This post was written by Cisco marketing intern Sang Le.

On my first day at Cisco, I could tell I was different. As the first and only female Marketing Intern for Cisco Cloud Security – I stuck out like a sore thumb alongside the 100+ software engineers I worked with in Vancouver, Canada.

Sang does a "thumbs-up" pose with a peer in front of a Cisco sign.I thought between my gender, role, and background – I was just too different. Heck, it didn’t even seem like we spoke the same language as they focused on C++ and Python and all I had was English. Despite the team’s incredibly warm welcome, I thought to myself during that very first week, “I don’t think I’ll ever fit in…”

I was soon proven otherwise, however! Fast forward three months, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Let me tell you why:

1. Everything is ambiguous, but ambiguity means ownership – Being the first ever Marketing Intern in the Cloud Security business here in Vancouver, there was no structure to shape my path, or an abundance of duties right from the get-go. I came in expecting that I would be doing whatever was asked of me, but instead, I carved my own path, and dabbled in other opportunities I never expected to have.

I was able to work with international teams, spreading from San Francisco to London, from marketing operations projects to content writing. I also experienced the work of a junior accountant by reconciling payments that go into Cisco financial statements. Most notably, I made a direct impact on thousands of people by strategizing a new local marketing plan and improved the Cultural Onboarding process across three North American offices.

When embraced, ambiguity is one of the most powerful tools to open opportunities, and Cisco has provided me just that.

2. You’re always outside of your comfort zone, and that’s great – Prior to Cisco, I was only ever familiar with turning human insights into viable business strategies and marketing a product to customers. I never knew about the hard work in between, where software engineers would bridge ideas and reality by constructing insanely complex infrastructures. Realizing how much there is to learn, I was really pushed outside of my comfort zone.

Sang's peers sitting in kayaks holding oars on a river

I remember in my first week, I went through dozens of documents and 101-level videos just to wrap my head around different words I had never even heard of, such as “secured internet gateways” or “virtual machines”. I was desperately trying to connect the dots. Even now, I still have to occasionally ask people (who will always happily and patiently help) or look up a concept’s crash course – but I am luckily grasping things much faster!

It was a steep learning curve where I was constantly pushed to educate myself, but as Confucius once said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” I truly believe that as employees in the ever-changing field of technology and as human beings in general, we only get better by continuously pushing ourselves to grow beyond our comfort zone.

3. You will learn that your differences make you stronger – It is human nature to seek for a sense of belonging. However, in an office where I was the minority in all aspects, I didn’t feel fully in my element. I had a major presumption that at big corporations like Cisco, relationships could only be strictly professional, and with all communication assumed to be work-related, I struggled to find similarities with other people. Little did I know, with everyone being insanely welcoming and open, our differences soon became interesting conversation starters and educational discussions, instead of a roadblock.

Sang's peers in a kayak overlooking Vancouver.

Inspired to get to know my colleagues beyond just the work we did, I started going to every social event possible, forming group lunches, and reaching out to chat with Cisconians in other offices. Because of my unique situation, I got invited to spearhead a sales initiative with some interns of another Cisco office and received direct lessons from various Revenue Marketing leads. Coolest of all, I received the opportunity to write this blog post and share my experience with you!

Without the initial confusion of trying to figure out where I belonged, I wouldn’t have realized that at Cisco, genuine relationships do exist. By embracing your differences, you have the power to make Cisco a better place with more diversity and collaboration.

As my internship is coming to an end, I couldn’t have been more grateful for this top-notch experience. I learned a ton, all while having a tremendously awesome time exploring my potentials – Cisco really showed me that you can #LoveWhereYouWork!

Want to be a Cisco Intern? We’re hiring! Apply now.