A little over thirteen years ago when my now husband and I set off to drive cross-country from California to North Carolina, Cisco was not my destination.  I had invested the previous year in studying for and taking the LSAT exam, and our move was for me to go to law school.

On our way, however, I started interviewing for the Cisco Sales Associates Program (CSAP). At the time, I thought CSAP would be a summer of my life, and upon our arrival in Research Triangle Park, I was offered a position. When my soul searching concluded, I had taken a sharp detour in my plans for law school and never looked back – next stop: Cisco.

Looking back over the years, I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities my career at Cisco has afforded me and my family, and for the  contribution I get to make in a company that is truly connecting people and things no matter where they are in the world. While I do my best to live with no regrets, there are a few things I wish I could go back and tell my younger Cisco-self.

My hope is that this will help those just getting started at Cisco, or in their very first careers.

1.Embrace all the ways Cisco supports its employees. There are a great number of benefits that come with being a Cisco employee and those benefits can make a huge difference in our lives. From happy times and ways to help us celebrate, to knowing that life has its own course and hurdles for us all – Cisco is there to support as best they can.

Some of those benefits are ones I wish I could go back and take advantage of, like the financial planning advisors we have access to. Other benefits have come just in time, like the recent Emergency Time Off I took to deal with the death of a friend, and the Employee Assistance Program which connected me to grief counselors following their death. And every year, I know my kids are thankful that their parents have access to the Cisco Perks program to make holiday shopping a little easier!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in benefits Cisco provides!

2.Explore the many facets of the company. It’s easy to have blinders on in a company as big as Cisco, and it can be overwhelming to navigate over 72,000 employees worldwide. In the past, I’ve often focused just within my team and immediate group of co-workers.

Several years ago, however, I participated in a leadership development program that included people from every single organization in the company.  Connecting to colleagues I would never have crossed paths with in my day-to-day life proved invaluable when it came to solving cross-functional problems more effectively.

Plus, it was a great reminder that we have incredible people in every facet of the business! Get to know them, and seek opportunities and new ways to break free from silos.

3.Accept all invitations to develop, lead, and engage. Or better yet, take the initiative and invite others to join you.

Cisco is a place that is ripe with opportunities to grow, and it starts with enthusiastically proclaiming “YES!” to those opportunities when they present themselves. Years before I became a manager, a leader in my office approached me and asked if I had interest in a management role. I didn’t understand at the time that it meant that this leader saw potential in me that I could not yet see myself.

Who knows how different my path would have been had I asked more questions when I first started. Cisco provides many different paths and the company is rich with people who want you to succeed – don’t let those opportunities pass you by!

4.Be patient with yourself. Walking into work every day surrounded by high-performing, super smart individuals is inspiring. It can also be intimidating – especially for someone in the early stages of their career. I distinctly recall moments in my first year as an Account Manager when I felt like there was so much outside of my control; so much I didn’t know yet.

The knowledge and experience we need only comes with time, so have patience, have faith, and work hard every day! Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions and embrace the moments that help you to learn and grow.

When I started my fifth fiscal year at Cisco, I received an email notifying me that my LSAT score was about to expire. After studying for a year and taking 36 pain-staking practice tests, that message should’ve made me upset that all my hard work was about to disappear. Instead, I couldn’t help but smile – I’m so busy loving my career at Cisco that I feel I’ve gained so much more than I ever anticipated from a career.

Want to join a company that encourages you to grow? We’re hiring. Apply now!



Isabella Yani

Chief of Staff

Office of the Chief Customer and Partner Officer, Jeff Sharritts