It’s Incredibly Collaborative and Uplifting’ — How My Company Empowers Women

Sponsored by Cisco

Pydyn and family.

Photo courtesy of Cisco.

Kate Pydyn
Kate Pydyn

I work as a Customer Success Manager at Duo Security, a part of Cisco. Though Duo has only been a part of Cisco for two and a half years, their alignment and culture fit together in a mutually beneficial way. 

The support and community I’ve found at these two companies has allowed me to maintain a healthy balance between the work I enjoy and the way I truly love to spend my time: with my friends and family. My husband and I have a son who is almost two and are excited to welcome a second little boy in August! We enjoy time outdoors at parks and pools, as well as playing board games with friends. 

What are Cisco’s core values?

We have four core values at Duo, and the most meaningful to me is that we believe in being “Kinder than Necessary,” which applies to all aspects of the company. It means assuming that others have positive intent and mistakes are not willful ignorance or malice. It means treating others with respect. It means volunteering, making your environment better for others and being welcoming and open. 

What differentiates Cisco from others in its space and industry?

I was incredibly impressed with how Cisco handled the pandemic. At the beginning, while my friends were concerned about keeping their job, Cisco harnessed their tech and relied on our culture to send 75,000 employees home to work safely without a hitch. Members of leadership were transparent in their thought process and their plans and supported us both logistically and emotionally during weekly check-ins. A budget was provided for supplies to make our home offices more productive and comfortable, and they communicated that if you fell ill or had to take care of a loved one, there would be a new type of protected leave available. When there was still uncertainty around the world, they made a longer-term call to put health and safety first, which helped many settle in for the long haul.

Some companies have the expectation that working from home means you are available to them 24/7, but that’s not what Cisco believes. There was an understanding that people would not be glued to their computers from 9-5, and that they had other needs pulling at them — for me, that was my son, who was six months old. On top of that, we received consistent messaging to take breaks, go outside, turn off the computer, step away from the webcam and use our PTO. My business unit even helped us prioritize our mental health by hosting therapists who gave tips and answered questions about adjusting to this new life and increasing the frequency of our mindfulness sessions. Cisco knew that this was a difficult adjustment for everyone and were constantly listening and taking steps to provide any support they could. 

Describe 1-5 employee benefits that positively impact women who work at Cisco.

There are so many! Firstly, there are women in all levels of management, from my direct supervisor to the executive offices. The tech space has always had a shortage of women, but we are actively trying to recruit and bring in more women, as well as people from diverse backgrounds. We have team channels for women, “Duonettes,” women and allies, moms, parents and more, where we share career opportunities, training and events, interesting stories and ask for advice. It’s incredibly collaborative and uplifting. From a more formal perspective, Cisco offers the best parental leave of any company I’ve worked at before, and that, along with vacation time and sick time, is encouraged to be used. 

Is there anything else women should know about pursuing a career at Cisco?

Our leadership leads by example, which lets me know that they believe in the messaging they give, it’s not just words. While working from home, we met with our executives through Cisco TV in their home offices, with their kids and their pets and their favorite go-to snack; we increasingly felt like we were more connected with them. 

The connection from peers is amazing as well. I’ve always known that I work with wonderful people, and it was so great to see the support and encouragement from the variety of groups I was a part of, be it Parents and Families, Women and Allies or our Financial Advice group. Our community doesn’t just exist because we were in proximity in the workplace, we grew even stronger when dealing with a crisis together.

What are some unique benefits or perks Cisco offers employees?

We are offered 40 hours a year to volunteer however we see fit. People have used it in unique and impactful ways, such as volunteering at voting booths and vaccination locations, helping repair a summer camp, spending time with a child’s classroom and providing food to underserved areas by helping in urban gardens. It has so many benefits! We can prioritize volunteering without sacrificing our personal time or PTO, take a break from our normal day-to-day work and give back to our community in ways that we are passionate about. And, as a bonus, we occasionally do group or team activities, which is such a nice way to see coworkers. 

What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about Cisco that you think they should? 

Shortly after we began working from home, another once in a lifetime set of events began to unfold, this time addressing racial injustices. And, again, Cisco reacted in ways that I didn’t even know were possible from a company. They challenged us individually to take action, to have difficult conversations and to speak out for those who are treated unfairly. Speakers were brought in to help us understand different perspectives, to motivate us and to foster compassion.

And Cisco put their money where their mouth is: $5 million was donated to a variety of local and global charities working to better the world for all. Donations were also matched by both Cisco and Duo, tripling the value of money individuals put forth, and we were encouraged to be politically active and stand up for our beliefs. They showed me that companies can value their employees as humans AND react to the world around them in an ethical and responsible way.

What’s one thing Cisco does — whether a formal policy or program, or more in terms of office culture — that you think is particularly unique or unexpected?

Duo Hack Day comes to mind; it’s an event that happens twice a year where everyone is encouraged to form teams across departments and tackle a unique project. It doesn’t have to do with anything specific in a person’s role, but aligns to one of our four values: Engineering the Business, Learning Together, Building for the Future and being Kinder than Necessary. These Hack Days have led to product innovation, the solution to known issues that haven’t been prioritized, new ways to explain or train on and even completing a two-factor Push from space! It’s amazing to see what creative minds will come up with when encouraged to think outside the box.


Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Cisco. Find a job there today!

This article was written by an FGB contributor.

Kate Pydyn Bio: I'm a Customer Success Manager at Duo Security, a part of Cisco. I've held this position for two years, and thoroughly enjoy my job and the companies for which I work. My background includes positions in Customer Success and data analytics, and I have earned a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Sciences as well as a master's in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. I live in Canton, MI with my wonderful husband and our playful son, who is almost two years old — and in August, our family will grow by one more little boy!