Nathan in cap and gown sitting in front of fountain. Each year, at the beginning of the year, many people select one word that will guide them throughout the next twelve months. This word will serve as their inspiration and motivation and will become a bit of a mantra for them.

I can’t say that in January 2020 I had a word. But as March approached, as we slid into the spring months, carried on through the summer months, and fell into fall – it was apparent to me that there was one word that had been with me all along: Resilience.

Resilience became my anthem in 2020. It popped up repeatedly – through my morning Kindle readings and in the numerous podcasts I listened to, and it was also this year that I realized, resilience isn’t something I’m all that new to. 

During my years at university, I had no idea what I wanted to do once I completed my studies. I knew I had an interest in technology, and that it wasn’t just a hobby – but, for me, it was really a way of life. Building computers, playing with broken iPhones, and automating a Raspberry Pi were some of the things I did as an adolescent to keep myself entertained – most of my friends still think the Raspberry Pi is a dessert. Ha! 

When it came time to declare my major at the UW-Milwaukee business school, however, it was simple – I selected IT-Management because it was the only business major offered with a technology component. Still, I had no clue how it was possible to turn my passion for technology into a lifelong career. I was also never a ‘coding guru’ or an expert on any one technology, and so I convinced myself I was at a disadvantage to others who had an area of specialization.  

Nathan and his dad with 3D printed masks.

Cisco proved me wrong on that front though! They embraced my skillset and truly saw something in me, even when I felt I did not have a lot to offer. This was a major step in my journey of understanding resilience. 

From there, I landed the best job in the world here at Cisco as part of the award-winning Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) – I still wonder sometimes how this all happened. 

When I began my journey at Cisco in the Summer of 2019, I had already heard the members of CSAP dubbed as “the best of the best” and “the one percent” during my interview and on-boarding process. I do not feel worthy of these titles, but I know imposter syndrome will always do this to us. This is an inherent emotion from all opportunities earned. So, as I always do, I decided to combat this emotion with thoughtful planning, determination, and an unparalleled work ethic. I’d now argue, those are all ‘resilience’ in motion. 

Then 2020 hit and pushed me back into my childhood home, I quickly spiraled into worry and restlessness due to the uncertainty in the world. It took some time to adjust and process the global events, but when I finally convinced myself to get out of my own way, I became empowered. I immediately realized how fortunate I was, and there it was – waiting for me – my ‘One Word’ of the year: resilience. 

My father (also an IT professional) purchased a 3D printer to experiment with during these months spent primarily at home. At the same time, I learned of a nonprofit volunteer resource that needed face masks for kids and adult volunteers within the community. With that knowledge in hand, I decided to control what I could, and help those in need within my community

Nathan giving thumbs up in front of 3D printer.

Using the 3D printer connected to a – you guessed it! – Raspberry Pi, I was able to automate the printing of face masks. Another benefit of this time was that it created the perfect platform for me to “nerd out” while giving back. 

This year has not been easy for any of us, but my hope is that you will have a moment, now at the end of 2020, to reflect and take away an experience or new skill that can contribute to your overall growth, education or perhaps even your personal brand. 

In continuing to add tools to your belt with every challenge you encounter, despite how big or small the project is, you will be surprised (like I was) at how resilient you are. 

This skill doesn’t happen overnight, and it is one I am still developing, but I am so excited to know that I am starting my career with a company that aligns to my values, is there when people need us, and is resilient even during difficult times. It was this reason alone that Cisco was a top choice for me – but I’m glad to see that it is just the beginning of how we align with one another.  

Now, I suppose it’s time to think of what that ‘One Word’ will be for 2021. 


Ready to take on 2021 together? Apply now. 

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