After working in technology for 15 years, I had what many may call a mid-life crisis. Although, not in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, I started to question my purpose and the direction of my life – and began to wonder if I should leave my career in technology to become a part of something bigger.
I wondered if I could do more by focusing exclusively on community service.
I reflected on my early days of joining Cisco and how, as a service-orientated person with a background in social entrepreneurship, I was in awe of the genuine work going towards community development from a corporation of Cisco’s size. It struck a chord in me, even then, and pushed me to take responsibility for coordinating CSR activities in Chennai, India.
For a time, there was a team of four ‘CSR Champions’ who frequently organized community outreach events and garnered employee participation. But as time went by, the four member team became a team of one – leaving me to carry on this amazing program alone.
Of course, other colleagues gave me a morale boost when I needed it most. And we were able to continue our CSR programs with “Girls Power Technology” and our “Sea Cleanup Drive” – amongst others.
But, still, I wondered if I could be doing more if I ‘gave up’ technology.
One of my favorite aspects of Cisco’s culture is that employees are provided a support system and that often includes people with different backgrounds and points of view. Because of this initiative, I have a wonderful mentor named Punam Nagpal.
Punam has a magic about her that can show others a new perspective, and when I shared my concerns with her – she reminded me how technology and giving back, especially when you work at Cisco, go hand-in-hand.
Because of our conversation, I saw my role in a new light. It’s because of Cisco that I’ve been empowered to not only grow my interest in community service and make a measurable difference in our community – but I’ve been encouraged to grow my career as a woman in engineering simultaneously.
Suddenly, I was convinced that I did not have to choose between my two passions – but that Cisco wanted me to contribute equally to both technology and giving back, and they’ve given me the tools to do just that! In using Cisco’s volunteer match, donation match, and yearly volunteer hours (we’re given 5 days each year to give back to organizations we’re most passionate about) – I’m able to make an amazing difference in my community.
Recently, I organized an event in Chennai where 20 Cisco volunteers spent time engaging and playing with special needs children at SPASTN (Spastics Society of TamilNadu) during our year end CSR activity. I saw so many smiles that day, and we were able to donate $1000 to SPASTN – in large part because of Cisco’s Match program for employees.
Again, I was reminded of how powerful it is when the worlds of technology and giving back collide.
15 years into my technology career, I can honestly say I have never experienced a company like Cisco, which strongly advocates and promotes contributing to community development. More importantly, Cisco is a company that encourages ALL employees to participate in community activities through funding programs and volunteering.
It’s not just lip-service or marketing – but a real part of our culture that has strong roots throughout our leadership and global teams.
I feel empowered and confident that by being a Cisco #WomanInTech, I can make a real difference in my technology career as well as fulfilling my social responsibility to make this world a better place. Working at Cisco enables me to make this a reality.
Ready to work for a company that cares? In 2019 Cisco’s CSR report showed 447,935 hours were volunteered by employees and an amazing $25.5 million was donated to charities by employees directly or through Cisco matching funding. We’re hiring. Apply now.
Wonderful. Thanks for all you do for Cisco and for the world, Vidhya. Punam is amazing too.
Way to go, Vidhya. I’m so glad that you are staying within Technology and at the same time leading a meaningful and purposeful life. I’m sure you will also inspire others to follow your footsteps. It’s important of us women to not leave Technology. If we stay, we will be role models for our future generation to lead a balanced life and at the same time solve gender diversity problem within Tech sector.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, Vidha! #WeAreCisco Giving Back #LoveWhereYouWork
Great Vidhya, truly inspiring !!!!
Appreciate your passion in giving back to the society !!
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story Vidhya!
We all need to be reminded that it doesn’t have to be “either or” and we all have to be reminded to “just do it!”
Nice Work Vidhya!
Good spirit and kudos to you both and Cisco as well !
My best wishes to get this going consistently.
Really Inspiring Vidhya! Awesome!
Thank you Vidhya for sharing this beautiful story. I also felt I had a mid-life crisis but, as you very well described, it was just a moment to re-think our purpose in life. I felt very touched and identified with your story.
Few years ago, I was going through a similar phase where I questioned myself which way I should go: stay at Cisco or move to Environmental companies to fulfill my passion and background in Nature Conservation? But then, a new CSR project in Amsterdam office kicked off (Amsterdam Cisco Connected Bees) with the aim to help understanding Bees decline using technology. And there, I saw the light: the two paths were crossing.
From that moment on, my volunteering hours and efforts would go around awareness sessions, Tech-Hackathons, employee activities with Dutch community/NGOs. Also, the project leader at that time (Matthieu Minguet) was key to remind us that with Cisco, we don’t need to choose between two paths, and that we can combine our work and our passion to give back to this World.
This project and his leadership kept me inspired, motivated, proud to be part of that project, and proud to belong to this company that makes it all possible.
Thanks a lot Sus, I am glad that my story resonated with yours. Thanks for sharing your story as well, its inspiring! As you rightly mentioned, working at Cisco gives us the opportunity to take our passion and work together.
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