It’s Cold. It’s Dark. It’s the middle of Nowhere. And somewhere out there is a mountain. At any moment I will begin a twisty, turvy, challenging journey – that includes running 100 miles all at once. Sometimes I wonder what I’m even doing out there, but then I remember it’s a lot like my life – and my career journey to Cisco as a Sales Engineering Leader on our Global Demo Engineering Team.

Christine and a co-worker during an outdoor challenge.

How are these two things similar? Easy. Both require persistence, adaptability, and ingenuity – and knowing that with every step taken, you’re a step ahead of where you were before. My hobby of running Ultra-Marathons is not normal, and neither was my path to becoming an engineer at Cisco.

Out of high school I joined the U.S. Navy to see the world – I was the 10th female nuclear welder ever to work on submarines where I developed precision, skill, and discipline. And that took me one more step forward.

After transitioning to civilian life, college was in my future where I majored in Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and graduated Magna Cum Laude. I was the first in my family to chart this new course – and another bold step was taken.

During my time at NCSU, I was fortunate enough to be in a Cisco Co-Op doing rack/stack/cable/configure with the Customer Proof of Concept Center (CPOC) in Raleigh, NC. It was an amazing opportunity to learn about everything Cisco makes and how we connect with our customers. This place – the people – had a profound impact on me. And as far as introductions to Cisco go, I was hooked.

After I finished with school, I found my way back to Cisco where I experienced new roles that took me through a variety of engineering opportunities where I was able to grow my career at Cisco each time. I’ve gotten to work on many cool and impactful initiatives from being a part of building what is now Customer Experience (CX) Academy to leading the next wave of Co-Ops and engineers for CPOCs around the world. Being a part of something bigger – where we make technical possibilities a reality – has been so rewarding. I just love when Cisco engineers and customers come together!

And, of course, I met new people. It was here, in fact, that I met the Cisconians who inspired me to get involved with challenges like running marathons, Ironman, and Ultra-Marathons. So, I have them to thank for those cold, dark, middle-of-nowhere, running 100-miles moments, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. A great perk of Cisco’s flexibility is that I can take the time to train for these ultra-events and since we have 40 hours of volunteer time each year, I can also volunteer to clean trash on 14er trails.

Running these marathons, like our work at Cisco, clearly takes persistence where you must adapt and have ingenuity to deal with the challenges and obstacles that you face. My colleagues have been the confidence boost along the way to remind me that I can do just that – whether we’re at work or taking on an Ultra-Marathon.

Something else that is similar – neither life nor your career come with a map. Ultra-Marathons don’t have a map either – everyone must find their own way. There are, however, some guides along the journey. They’re confidence markers, that help you to know that you’re headed the right way. In a race, it is literally a sign. In my life and career at Cisco, it’s been the people who helped shine a light and give an encouraging boost.

Like a trail, sometimes you wind your way back. And I am now, once again, in the CPOC as the Global Lead for this service where I get to help grow and develop others. Yep, you guessed it – another step taken.

As I look to the future, I am reminded of how my journey to this point has shaped me – the places, the people. You don’t just run 100 miles on a whim. You plan. You train. You learn. You adjust. You keep taking steps, and one-by-one, day-by-day – you cross the finish line.


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Christine Strom

Leader, Systems Engineering

CPOC & Data