecommute full time from my home in Oregon. The flexibility and work/life balance that Cisco’s culture cultivates not only lets me work full time, but have a family, and still pursue my passions in life.

What I enjoy most is being a part of activities where there is a strong sense of community – the same feeling of community that I get here at Cisco.

I was first drawn to Cisco over 20 years ago because of the excitement of being at the forefront of the computer networking field. I’ve stayed with Cisco because of the culture. Everywhere you look, you find examples of people putting their energy toward building connections. Not only are we giving back to our communities, we’re cultivating those communities too.

Here are just a few of the communities that have impacted me along the way:  

1. The Hula Community – Yes, this is a personal community I care deeply about – but it’s one of my greatest passions and at Cisco we’re encouraged to be our authentic selves! Hula is my favorite form of keeping my body active nowadays. A hālau (school) is like a family, and we call each other hula sisters and brothers.

We dance at a number of prominent community events in the Seattle, Washington area, and there is a lot of work involved for each performance. From all of the costumes and accessories to new dances we must learn each time – it shows how wonderful it is when we all come together for a greater purpose.

Togetherness, and being in sync — is both the goal and the fun of it all!

2.The Community of Knowledge – Another place I’ve found a strong community spirit is through Write the Docs, which started near my home in Portland, Oregon. Being a conference speaker has been a dream of mine since Cisco sent me to my first tech conference, and that dream came true when I spoke at Write the Docs in 2015.

My Cisco experience prompted me to start my talk with the question, “How many of you love what you do for a living?” I raised my own hand high and proud.

At my manager’s urging, I joined Toastmasters International to continue working on my skills, and now I get a chance to help my local community by mentoring new club members and serving as an area director to guide other local clubs.

3.The Networking Community – I was also active early on with Cisco’s community for women in technology, known as Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). When I joined, we were just getting started. It was a time for making new connections and establishing the goals and direction for our community.

In the early days of Employee Resource Organizations (EROs), you had to be at Cisco headquarters to participate in these types of communities. Nowadays, with our communication tools, you can instantly be connected to your tribe no matter where you’re located. For example, I use Webex Teams to facilitate a book club for the Cisco Women in Cyber Security team. We use the team space to decide on the next book and check in on progress, and then we meet on a video call for the book discussion.

Many of Cisco’s EROs have Webex Teams spaces so that they’re able to continue creating and having conversations, deepen relationships, and further their community.

4.The Global Community – When Cisco sent me to a planning meeting with the team in Lysaker, Norway, I got to experience community in a new way — globally!

As a team-building activity, we went curling. Curling is one of my favorite Olympic sports to watch, and I was excited to try it. I’ve always thought of it as “chess on ice” and knew about the mental rigor of it, but I hadn’t realized how physically difficult it is. And, team-building may not show itself in the way you originally anticipated.

During our activity, the competition was heating up in a friendly, but fierce way. We had been through a couple of rounds of play when one of our teammates slipped on the ice and ended up with a cut on his forehead. Everyone instantly mobilized in a true real world team-bonding experience. Some helped him off the ice safely, while others arranged transportation to a doctor, and helped him figure out his foreign medical coverage – we all, of course, were there to make sure he was okay and well taken care of. It wasn’t the team-building experience we were expecting when we signed up to go, but it was a powerful example of the Cisco community in action.

5.Giving Back to Our Community – For me, it started with a program called Shoes that Fit, that helped to buy new shoes for schoolkids whose families couldn’t afford them. I also served as a holiday elf collecting presents for the Community Giving Tree, and sorted food with my Cisco team for Second Harvest Food Bank. Last year, I even used my Time2Give volunteering hours (where we receive five days a year to give back to organizations we’re passionate about) at Habitat for Humanity in Tacoma, Washington.

With volunteers from the Bellevue and Seattle Cisco offices, our Cisco partners, and the homeowners, we were literally building a community. We worked with the homeowners doing finishing jobs like painting, taping, and caulking on several houses that day, and when we stepped back to look at the work we accomplished – there it was: community.

At each step of the way and throughout these communities I’ve been a part of, there were teams of strong Cisco employees leading the way and connecting us to opportunities. Each was dedicated to building a community whether that be in giving back or expanding our network and growing from each other’s knowledge.

The fun I have and the support I receive in working toward a common goal within a community is like nothing else. Cisco’s culture and our commitments to ethics, corporate social responsibility, and philanthropy are just a few of the key reasons why I love where I work!

We build community every day, and our technology helps us to strengthen those ties.

Want to join our community? You can. We’re hiring.


Tana Franko

Technical Writer, Cisco Webex Hybrid Services

Collaboration Systems