With how heavy the world has been feeling lately, it has been easy to ‘hate’ on 2020. I have become overwhelmed by it all at times, but one of the best ways to ground myself has been to reflect on what I am grateful for.  

Rachel in cap and gown in front of Ohio State building.

As we head into the Thanksgiving break here in the states, I wanted to share what I am thankful for – even in a year that has challenged us all in so many ways. 

1. Coworkers that have become friends: Starting a new job in a new city is hard for anyone, but doing so in 2020 when offices were closed, and our only companions were those in our households was a challenge all on its own.

After graduating in May from Ohio State, I started my full-time role as an Associate Systems Engineer (ASE) two months later. Then, in September, I moved to Raleigh, NC to live closer to my fellow ASEs and Associate Sales Reps (ASRs). While not required to move for the role, I wanted to cultivate the friendships that the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) prides itself on creating. I have been incredibly grateful that some of my best friends live in the same apartment building, a block away, or a short drive away. The proximity provides a sense of home and I even feel like I’m back at college in nicer dorms, with no homework, and friends I get to live and work with every day.  

2. Working for a company that puts their people first: There are so many reasons that Cisco has deserved to win the #1 World’s Best Workplaces recognition for the past two years.

Cisco has not only created a culture where it is encouraged to bring your whole self to work, with a sense of work/life integration, but we do not pretend that the world or our company is perfect. Our leadership sees us as real humans – with worries and struggles, wins and celebrations – and they have created an environment where open, sometimes difficult and emotional conversations are not only embraced but supported.  

We also don’t just walk the walk, but we talk the talk as we have donated millions of dollars to various organizations supporting racial and social justice issues as well as those impacted by natural disasters, etc. And in 2020, employees also received Election Day off to be empowered to vote in each country’s respective elections. 

Yes, the world has felt extra heavy lately, but I am grateful that Cisco embraces it and finds a way to help make each employee feel supported, seen and heard.  

3. A close, loving family: They say, “You can’t pick your family.” – but I have come to understand how grateful I am that I would pick mine every time, and that is in large part in needing to move back home for six months in 2020 as we rode out these unprecedented times together.

As we grew up, my parents encouraged my siblings and me to travel, question everything, and seek discomfort to grow and learn. They inspired us to find opportunities and programs abroad – and, while these opportunities were incredible, it was rare that my family would be all together except for holidays or family vacations.  

Those six months we got to spend together in 2020, were the longest amount of time we spent together since I was young, and I am grateful that we all were able to live together. We enjoyed each other’s company and I have come to appreciate that my home was a safe place for me to go, as many people my age forced to return home may not have had a similar family dynamic and were forced to live in unsafe or violent homes.  

Rachel and team on Webex call.

4. Good health: Graduating college in 2020 truly made me reflect on what is important in life. 

Throughout my entire college career I dreamed of my graduation day that would be held on the Ohio State football field with thousands of my classmates and my family proudly watching from the stands. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen. It was worse knowing that many others were not able to have their weddings, family reunions, or attend funerals to mourn loved ones properly.  

It hurt, but it also provided perspective – my family and I were healthy – and each decision was made easier in knowing it would keep us safe. Foregoing the long-awaited dream of graduation day was simply worth the sacrifice, knowing it was the best decision to keep everyone healthy. 

5. Technology that brings people together when we’re told to stay apart: At Cisco, we pride ourselves in connecting the unconnected, and there was never a truer statement than in 2020.

When nearly the world’s entire workforce had to shift to remote work, Cisco stepped up to support millions of customers and non-customers so they could get connected to their coworkers, family, and friends through the power of Webex. Cisconians helped to gather unused DX devices to donate them to nearby hospitals and other medical facilities while others helped to 3D print face masks and shields. Because of our give back spirit, and always rising to the occasion, these donations have helped to change people’s lives as they allowed patients to connect to their families, or helped doctors and nurses remain safe. 

I am so grateful to be a part of a company that creates technology to change and connect the world for the better.  

I know this year has been difficult for us all, but reminding myself of the reasons I am thankful for 2020 and reflecting on how we came together – even in trying times, even when we physically couldn’t be together – will fuel my holiday season and beyond. 

What are you most thankful for in 2020? 


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