Deep breath, and go…
It’s hard to believe that seven years ago, almost exactly to the day, I posted “The Case for Small City Social”. I was a relatively new Social Media Manager, working in hospitality, in her early 30s, dreaming of more. But when the offers for “more” only came from the likes of big cities that would take me away from my family and the city I loved, I slammed the brakes.
I wasn’t leaving Orlando.
A few months after that post, in April 2015, I interviewed for (what I thought) was my dream job. It felt like the stars were aligning, and when they didn’t…I sat in my car and ugly cried.
Not even a week later, while at my desk wondering what the heck was next…a Twitter DM popped up from a friend I met at Social Fresh the summer before. Thaaaaat’s where Carmen came in with, “I think I have an opportunity for you…” (I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve told the story of our friendship over the years, but here it is on the Social Fresh blog and via video on Forbes for those of you who are new here.)
The rest, as they say, is history — and I felt like I had just won the lottery.
While I knew next to nothing about Cisco or Talent Brand…I knew I liked opportunities that involved storytelling and social media. Even better, the role kept me in Orlando where - spoiler alert - I thrived as a remote employee even before it was the thing to do. 😉 To put it mildly, joining Cisco opened up doors I didn’t even know existed.
I started at Cisco on June 28, 2015 thinking I would do the “Standard Millennial” thing - stay a couple years, learn what I could, network like hell, and bounce. I was wrong on that front…I wouldn’t bounce for six and half years. I wouldn’t ‘bounce’ until today.
And…whew. 😮💨 That is still incredibly surreal to say.
Today is my last official day on team We Are Cisco.
I’m not really sure how to say goodbye to a place that I…honestly, for a long time, never saw myself saying goodbye to. But what I came up with is…a few of the things that got me to here & now: Blogs, Instagram, a penchant for knowing the rules to break the rules (sorry-not-sorry this post is so long), and a good ol’ fashioned Top 10 list of some of my favorite moments.
Do I expect you to click on every single link here or even read this whole thing? No. But, someday, there’s gonna be a kid out there wondering what’s next for them in life and maybe they’ll stumble across this post and…it’ll keep them going because they’ll see what’s possible.
Choose your link, choose your adventure. 🙃
1. The Opportunity — You read about it above, and I can confirm that it has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m also going to call it that, like, four more times throughout this post. So, deal with it.
2. We Are Cisco — My first real big trip to the ‘Mothership’ in Silicon Valley came at the end of 2015. Not even 4 months into my role, it was the first time I met (most) of the team face-to-face and we’d spend a week not only getting to know each other and exploring Cisco HQ — but figuring out…really…the entire #WeAreCisco strategy. Well, maybe not the ENTIRE strategy, but…thinking back on the hours we spent white boarding and brainstorming that week…you could see a lot of our big ideas and dreams laid out. The first of those was to become @WeAreCisco. Not Cisco Careers. Not Life at Cisco (although that would remain on the blog for a few years). But, WE Are Cisco.
You could hear, even then, the faint heartbeat of something incredibly special.
3. Those First Few Years — What I love about the creative process is that you can literally create anything. And, so, we did. We worked hard — really, really hard. But we also were having a blast while doing it. And when we flew to Chicago in 2016 and won our very first award for Best Use of Social Media — it was lightning in a bottle.
Yes, we were a small team then (just 4 deep)…but, even then, we were pretty freakin’ mighty.
4. Best Instagram 2017 — I remember some of our very first goals for the @WeAreCisco Instagram were pretty tame. “Let’s get 1,000 followers!” When we surged past that and hit 10k in 2016, and 20k a year later with above average engagement rates…it was validation. Still, when Carmen and I flew up to NYC in 2017 for the PR News Awards I told her, “There’s no way we’re winning Instagram - we’re up against some REALLY amazing campaigns.”
Well, I was wrong then, too — and I can still think back on that moment and nearly burst with pride. For a kid who had been told she ‘wouldn’t make it’ (quite frequently at that)…well, it kinda felt like I was ‘making it’ despite it all.
5. Be You, With Us — Recently, I had to laugh in a meeting when it dawned on a teammate that I was probably the ‘purple haired rock star’ behind our “We Are Cisco” statement: “Colorful hair? Don’t care. Tattoos? Show off your ink.” — the same one that’s in all of our job descriptions for years.
She’s not entirely wrong. 😉
I remember the days of anxiously toying with the idea of going BACK to purple. I was, after all, no longer in hospitality. And friends reminded me constantly, “You work from home - who’s going to know?” Still, I thought these were waters I shouldn’t dive into head first. I scoured everywhere I could to see if other employees had vibrant colored hair (I found one!) and began testing the waters myself with some peek-a-boo purple highlights that faded pretty quickly. Then, two days before flying off to the Grace Hopper Conference (GHC) I felt brave and went for a vibrant red as one does when she’s Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. (If you know me, you know I am 2/2 on this exact costume and “wash out” hair dye being the reason my hair isn’t a natural color. 😂)
Of course that color didn’t come out, and there I was - at a hotel in Houston - trying to baking-soda-conditioner-paste my hair back to blonde before everyone else arrived. It mostly worked, and when I told the story to my team later that evening Macy said, “Why didn’t you just leave it the color you had it? We’re Cisco. You can be yourself here.”
