Growing up in Augusta, G.A., my parents only saw one path for me. They thought that sending me to college to earn a degree for a specific profession was the best way to prepare me for the real world. At the time, the South was still racially divided, and the potential for success for a woman of color like me was limited. So, I tried to follow the path my parents wanted for me and enrolled at the University of South Carolina. I found myself in an auditorium full of strangers listening to a professor talk about things that did not interest me at all. I couldn’t connect to the experience and had no one to walk me through it, so I left to make my own way.
I tried multiple careers and was able to make a comfortable living for myself and my family, but I still felt stuck. I was not growing. I love to learn. That’s what energizes me, but I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. And then, I was introduced to Cisco through the OneTen program, actually, through someone I had previously hired. I looked it up, and those words spoke to me at the right time. “Great jobs for Black talent. No degree required.”
Up until my interview with Cisco, when I went to an interview, I wore my best suit and made sure that my makeup was done to present the best version of myself, but there was something different with this position. When I read the job description, it said, “Like polka dots?” I love polka dots. “Blue hair? Don’t care.” That sounds like the girl that I am. So, I interviewed wearing a t-shirt from Wal-Mart, and I had a headwrap on. I have never, ever interviewed like that in my entire career. I was blown away when I had an offer that day.
I learned from that interview that Cisco and OneTen are looking at the skillset and all the extra … who cares? And I appreciated that opportunity.
Now I’m with a company that invests in me. Cisco not only hired me but empowers me. They give me the tools I need to succeed in my career, the skills I need to grow, and even assign me a mentor who helps me find the next door to open. I’m learning so much now. Me and my OneTen cohorts, we’re on a pathway, and they’re asking us, “Where do you want to be in a year? In two years? Where do you see yourself down the road? What can we do to make that happen?” Cisco wants you to succeed. They’ll pay for your classes, certifications, and advancement, and they mean that. They are here to support you in so many ways. I’ve never been a part of something like that.
Everyone on my team has taken a different path to get here, but we show up each day to work hard and learn, and we all bring valuable skills and new perspectives to the table, even without college degrees. What makes us different than Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates? When people come together and talk, beautiful things happen. We just need the opportunity to be put in front of the right people. The leadership team at Cisco gets it and provides that opportunity.
My biggest takeaway since joining Cisco is knowing that there are great companies and great people out there. So, if you’re thinking about changing your career, don’t be afraid. Take a look at Cisco and take a look at the OneTen program because the two of them together have certainly made a tremendous difference in my life.
Ready to grow your career with us? Apply now.