This post was written by Cisco Intern, Leigh Causey.

From an early age, I have always loved expressing myself.  At my very first job in retail at the age of 15, I developed a love for vibrant hair colors.  Colorful hair lets me express who I am without using words: which is bright, colorful, and ever changing.

I also remember the first job I had where I was asked to change who I am because my blonde tips did not “fit the company brand.”  It made me question so much about this company, but mostly I wondered why they couldn’t accept me for who I am.

Leigh smiles as she proudly shows off her colorful red hair.

After that experience, I sought to break the barriers of “corporate normality” – there had to be a place out there that would embrace me completely.

In my daily life, I am a proud black woman who is queer.  I have tattoos and usually colorful hair.  My looks are not the traditional norm, but normal – to me – is boring.  Who sparks a conversation by being ordinary?  Dr. Seuss said it best, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

As a person who is actively part of the LGBTQ+ community and a southerner there have been many times where I felt I didn’t belong – to the point where I had to hide pieces of myself and my identity.  When it came time to interview at Cisco, I was filled with joy – but, I was also nervous that I would have to protect portions of myself at this large corporate technology company.

I looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh no! I have green hair and tattoos!  Will they accept me? Will I be judged?”  In a panic, I dyed the green out of my hair.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into my interview only to see the Cisco employee that was conducting this very interview had green hair themselves!

In that moment, it dawned on me that I could have just been myself.

I laugh about it now, but it led me to ask the questions – “Why change ourselves?  Why aren’t our work results and talents enough?”

I was thrilled when I received an offer to come and work for Cisco, and within my first few weeks I realized this is a place for people like me.  My office was filled with so many different people – from those with tattoos and vibrant hair to LGTBQ+ members and beyond.  I quickly joined three Employee Resource Organizations (ERO) that share aspects of my identity, and love being a part of our Pride, Connected Women, and Connected Black Professionals teams.

I was enamored and couldn’t believe there was a place out there for people who simply want to do amazing work, with incredible technology, all while being themselves – and at Cisco, we are all truly encouraged to “be you, with us.”

Leigh is showing some of her arm tattoo in a Cisco shirt while at a Durham Bulls baseball game.

I’ve now seen the openness Cisco has and what they represent.  As a young professional, I know most people don’t go after the jobs they want because they are scared or don’t know if they will fit in with that company’s culture.  I challenge you to STAND OUT, and in the words of a fellow Cisconian Mark J. Murphy, “Be bold!”

Your talents and unique qualities make you who you are, and you are an asset to the professional world.  Don’t be afraid to show the world that different is fantastic and still gets amazing results!  Making the workplace more inclusive shows the world for what it is, a diverse place with diverse people who collaborate together for greatness.  Our differences make us stronger, and I am proud to say that I have found this to be true at Cisco.

Ready to join us?  We’re hiring.  Apply now.