This Veterans Day, Thank a Veteran (and His or Her Family)
This Veterans Day, November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which signaled the end of World War I. Many countries recognize Armistice Day as a time to honor veterans and to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice during their service.
In the United States, Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor those who have served – or are currently serving – in the U.S. Armed Forces. Cisco values all of the men and women who serve their countries, and supports U.S. veterans through several different programs.
Transitioning from Military to Civilian Work
One of the biggest challenges veterans face is the transition from military to civilian work. Cisco Regional Sales Manager Jason Port leads Cisco’s Veterans Enablement and Troop Support Employee Resource Organization (VETS ERO), along with Cisco Senior Customer Experience Manager David Richards. “One of the hardest things about leaving deployment is not having a purpose,” said Port. “When you are deployed, it’s a mission, and there’s an adrenaline rush that you cannot reproduce when you get home. When re-entering civilian life, it’s very difficult to overcome the frustration of not having a mission.”
Gena Pirtle, Program Manager for Cisco’s Veterans Program, explains how Cisco helps: “Vets need help identifying skills, both hard and soft, that translate from military to civilian work, like leadership and working under pressure,” she said. “They bring with them the qualities employers look for; they just need some guidance to transition those skills into meaningful employment outside of the military.”
Connecting Veterans with Meaningful Employment
Together with our customers and partners, Cisco hosts job fairs and training events in the United States, such as the annual Veterans Career Transition Day, that help U.S. military personnel, veterans, and military spouses find a pathway to meaningful work that fits their valuable and unique skill sets. Veterans can also enroll in the Cisco Networking Academy program through the GI Bill to get certified in the information and communications technology (ICT) field. Soon, the Cisco Networking Academy will launch the Talent Bridge for Veterans, a special online portal that will connect veterans with channel partners who are looking to hire qualified talent.
Veterans bring a lot of value to a corporate workforce. They have a proven ability to learn quickly, honed leadership and teamwork skills, a strong work ethic, dedication, and experience working under pressure. In addition, Port believes veterans contribute something positive to Cisco’s culture: “Every person who joined the military raised their hand and said ‘You can count on me.’ We want the same thing at Cisco, for employees to say ‘We’ve got this’ and take ownership,” he said.
Families of Veterans and Military Personnel Need Support Too
Cisco works hard to create a culture that honors and values veterans. The VETS ERO provides a way for Cisco employees to contribute and help veterans and their families. With 800 members who are mostly veterans, the group is looking to add more members with or without military experience who are passionate about helping this audience.
Cisco Senior Engineer Ken Estep was directed to the ERO when he saw a video that depicted soldiers communicating with their families over Telepresence. He immediately wanted to help make that happen for other families. Estep and his son Adam both served in the military. Adam was killed while he was deployed in 2004. Estep wished that the Telepresence technology had been available to military troops then. “I didn’t get to see Adam when he was deployed,” Estep said. “All I could think of was how impactful it is to be able to see each other and to be able to talk.” Estep stepped in and eventually led the ERO for five years, partially because it gave him a mission and an outlet for all of the emotions around the loss of his son.
“I try to take all of that love and passion for my son and take it places,” said Estep. “I can do that at Cisco. The company I was working for when I lost my son told me to put those emotions away, and to be who and what they wanted me to be. Cisco’s culture allows me to be me with all of my experiences, including this one. It’s more than policy. It’s teamwork, leadership, and culture.”
Many Ways to Give Back to Veterans
Cisco’s VETS ERO helps U.S. servicemen and women identify career paths after time in the military, and provides peer-to-peer support for veterans who are transitioning into Cisco and corporate careers. The organization also hosts other activities: putting flags in cemeteries and wreaths on graves, helping at the Valor Games for wounded veterans, and organizing care package and calling card drives. Port is always looking for new ways to support veterans: “Do you have a great idea? Let us know,” he said. “Let’s do it together. Ten or fifteen people can be more impactful than just one individual. Families can participate too. It’s a great way to give back.”
Before Estep transitioned out of his leadership role at the ERO, he spent five years working to expand the recognition of veterans and their family members. Estep reflected upon how his son’s death in 2004 forever changed his perception of Veterans Day: “I realized why we need to honor veterans and their families,” he said. “Veterans Day serves a purpose. It’s a day to recognize and say thank you to our veterans for their service, their time, and being away from their families. It is tradition, and I ask you to participate. Take one minute of silence at 11am on 11/11, Veterans Day, to acknowledge, remember and thank our veterans.”
To learn more or volunteer, visit Cisco’s VETS ERO website.