Over my 16 year career as a Soldier in the US Army I was driven by competition on a daily basis, and was also active in a variety of sports from basketball and softball to running. Competition drives me to be better than I was the day before.
In 2003, however, I was injured in Iraq during a fire fight that resulted in permanent damage to my knee, and at the end of my career the injury began to impact my ability to be competitive. When you go from fully capable to disabled, it can take a toll on you mentally and emotionally.
Luckily, I’ve found new ways to remain competitive as a TAC Engineer at Cisco on the Enterprise Route and Switch team! On this team I’m challenged daily with the chance to help solve customers’ circumstances. And in 2016, I was also afforded the opportunity to participate as an athlete for the Valor Games.
The Valor Games helped me to understand that a disability doesn’t mean you are limited nor does it define who you are. Thanks to the Valor Games, I learned that the “customary” way of competing isn’t the only way.
What are the Valor Games? Its three days of spirited competition in 11 sports (like wheel chair basketball, rowing, archery, and cycling) between Veterans and members of the Armed Forces with disabilities from around the United States. National coaches and experts in each sport are also available to educate, evaluate, and empower as we descend upon the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area in North Carolina.
The perseverance that I have gained from competing in the Valor Games has allowed me to grow in a new area of expertise – Network Engineering – and strive to become the best version of myself that I can be, both here at Cisco and in my personal life too.
I’ve also realized that the Army, Cisco, and the Valor Games all have values that build on each other. Values are a key component to our lives, and the Army focuses on them daily. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are all values in others that I’ve become accustomed to working with. I was worried after transitioning out of the Army that I wouldn’t find these same types of values that I had found in my fellow soldiers.
Teamwork was especially important to me as it is required within a squad and vital to success. Cisco and my colleagues here have shown that I had nothing to worry about. I’m exceptionally thankful that I have discovered that same style of teamwork and values at Cisco.
Cisco is one of the finest assembly of engineers anyone could ask to work for, and I am proud to work alongside such an incredibly talented, dedicated group.
3 takeaways I’ve learned from the Army, Cisco, and the Valor Games:
1.Success isn’t rewarding if it’s easy – Life will set you back and make you work harder than you ever have worked, but pushing past those limits and barriers to win is a much better feeling than winning when it comes easily.
2.There is always another way – Door after door will close on you, but if you can’t get through the door – try the window. There is always another way to achieve the goals you set! Don’t let failure trigger pessimism – just look for the next path or road to take to get you to where you want to be.
3.Failure is the path to success – Thomas Edison had a saying “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways it will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Use this saying to your advantage! If something doesn’t work according to plan, it’s not a failure – it’s a learning. Learn what you need to learn, and grow from there.
Two years later after beginning with the Valor Games, it’s been amazing to continue giving back to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms. I love being given the opportunity to help others going through similar situations realize that there is hope for their future and the only limitation is the one you place on yourself.
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