You may have heard about Cisco’s incredible dedication to giving back – so much so, that they don’t just match our dollars and hours volunteered to approved organizations, but they give each employee five days (separate from our PTO) to volunteer in ways we’re most passionate about.

A white coffee mug with The Big Issue slogan 'A hand up, not a handout' in red on the side.

It’s an amazing gift, but also one that can be a bit overwhelming when you see your fellow co-workers taking trips to far-flung countries to help build homes, or energetically giving relief to those most in need.

What happens if those things feel out of reach for you? Many of us have young children or are possibly taking care of ill family members. Maybe you have an injury yourself or are simply too busy. I hear you, brethren.

As I type this, I am four weeks away from having my first baby (a frightening fact to read back) and I am at the point where my husband is covertly packing the hospital notes in my bag every time I leave the house. I have also passed the point of bashful with my London Underground ‘Baby on Board’ badge. I want your seat.

Knowing that in 2019, I only managed to volunteer for one of my five days, and that I was about to lose my chance to give back in 2020 with fast-approaching maternity leave– I reassessed what was in both my capability and my skillset.

Although my day job is in Cybersecurity Sales, I have two English degrees behind me (show off), so I ferreted in the shadows of LinkedIn until eventually I found the jackpot – a connection who worked with the founder of the magazine, The Big Issue.

And, as is the way with social media and the internet – a few email chains later, I found myself stepping into the fresh breeze of Glasgow, Scotland – ready for five days with the editorial team behind The Big Issue.

Liz smiles with Jason, one of the sellers of The Big Issue.

What is it?: The Big Issue is a social enterprise empowering the homeless to earn through legitimate means by selling the weekly Big Issue magazine. The 1991 founder has a knighthood and its magazine is a British institution, inspiring 120 similar magazines across 35 countries. Content ranges from mainstream topics and reviews, to focussed commentary on social action and political change.

Alright, but what did I actually do? The week consumed me – from Monday’s idea-pitching, to forming stories and interviewing, to combing through the content before it went to press. My step-count might have been a joke, but my brain was overloaded at the end of each day.

In my eight years at Cisco, I’ve changed and grown. I’m filled with more confidence and focus, and this was something I could bring to The Big Issue.

As you can imagine, the team is stretched. So, producing content ideas and five pieces of writing genuinely made a difference to meeting print deadlines, and getting the magazine into the hands of the sellers.

The issue I worked on even includes a feature I wrote about the correlation between big companies giving back, and their employees’ happiness. I talk openly about Cisco’s symbiotic relationship with the Trussell Trust (our sensible partnering means that together we better tackle poverty), and why providing volunteer hours to employees links those same employees to productivity and satisfaction.

The Editor said to me, “Hold on, you work at the #1 World’s Best Workplace?”

Erm, yes.

I am proud to work at Cisco because they realize that giving back works for everyone, and as I spring back to my final weeks at Cisco before going out on leave, I feel hugely grateful, inspired, and motivated.

All this to say, you can give back in SO many different ways. Please don’t feel limited in your efforts to change the world – it’s not cheating if you’re sitting down, if it’s a local event, or if you think you might actually enjoy it. It’s a benefit, to you – to Cisco – and to the world! So, take a good look at your strengths and do something you love – both for work, and for giving back.

Want to work for a company that encourages you to give back? We’re hiring. Apply now.


Liz Cook

Global Partner Account Manager

Sales (Global Service Provider)