Group of Cisconians holding Cisco flag standing outside shelter. When choosing a place to work, it’s not only about the job itself and the compensation package. It is equally important for me to work somewhere where my values are shared and supported. I found that here at Cisco.

This past August, the Women of Cisco Inclusive Community (also known as an Employee Resource Organization) organized a four-day trip to Bieszczady National Park, a unique natural gem in Southeastern Poland, where we volunteered to clean and restore the natural landscape around the iconic shelter, Chatka Puchatka.

I knew I had to go. This region is close to my heart—my husband’s family comes from here. We often travel to this park, and I already know the trails. We would be giving back to a place I call home. Also, I have always been a nature person, and this is one of the few unique places where nature is still left relatively untouched. And I would get to build connections with new, amazing people at Cisco in the process.

The shelter was built during World War II, and our group participated in the most recent upgrade, cleaning roughly 500 kilograms of garbage from the construction site. Once the land was clean, we prepared the soil to restore the natural landscape. To do this, we collected hay and priceless wild plant seeds to put in layers on the prepared area. We listened with curiosity to the shelter’s workers explaining how valuable the seeds are. It is incredible to think that a small piece of grass we’re used to seeing everywhere costs a fortune to replant! We learned so much about how fragile nature is, and it encouraged us to be more careful of how we treat it.

During our four days there, we hiked to the 1228 meter altitude of Chatka Puchatka every morning, observing nature and paying attention to the smallest details. In the mountains, the weather changes rapidly, and we were lucky to watch the storms pass over the hills while we stood in the warmth of the sun. We saw how the clouds were forming with water evaporating from the depths of the forest. We witnessed a double rainbow appear right in front of us, and it felt like we could almost touch it. August is also one of the months of the Perseid meteor shower, which is best observed away from city lights, and Bieszczady is one of the darkest places in Poland. Being completely surrounded by nature, we were able to be mindful, build awareness, pause, and reflect.

Gloved hand holding plants with blue sky and mountains in backgroundI’ve been undertaking daily mindfulness for the last three years, and this journey was a fantastic opportunity to go deeper into the practice. We even had two participants among us who have their own yoga school, so every morning before breakfast, we practiced meditation, deep stretching, and breathing with professionals. Attention to breathing during hiking, focusing my eyes on the plains to find the exact pieces of wild plants, or pausing and putting my whole mind into taking in the sunshine during a quick break between work was all a part of the meditation practice. Being away from the city noise was so restorative for my mental and physical health that when I got back, I felt like I was away for much longer than those four days. 

But the best part of the trip was connecting with one another. Our group had 14 Cisconians from six different countries: Vietnam, Russia, India, Portugal, Ukraine, and Poland. As we did our daily activities, we learned about each other’s countries and cultures. At night by the fire, we sang each country’s most popular songs—mispronouncing the words and offbeat, but having fun! All of us were from different teams across Cisco, so we shared our journeys and unique stories of joining the company. (Maybe you’ll see them here sometime.)

This whole amazing experience had such a powerful, positive impact on my life and wouldn’t have been possible without Cisco, where we’re encouraged to take time off to give back to causes that we are passionate about. Among many other things that Cisco offers, there is Time2Give: five days (extended to 10 through 2023) on top of our paid time off for employees to use for activities positively impacting nature and our communities. It’s one of the many ways I feel my values are shared and supported within this company.

I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of the spring when the plants we planted will grow, and I am looking forward to my next Cisco journey!

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Maria Klimova

Technical Recruiter

People & Communities