#WeAreCisco is more than just a hashtag. It really means something, and for us – the humans behind the tech – it’s the 77,000+ unique stories and experiences that are the very heartbeat of Cisco. I knew this was true since my first day as a Cisconian, but it became abundantly clear to me during 2020, a year that none of us could have predicted – a year that, I feel, has brought us even closer together. 

As the social lead for Cisco’s Employee/Employer Brand and the @WeAreCisco social channels, I’m no stranger to amplifying the voices who shares Cisconian’s stories of about bringing our authentic selves to work, work/life integration, and ‘be you, with us’. But, this year, we went even further. This year, it got so much more personal. 

I came back from maternity leave in January 2020, excited to kick off the new year and admittedly anxious about being apart from my baby. The transition was easy, thanks not only to my team, but to all Cisconians. From a co-worker asking how my day was going in the break room, another colleague stopping by my desk to see how the first day of daycare was going, or my own global team reaching out – these interactions mattered, especially for a new mom. 

Then, March 2020 hit. My child’s daycare closed, and we transitioned to fully working from home. Cue the questions – “How will I work and care for him?”, “What will my fellow employees think if he starts crying during the middle of a meeting?”, “How will I be the best employee I can be and the best mom?” I concluded that I couldn’t do this. At least, that was my mentality in the beginning.  

It didn’t stay that way for long because Cisco stepped up big time. Here is a bit of what I experienced this year at Cisco:

1. Cisco truly cares about its employees. From initiatives like “Well-being for Kids” to “Understand Your Emotions – How Are You Feeling?” Cisco ensured we were channeling what we were dealing with. Team fun meetings & virtual happy hours (that had nothing to do with work) were also highly encouraged. Cheers to you, Chuck! 

2. New this year? Cisco gave employees Juneteenth and Election Day off, as well as providing us with multiple opportunities for “A Day for Me,” which was not charged as PTO, but instead, simply a free day off to recharge ourselves.

Jen and her son pose for a photo. Her son has a clown face filter on.

3. We are heard by leadership. No matter your situation, experience or struggles – Cisco had our backs. Emphasis was placed on caregivers, both parents and children, and those who were living (and working) alone.

4. I personally will never forget when our awesome CEO Chuck Robbins said to all managers on a global meeting, “This is an unprecedented situation. Children don’t understand why we go in our offices and close the door. They want to know ‘why aren’t we playing?’ Our leaders need to understand and be flexible. It’s a time where people are going to need incredible flexibility in their schedules where if you’re on a call, and your child needs you – you need to step away from the call, and go take care of your child, and that’s just the world we live in right now.”

5. When Cisconians felt that working from home meant “always on,” leadership encouraged us to take some time off – stepping away from the computer, taking a walk with your dog, or prioritizing self-care were ways many of us re-charged. 

6. Giving back is in our DNA. One way a few of my team members and I helped in the early spring and summer months, was through a virtual giving back event held on Webex where we offered resume advice and tips. Cisco provides employees with five days (40 hours) to give back to any organization that they desire. In 2020, our leadership decided to give five additional days to give back. That speaks volumes. 

 “We’re in this together” might have become the motto of 2020, but it wasn’t new to Cisco. If anything, this year has made us better at what we do and how we do it. We have always had each other’s backs – now, more than ever.  

And, yeah, it’s personal 

I mean, in the year 2020, my colleagues have seen my unfolded laundry in my Webex backgrounds. They have had tours around my house as I try to ensure my child doesn’t scream during a meeting. We’ve seen spouses walk by. Puppies and kittens are always welcome. We met the plant one member of my team was proud of and attended another’s wedding.  

We laughed, and we cried while we embraced each other’s lives outside of the office and beyond the Webex screen. Now, it’s rare for a meeting to dive immediately into the work – instead, we’re taking a few moments to really check in with each other and listen to one another. And that is something I am thankful 2020 gave us. 

2021 is a new year, y’all. And with that, I’m super pumped about what a new year will bring. Cheers to all that we have ahead of us! 


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Jen Burns

Social Media Lead

Employee/r Brand