On July 16, 1997 my life changed. Arriving six weeks early, and changing our entire focus in life, Alice Elizabeth entered the world and my wife, Iris, and I were overjoyed. For the next 16 years this was to be the only time she was ever early for anything. 😉

One thing I never suspected on that Wednesday morning in 1997 as I held my daughter for the first time – thinking how small and vulnerable she felt while I looked down on her – was that 19 years later she would be driving us to work. Those car rides are always filled with laughter as we share stories of her exploits and those of her Cisco colleagues.

Yes, you read that right. Both Alice and I work for Cisco, and we truly love where we work!

I have worked at Cisco in sales for 14 years, eight of those years as a high touch end user account manager and five were as a partner account manager. Alice has now been at Cisco for eight months on our degree apprenticeship program working towards a B.S. in Digital and Technology Solutions. As we’re a Cisco family, of course, we added a CCNA for her to pass this year to help keep her on her toes.

So how did this fortuitous turn of events come about? Alice, like 95% of young people in my experience, had no assured vision of what she wanted to do post university. She had applied for university and had secured a place for 2017 to study business management and that was written in stone.

However, our HR team is quite excellent in promoting the wider benefits of being an employee at Cisco, and this is something I will be forever grateful for. Thanks to HR and the work of my colleagues, Alice had the benefit of “growing up” Cisco.

Our technology is hidden from most people’s day to day world. They don’t realize all the incredible things we’re working on like Jimmy Kimmel’s Wall of America or that we’re the tech behind being able to order your Starbucks through your mobile. So, to many, Cisco is a “hidden company”.

This was not so for Alice!

Alice was able to come to Cisco when she was 12 for our “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” – she did the same again the following year. When she was 15 she spent a week with my colleagues in the UK Service Provider team. And when Alice was 18, she attended a week long work experience event organised by the wonderful Kathryn Baddeley and her team. And these events opened up the world of Cisco to Alice.

When I first broached the subject of Cisco apprenticeships with Alice, I could see that her heart was set on attending university with her friends and the fact that she had received an offer from her University of choice had, in her mind, secured her next three years. However, after talking it through, Alice agreed to apply for the apprenticeship by way of a good learning exercise and life experience (plus I suspect to keep her Dad – someone who got into the industry by way of an apprenticeship in 1981 – happy!). Her reluctance was driven by the perception of the apprenticeship being technically focussed, but this is not the case at all!

Subsequent to her interview, Alice expressed her new view that Cisco was the future for her! After a number of nervous and tense weeks awaiting word of Alice’s status, we finally received good news – Alice had been accepted!

So how have the first eight months been for us both? For Alice she said joining Cisco was a bit like getting on a running machine when it’s already going. I think this is more a reflection of going from 15 hours a week at college to a full time role. I see her studying in the evenings and also on the weekends as she absorbs all this new information.  She certainly recognises that she has the opportunity of a lifetime working for a company such as Cisco and the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world.

For me, I couldn’t be “more proud” to quote the Cisco vernacular. I am proud of Alice and proud to be a part of a company that truly invests in a young, dynamic, and diverse workforce.

The question I get asked most by people when I extol the virtues of the Cisco apprenticeship program is, “Did Alice obtain her apprenticeship because you work at Cisco?”

It’s an obvious question to ask and I always respond by saying that, in a way, she did – because I took advantage of the opportunities that Cisco offers to all our staff to expose our children to IT when young and I was, of course, the one who told her about the programme.

Outside of that, and in terms of everything else, however, that was up to Alice and her performance on the day. Cisco is strictly performance driven in the admissions process. So, of course, Alice achieved this apprenticeship on her own accord as well.

As to the future, I tend to avoid being anywhere near Alice at work. I want to give her space to learn and grow all on her own. After all who wants to see their Dad at work no matter how much you love them? I am just happy that we get to share in these moments together, of sharing laughs while riding in the car to work, and truly loving where we work!

It is so important to me that other Cisco employees know what valuable benefits we have, and I have even emailed my customer’s staff to ensure that they are aware that their children also have access to such a great opportunity! I believe that true equality is about equal access to opportunity – and I believe we are a part of ensuring that happens.

Are you interested in the apprenticeship program? You can find more information here!



Martin Hardy

Partner Account Manager

UK Partner Organisation