Each blog post on We Are Cisco usually tells the story from one employee, but this is a story with two viewpoints, so it’s written in a conversation format. This post is co-authored by Tracy Dunn and Tikayla Downing, a mother & daughter working at Cisco, who recently were one of our #WeAreCisco #LoveWhereYouWork photo contest winners for the This Is Connection category.

Tikayla: When my mom went to college, she ended the cycle for the Downings and gave the entire family hope.

Tracy: When Tikayla first shared those words with me last year, I was working on my career story for the Cisco’s Connected Black Professional Talent Expo; a platform for employees and senior leaders to connect and build relationships while learning about career opportunities.

Her words emanated from a place of gratitude and a heart flowing with transparency because, deep down, the struggles our family wrestled with for decades were making an exodus.

I am the first in my family to venture away from the village of Cofield to traverse the path of a post-secondary education. I wanted what was best, not just better, for my children without exception. I have always felt like I had something to prove, maybe not to them, but to me. I grew up with an anemic feeling of self-worth, as if I was not good enough, and I did not want that burden on my children. I shunned myself from daring to share my age until I was well into my 30’s.

As a young Black family, we were one of the few regardless of the environment. Therefore, it was totally unacceptable for either of us to leave the house “not well-dressed.” We represented each other everywhere; whether the classroom, work, or the grocery store, we always knew all eyes were on us even if people attempted to camouflage their stares. A stereotypical statistic on the outside of what curious eyes could already behold would not be added to the disgrace that resided in my mind.

Tikayla: Mom raised my brother and I as a very young single mother. She consistently instilled in us the desire to excel beyond the limitations that society rested on us. I can recall the numerous times that she told us, “I do not care if your life desire is to be a janitor, you be the best janitor you can be.”  We were constantly reminded that the only competition that we needed to be focused on is within and we saw that truth illuminated in mom’s life. There is a certain kind of humility and drive birthed in you when your mom’s motivation originated from her wanting the best life for herself.

But what happens when both of your lives take the same unwarranted turn simultaneously?

On March 15, 2019, we found ourselves without jobs, but not without hope. This was a beautiful dispensation where we shared a special bond in going through similar storms, yet at very different seasons of our lives. Mom was a mid-career financial professional while I was an early in career professional not having any clue what my next role would look like.

Being unemployed is never easy because you are without knowledge as to how long it will take to land your next job. We had a myriad of conversations about future roles and companies, but one ideal was non-negotiable for us – we wanted the ability and environment to be our authentic selves in a company where diversity is a priority and not just a statement on the website.

Tracy: Cisco was our “dream” company. Yes, literally. Tikayla had a dream one night of us working here. With much fasting and prayer, I landed a role at Cisco as a Finance Manager and Tikayla joined a little over a year later as a contractor. But in less than four months of starting her role, Tikayla became a full time Customer Success Manager!

We are now a part of a world completely different than the one we were reared. The Raleigh, North Carolina campus population is vastly larger than the town we are from!

Tikayla: Cisco is far removed from any company that we have ever worked at. We are constantly sharing all things Cisco with our friends and family. They are probably tired of hearing about it! But we are thankful to be at a company that walks the walk; one that we can be proud to serve at while being unapologetically ourselves and support the purpose to power and inclusive future for all.

Tracy: Tikayla and I work at the #1 World’s Best Workplace and #1 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in the United Sates. We not only share the titles of mother and daughter – but we have a name that only those working alongside us at this incredible organization can be termed: Cisconians!

Tikayla: Without a doubt, Cisco is where employees, like us, make the impossible possible.


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Tikayla Downing

Customer Success Manager

Webex Partner Success