And that was that. I’ve not really had a natural color since.
6. The Places. The Faces — I think I’ve told almost every human I adore at Cisco that just because I’m going somewhere professionally, does not mean that I am going anywhere personally. I hope they know how serious I am.
I’m not one for goodbyes, especially not with people I love, respect, and admire — especially when it comes to people with heart. I’m a big believer you’ve got to keep yourself close to those folks, more so than ever before…and I have every intention of doing just that. Cisco might’ve made us co-workers, but life made us friends.
Whether we met in person, or have yet to do that (I’m still planning on a Savannah meetup, y’all) — I have treasured every laugh we’ve shared from GHC x 7 (a few faves: 2015, 2016, 2019) to Cisco Live and Nasdaq / May the 4th and far, far beyond that.
You put that we in #WeAreCisco.
7. The Bridge Awards & London — I was standing in line for a haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights when I got the email: I had been selected as 1 of 10 Cisco Bridge Award winners for my work with the St. Baldricks Foundation! The winners would all be flying to London in December 2019 where we would spend a week getting to know each other, exploring London, filming our stories, and ending at The Global Citizen Awards. It was an experience unlike any other, with people I am so incredibly proud to know, and a week that still stands out in my memory as if it were all yesterday. There are a few moments in life that you KNOW are just…special. And that week in London was one of those for me. From all the meals shared (my first full Indian cuisine!) to all the laughs (STING!) it was pure magic.
8. PRIDE — On June 12, 2016 I woke up to a deceivingly beautiful blue sky in Orlando. When friends from all over the world started messaging us to see if we were alright. My heart sunk. I knew just by looking at Google…I’d learn something horrific had happened here that already rocked the world as they woke. That’s when I learned of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
That week, while in a flood of grief, I signed up to officially become a member of Cisco’s PRIDE community. No longer was I going to be a passive ally. A few months later, I became communications lead for the PROUD Mentorship Cohorts, and from there I was asked to lead communications for the Americas region and Global. The PRIDE team not only made me a better communicator, but they truly made me the ally I am today. Loud & Proud. I wouldn’t be here today without each and every one of them.
9. The We Are Cisco Blog — Nothing owns my heart like the We Are Cisco Blog and all of the 500+ authors we had write for us over the years. I am intensely proud of the stories we told together – because they are THEIR stories. Their words, my help. Each of the names that appear there have said “Yes” to writing when they could’ve easily opted otherwise – and they trusted me every step of the way to come in with a little pixie dust at the end.
So, I’m taking that with me, too. You all played a huge role in making me the storyteller I am today. Thank you for saying “Yes” when I randomly popped up in your email inbox — even when you were scared, even when you tried to convince me that you weren’t a writer or didn’t have a story, even when you thought language might be a barrier, even when I pushed you for just a little bit more. I have always considered myself a writer. I learned over the years that I was a storyteller. The We Are Cisco Blog — and each of you — showed me that I was an editor (and a pretty good one at that 😂), a leader, and that I could inspire others to share their stories.
You all are the magic behind the pixie dust.
10. Squad Goals — If you ever wanted to know how it feels to be Steve Rogers just as he says, “Assemble” — then might I suggest hiring one of the best teams on the planet? That’s how this team coming together in 2019 felt — each of us with our very own unique superpower that, when combined, became an unstoppable force in Employer Brand. It has been, every bit, my “World Series Yankees” moment and I could easily spend an entire post raving to you about the team that brought @WeAreCisco to life over the years.
From the very first moment I met with Carmen about this opportunity, to interviewing with Ray, connecting with Tamar, and bringing “Talent Brand 2.0” into the fold with Jen, Ileana, Kim, Madison, Andrew and Lauren…there’s all kinds of magic and super powers out there. But there’s absolutely no team like this team, and if there’s ever a Hall of Fame for giving a culture it’s heartbeat — well, #WeAreCisco will be one of the first through those doors.
I am SO damn proud of each and every one of you, and I will never stop cheering you on or screaming about how great y’all are. Thank you for being so much more than co-workers — but, really, becoming my family.
7 years is a big chunk of time. In those 7 years at Cisco…We bought our first house. We brought Kimbee home. We got engaged. We got married. I went bald. We brought Kenobi home. We sold that first house. We bought our new home.
I grew up here. I learned a lot here. I won awards here. I got up on stages and said words to other human beings here. Heck, I even did a voice over here. I found my confidence and became the professional - the creative - I always knew I was here.
And I am incredibly proud of the work I’ve done here.
That goes for both Cisco and Orlando. 😉
I have loved my 6.5 years at Cisco and everyone I’ve met along the way. Yes, there were good days — and difficult days. Not everything was kittens, rainbows, and unicorns — but, even on some of the toughest days, I knew I was surrounded by people with the biggest hearts on the planet, doing some of the most incredible work on the planet. They were the people who pushed me forward, gave me time when I need to recharge, and not only let me be me — but outright encouraged it. They had my back, and I’ll forever have theirs.
So, actually, I’m not going to say goodbye — I’m just going to say that I’ll see ya where it all began: on social.
I also know some of you came here hoping I’d spill on “What’s Next” – well, you’ve gotta wait a couple more weeks for that one as I’m going to take some time between roles to decompress and reset, check back on the 24th at one of those links above when I kick off my next great adventure. 😉