Parents with school-aged children have a very cool backstage pass. Well, it’s more like a front-row seat. It is a front-row seat that’s a window into wonder and ever-shining hope for the futu… Read more on Cisco Blogs

Parents with school-aged children have a very cool backstage pass. Well, it’s more like a front-row seat. It is a front-row seat that’s a window into wonder and ever-shining hope for the future.

While my husband and I have no children of our own, we are fortunate to have access to this front-row seat, thanks to family members who invite us to our nephews’ and nieces’ school events and kid activities. We’ve had our share of sports games and meets, school plays, bingo and fundraising, career days, and my favorite, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fairs. It is a very different world that we wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.

At my niece’s middle school STEM fair in the fall of 2022, I had the great privilege to present and show Cisco Collaboration’s AI technologies to middle school students — the digital natives who have never lived in a world without this technology. It was very easy and intuitive for them to use and play with the technologies I showed. As I discussed how the technology works, these young people quickly came up with new ideas and suggestions on how to apply the technology to many other use cases. As a technology junkie, this kind of interaction takes me to cloud nine. Sure, it was pretty cool showing off cool tech. But what was even cooler was that these twelve-year-old kids got it, and knowing that they did means our technology is not only on the right track, but we are also shaping and influencing future technology.

I was perfectly content to leave that STEM fair on my geeky cloud nine high, but a young man, Rayaan, approached me as I was packing up my booth. I found out later he was a high school senior who also presented at the fair, running a small group coding session. He introduced himself and asked, “So, do you work for Cisco?” (I had proudly used my Cisco Webex nameplate on my booth.) I naturally replied, “I sure do! Do you know what Cisco does?” And in the back of my head, “Cisco: Also named the best place to work in the U.S. three years in a row!”

The rest of the conversation left me in awe. This young man not only knew what Cisco does, he had a pretty good idea of its history and its contributions to the technologies we live by every day. As we finished packing our booth contents and headed to our cars, he then proceeded to inform me that he was applying to the Cisco High Externship Program — an experience designed for high school seniors. Hence, he did his research on Cisco. He even commented that he thinks it would be a cool place to work one day when he enters the workforce.

Fast forward to summer 2023. My new young friend did get into the Cisco High Externship Program. Did I help him get into the program? Perhaps a little, but it was all him. I had no idea who even ran the program at Cisco. I did give him guidance on his resume and application, practiced interviews with him over Webex, and gave him advice on how to be fully present during that interview, and any interview, for that matter. But, Rayaan got into the externship program all on his own and excelled.

Reflecting on this engagement, I realized something I had never considered before. Some Cisco colleagues have the great privilege of having their own children enter the workforce, and sometimes it’s even at Cisco! I’ve somewhat experienced a glimpse of that. Back in the day, company owners named their enterprises “Company Name and Sons” in preparation for their children entering and taking over the business. I know I can’t rename Cisco and have no children entering and taking over the business. But what I have realized, though, is that even as an individual contributor, I have a great responsibility to perform as best as I can so that the longevity of Cisco can ensure that young people like Rayaan have an opportunity to have as great a work experience and fulfilling career as I have. Of course, doing my best work is the professional thing to do, but doing my best work also means leaving a legacy: supporting Cisco’s purpose of powering an inclusive future for all so young people can continue the work we current Cisconians have started, and for them also to have a great place to work when their turn comes.

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  After meeting a high schooler applying for Cisco’s High Externship Program, Technical Solutions Architect Maria E. realizes her role in Cisco’s future.  Read More Cisco Blogs