As I nervously walked up to Building 11 on the RTP campus, following in the footsteps of many eager interns before me, it still hadn’t quite set in that what I had been working toward for essentially the last nine months of my life had finally became a reality. Sure, I went through the process of accepting my offer, subleasing an apartment in Raleigh, and sending in my I-9 form, but it still didn’t feel real yet, even as I walked into that lobby and saw the giant “There’s Never Been A Better Time” banner.
It began to feel a little more real as I checked in and received my employee badge, adorned with what is probably the most awkward headshot I have ever taken. And as I walked into the conference room, received my Cisco backpack, water bottle, and laptop, it really began to sink in. I was actually going to have to be a “real person” for an entire summer, and work at one of the leading technology companies not just in the United States, but in the world… and that’s when the panic set in.
There I sat, in a room full of brilliant, experienced, students wondering how I could have possibly made it to this point. As I listened to the other interns around me chatting about their amazing experiences, I doubted that I belonged here at Cisco. Having just finished my sophomore year in college, I fall on the younger side of most of my peers, and I couldn’t help but feel inferior for my lack of experience, both in the work force and the classroom. This bout of “imposter syndrome” was slightly terrifying, and I began to seriously question how I was going to succeed here for the summer.
Now, with only one week at Cisco under my belt, I wish I could go back to that first day and tell myself I had nothing to worry about. One of the most attractive features about Cisco that led me to pursue working here in the first place was the supposed corporate culture of care, fun, and giving back. I’d heard it from past interns and the recruiters themselves, but nothing could have prepared me for how truly amazing this company is. Cisco stands true to their values and their culture, and this has been reinforced through every interaction I’ve had with the people that work here. From the cafeteria worker who made my sandwich today at lunch, to my manager and coworkers, to the other interns, the people I have met here are some of the smartest, nicest, and most caring people I have had the opportunity to know.
My fears of inadequacy have been eased by the reassurance and kindness I’ve been shown by each and every person I have worked with. I feel genuine excitement from everyone to have me this summer. Everyone wants to help me get the most out of this internship, and are dedicated to investing in me, and that is so important to feeling like I actually belong here.
Of course after just one week I don’t feel like an official “Cisconian” as they say, but I can certainly see myself becoming one. Until then, I’ll try to stop getting lost on the way to the cafeteria and keep performing Test WebEx calls until I can finally get it right.
Midpoint Reflection: Interning at Cisco
They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but I didn’t expect it to fly this fast. It seems like half of my internship with Cisco has flown by in the blink of an eye. With five weeks in RTP and one week in headquarters in San Jose under my belt, I have learned and grew more than I ever thought possible. There are so many important lessons I have learned over the past six weeks, but here I have narrowed it down to four that I feel are the most important to reflect on as I pass the halfway mark of my internship.
1. Networking is Real
I know, I know. My gut reaction to the word “networking” is to cringe too. But hear me out here. I’m not talking about the fake, schmoozing, shaking hands and forgetting the name of who you just talked to type of networking. I’m talking about forming relationships and getting to know the people in your company to learn from a diverse group of people that have so much to offer. Different professional organizations I have been a part of at school have always stressed the importance of networking and in the past I’ve brushed it off. One of my strongest values is authenticity, and I honestly thought that there was no way that this could go together with networking. However, during my time at Cisco, I’ve realized my values are what have made networking so valuable to me. One on one meetings with anyone, from a director to a person in an entry level position, mean so much more when you go into them with genuine interest and authenticity. I’ve found that people have such a positive response to my transparent enthusiasm and passion for Cisco. This has shown that by being myself, networking doesn’t have to be something to dread. In fact, I now look forward to it.
2. People and Culture Matter
In a company as large as Cisco, I think it’s easy to feel like a faceless worker in the crowd. However, the reality here at Cisco is that it’s almost impossible to feel this way. As I alluded to in my last blog post, coming into my internship I was nervous and doubted that I would find a place here. It’s surreal how quickly this feeling faded away. I can walk into work every day truly content, knowing that I am surrounded by kind, like-minded individuals who are passionate, intelligent, and fun. But it’s not just the amazing people, or even the Creativity Zones scattered around campus that make me admire Cisco’s culture (although they are definitely a plus.) The culture of giving back is what stands out the most to me. During my time here, I have had endless opportunities to volunteer with the Cisco community. During my second week, my roommate and I participated in a Sort-A-Rama with Cisco to give back to a local food bank. Working side by side in the huge fair grounds with coworkers from all walks of life, who took the time out of their busy work days to give back to the community around them was an invaluable experience I will always be grateful for. Yes, Cisco is an industry leader and a technology innovator, but what matters the most to me, and what will keep me coming into work every single day, is the people and the culture.
3. How to Deal with Stress and Negativity in the Workplace
It happened. I finally had my first stressful week at work. For the first time I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to follow through on all of my responsibilities. I could have let myself get overwhelmed and intimidated by my workload. I could have complained to anyone that would listen, and let the negativity that was starting to creep in consume me. This was such an easy trap to fall into, and I admit that more than once I felt myself starting to give in. However, there was one thing that kept me from falling into this trap- perspective. It was on an after work run actually, that I realized all I needed to do was view my stressful work week as an amazing opportunity. An opportunity to learn about myself, how I work under pressure, how I react to huge responsibility, and how I can turn a negative situation into a positive one. I chose to be grateful instead of stressed. I worked so hard to get this internship. I spent hours reviewing the company before recruiting at Career Week, and even more hours studying before my interview. I attended (some might say stalked) every single session that Cisco held at my school so I could learn as much as I could about the company and how I could work there. I have never been so happy and felt as accomplished as I did when I got my offer to work here. So why would I ever waste even a minute being ungrateful for this opportunity? My team was trusting me with important work, and instead of being freaked out, I relished in their trust. It was scary and it was intimidating, but facing the challenges of a huge workload with a positive attitude completely changed my experience, and I wouldn’t have learned or grown as much as I have if I didn’t.
4. Cisco is Truly One of a Kind
Sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley at Cisco Beat on Wednesday morning, I think every person in the audience could feel it. I had goosebumps- and not just because I was completely star struck by the number of executives that surrounded me. The energy and the passion that employees at Cisco have for the work they are doing cannot be replicated anywhere else, and it’s contagious. With the launch of Cisco’s latest and greatest network, we are continuing to innovate and stay ahead of our competition, and it is such a great feeling to be a part of that ride. Having executives that take the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to discuss openly the direction of the company is something that truly sets Cisco apart. Furthermore, having a CEO that would take the time to stay almost an hour after the Beat ended just to take pictures and talk to interns is incredible to me. I could not have imagined before my internship that I would even get the opportunity to be in the same room as our CEO and CMO, let alone get a picture with Chuck Robbins at Cisco Beat and have a Happy hour with Karen Walker in downtown San Jose. Having such approachable and transparent leadership completely changes the experience of an employee, and I am so thankful that Cisco has shown me this.
Gabriella Tedesco is a third year student and was in FLA Class XIII. She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Communication Studies while also working towards a M.S. in International Business. Gabriella is passionate about mentorship, building relationships, marketing and using her creativity for content creation. In her free time, you can find her with her head in a book, or hanging out with her three sisters. Feel free to email Gabriella.