I got asked a lot of questions after my last blog post, How I Found My Cisco Family. The most popular seemed to be, “What kept you going?”

And every time I heard those words I would have to pause and wonder…could it really be just one thing?

Yes, my life was difficult. My mother was a drug addict, who spent years of my young life in jail. My father was a man who had never dealt with his demons, and wound up taking that out on me. By the age of 16, after being kicked out by my mother, I was on my own.

There are a lot of ways life could have gone for me. At a time in life where most are still coming of age, I quickly had to become an adult. I walked to work at a restaurant, where I also ate my meals because I could afford nothing else, and would attend night classes to finish my high school education. I did this until I was 18.

I’m not entirely sure what makes one a survivor. But, for me, at an early age I knew my life was different. I simply knew that there was more out there for me than the life I had led up to that point, and that alone – on many days – kept me going.

How did I get from there to here though – at age 26 and working for Cisco, the best tech company ever? I had to tell myself a couple different things:

1.It’s OK to not be OK. Whatever challenge you face – whether it’s a family crisis, a health crisis or a financial one – you will at times feel absolutely helpless. That is normal, and it is okay.

You have to have faith that the tough times will pass. You will be tested, and there will be moments where you may think it will be easier to quit, but I can’t stress how important it is that you don’t.  Just. Keep. Going. You have to have courage to face struggles you encounter head on. Do not give up on yourself, ever

If people put you down or tell you that you’ll never amount to anything, PROVE THEM WRONG. I encountered this so many times in my life. Every time someone told me no, or that I wasn’t good enough – it made me more and more hungry to show them who I really am, and that I was going to do bigger and better things – that their comments were not going to stop me.

And now here I am – a woman in tech at a fortune 500 company!

2.Enlist in your friends. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without the people that I have surrounded myself with. It is a choice to select positive influences. Choose those who will rally around you and support you – over those that only promote negativity, and people who will take very opportunity to suck the joy out of you.

I’ve tried to take a little perspective from each person I’ve encountered. This helps me to have a different approach to each problem I face, and ensures that I have more understanding and compassion to those I meet along the way. Your tribe is your family, and family sometimes goes beyond blood. That is why my Cisco family means so much to me.

3.Don’t be scared to be honest about who you are, and where your journey brought you. This one was really hard for me as I spent most of my young adult years being ashamed of who I was and what I had gone through. I would consistently feel like I couldn’t “hang” with some people because they were better or more affluent than me, or that I didn’t deserve to have a job at Cisco because, “Why would Cisco hire me?”

But, you know what? I was wrong.

Cisco values people like me because I add to the fabric of our culture, and Cisco thrives on adding people to our We Are Cisco tribe that come from all backgrounds. This just enhances our ability to innovate and change the world.

Once I came to terms with the fact that I fought tooth and nail to be where I am it allowed me to realize I wouldn’t dare take it for granted. I earned everything that I have accomplished, and working for Cisco is no different. Cisco allows me to keep defying odds, and I love being able to have that opportunity.

I am proud to be here. I am proud to be #WeAreCisco.


Want to join our #WeAreCisco Tribe? We’re hiring!


Monica Castillo

Virtual Account Manager

Global Virtual Sales - US SLED East