“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, perfectly captures how I found myself here, in the extraordinary world of Cisco.

Carmen in front of a sign that reads, "Cisco Live!"

I was browsing the shelves of a huge bookstore when suddenly my eyes landed on the CCNA guide preparation books. It felt like a sign from the universe to buy them. Sure, I may not have had all the networking skills at that moment, but I knew I had to take that leap of faith. And guess what? Luck intervened just a few days later when the Cisco Technical Assistance Center opened offices in Mexico City, and a dear friend referred me to a job opportunity there. Talk about perfect timing!

I threw myself into learning the foundational networking concepts, and my programming background gave me an edge. That combination landed me a spot in the awesome Core and Architecture Technology Solutions team, or as we like to call it, CATS. Meow!

When I first joined Cisco and Support Services, I couldn’t shake the nerves of not having enough technical or soft skills. But you know what? I stayed in Support Services for five years, where I discovered a deep love for helping customers overcome challenges and fine-tuning my troubleshooting skills.

Carmen standing in front of a wall that reads, "Welcome Region Ambassadors to Cisco Rocks!"But, the biggest surprise of my career came when I entered to win a chance to attend Cisco Rocks — an event thanking CEO John Chambers for his 20 years of leadership, welcoming Chuck Robbins in as the new CEO, and introducing the new Executive Leadership Team. I submitted a video in a contest through our Employee Communications website, and before I knew it, I was selected as a winner and on the trip of a lifetime with 30 other Cisconians from across the globe in the midst of a grand celebration at the legendary 49ers stadium with famous pop stars singing and getting to know our Executive Leadership Team. In those moments, I truly grasped the essence of Cisco, realizing that it was more than just solving support cases — it was about the incredible people, making meaningful connections, and nurturing a vibrant community.

That trip sparked a fire in me.

Getting out of my bubble in Mexico City, I saw what other Cisconians were accomplishing professionally, personally, and in the spaces where both worlds come together. Through that, I discovered my true passion — empowering people to unleash their potential and removing the roadblocks to their growth. This newfound flame led me to evolve from an early-grade Customer Support Engineer to a Global Support Escalation Manager, all thanks to the support of my leaders, sponsors, and Cisco itself. They provided me with incredible opportunities, including financing my MBA studies at EGADE Business School and attending sessions at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and Yale School of Management. Talk about a transformative experience!

Over time, I’ve connected even more with Cisco culture, especially through my involvement in groups like Women of Cisco and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). These communities have become a safe haven, inspiring me to give back to other girls and women. I became co-lead of the WISE Chapter in LATAM, where we invite new voices into the STEM world to reduce the gender gap and show girls that they can achieve anything. And when the pandemic hit, I created the Women Accelerator Program within Women of Cisco Mexico to foster connections and facilitate professional development. Together, we’ve formed a beautiful sense of belonging.

Carmen and a colleague wearing "We Are Cisco" shirts.Throughout my journey, I’ve remained passionately dedicated to Cisco and the concepts championed by its visionary leadership that I got to see firsthand on that life-changing trip. The Conscious Culture, guiding principles, Cisco values, and our purpose of “powering an inclusive future for all” have all inspired my personal growth and allowed me to foster a safe and nurturing environment within my team and the groups I’m a part of. Cisco isn’t just a company to me — it’s a part of my family, embracing my husband and our corgi babies, too.

So why am I sharing this story with you? Simple. I am overflowing with gratitude after ten years of belonging to this amazing company. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this extraordinary organization, but more importantly, I am grateful for the incredible friendships I’ve formed along the way. I am thankful for the amazing team I’ve had the privilege to lead. I am thankful for all the lessons, advice, and laughter. And most of all, I am thankful for the people who have inspired me to become the best version of myself.

Imagine being part of a company that not only accepts you for who you are but also challenges you to continuously strive for personal and professional growth. That, my friends, is the magic of Cisco.

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Carmen Rios

Global Leader, Escalation Support