Jen and Ileana wearing masks.I could finally call myself a Cisconian, and yet I wasn’t sure what to expect. My manager, Carmen, set me up with a “lunch buddy” for my first day. Which, from an introvert’s perspective, is terrifying.

What if this person was awkward? What if I’m awkward? What if we have nothing in common? I’d prefer to eat lunch by myself, thank you. But, sometimes, we introverts need that friendly push. I persevered and showed up in Café 5 at the RTP campus (in Raleigh, NC) with my pre-packed lunch in hand. (Who does that on their first day? #NerdAlert)

I never knew that meeting Ileana – who is my now teammate and best friend – would turn into a lifelong friendship and our kids growing up together. She came to have lunch with me and be my “buddy” that day, and it didn’t take long for us to hit it off while finding a lot of common ground. After over an hour of very easy conversation, we ended up scheduling regular meet-ups, which turned into a two-way mentorship about our careers and learnings. While we were at different stages in our careers, we both benefited from sharing our experiences with each other. A win/win!

Fast forward to us both being pregnant at the same time, on the same team. Luck would have it that we nearly “high-fived” each other in transition, with me coming back from maternity leave when Ileana was going out on maternity leave. (Carmen & team, you can thank us later for not being out at the same time – although we know you all would’ve had our backs no matter what!)

Together, we’ve learned so much. Becoming first time moms and having each other not only as work colleagues but as a sounding board on some of the hardest times with our boys. Working mom life is no joke and the support system that I have really speaks to the culture of Cisco. Ileana and I are part of two Webex groups, which allow us to build community with other parents at Cisco: “Parents of Toddlers” and “Working Moms Coffee Chat” which have allowed us to connect with other Cisconians who are experiencing life with us. I love that it’s encouraged to get connected at Cisco with others in the communities that you’re interested in or are relevant to you.

Jen and Ileana's sons riding in a play car together.When we’re not out there building the next great idea for Cisco, Ileana and I now spend some of our weekends together, catching up on work and life at the playground in the early morning hours, while watching our boys play and grow up together. It all started with a simple lunch and taking the time to get to know someone new. I’m so glad that day I put on my “extrovert” attitude or else I would have missed out.

Full transparency, prior to joining Cisco, I thought “Be you, with us” must just be the tagline. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a way of life. It’s who we are as Cisconians. We can truly show up and be our authentic selves every single day – no matter what ‘life moment’ we’re in – and that helps us to connect further and find our people.

So, take the lunch date. Go after that new role (at Cisco, of course!). Try something new.

You never know what you’ll find!


Ready to be you, with us? Check out our careers!



Jen Burns

Social Media Lead

Employee/r Brand