5 people sit around the Cisco logo outside.I Failed. Two years ago, I had the greatest disappointment of my life by tripping at the finish line and failing to get my dream job.

As a fresh graduate of the University of Maryland in 2019, I had applied to Cisco for a role as a Sales Engineer in their award-winning Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP). The interview process spanned several months and included a 30-second intro video submission, a technical video presentation, a 3-tiered technical assessment and interview, a behavioral interview, and a full-day Assessment Center.

After receiving an invitation to the assessment center, I was flown out to Research Triangle Park, NC (RTP) to test in person for the role and meet the other finalists. We were told to be proud of our achievement as simply making it to the Assessment Center part of the process meant we had beaten out over 20,000+ other applicants.

But all I felt as I looked across the room was guilt and apprehension. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be in my seat. I was an average student (if even), failed several of my classes, and was even placed on academic probation my freshman year. I didn’t have any ‘name brand’ internships and now…I was suddenly interviewing at one of the world’s best places to work.

As imposter syndrome set in, my self-doubt got the best of me. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I was rejected. The managers of the Assessment Center were kind and offered me feedback, they told me I had the technical aptitude, but I was too stiff and scripted. They just couldn’t get a feel for who I was beyond my technical skillset.

I was devastated and took the loss hard. I was also angry at myself. I tried so hard to be perfect and provide what I thought would be the right answer that I forgot the most important thing…I needed to be myself, and because I wasn’t – I had lost out on a dream opportunity.

Joseph works on his laptop while sitting on a rock.

But my Cisco journey didn’t end there!

Over the years I was able to grow in another pre-sales role and do what I loved. Under the guidance of my mentors, I learned to self-reflect and figure out what I valued and how to build my personal brand; I’m creative, loyal, supportive, and have a horrible love for bad puns.

With this new outlook on what I brought to the table, I re-applied to Cisco. But this time I was determined to just have fun with it. When asked why I wanted the role I was easily able to share my passions and what excited me. I love sales because I love sharing stories and developing connections. I love technology because it’s always evolving and it challenges me to keep learning.

Being in a role where I can be customer-facing and build relationships, but still explore my passions in tech…that was my dream. And Folks, I got the job!

In the brief time that I’ve been at Cisco, I have been able to connect with my amazing peers and the leaders of my CSAP cohort, I passed the CCNA, and I continue to build and grow myself – both professionally and personally. Every day, I’m more and more excited about my future. I’m proud that I didn’t let tripping at the finish line once stop me from getting back up again.

To anyone who’s ever struggled with self-doubt, just know you’re not alone. Your failures don’t define you, so don’t be afraid to try again when the time is right.

You are worthy of self-love and deserve to be here!


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Joseph Thomas

Associate Systems Engineer