What I Learned From Driving Into the Unknown


“You took the wrong turn!” my mum shouted while navigating from a map of Italy.

My dad winked at my sister and continued to drive. The windows were wide open (there was no air conditioning back in those days) as “Felicita” blared from a cassette recorder in our little red Mazda on our way to Venice for summer vacation.

Disneyland Paris in early 1993 — one of the first trips our family took to Western Europe.
Disneyland Paris in early 1993 — one of the first trips our family took to Western Europe after the collape of the communist rule in Eastern Europe.

Since I can remember, my parents would save up enough money each year to travel and get to know the world.

We did not speak English, French, or Italian. Polish was not spoken in Western Europe. We had no mobile phones, our car did not have GPS, and we would only travel with the reservation at the main destination, leaving a few nights in between to luck. Yet my parents had the courage and heart to drive into the unknown.

These were not only the best holidays, but they were also instrumental in shaping who I am today.

A path of my own

I come from a small town in central Poland, famous for its paper factory (pre-war), porcelain (known as “fajans”), and ketchup. My father devoted his professional life to public service in medicine, with a particular focus on epidemiology. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta for his contributions to public health by the Polish President.

My mum dedicated her life to biotechnology at a public sanitary-epidemiological station. If you’re ever in Poland having a snack, my mum may have tested the plate you are eating on as well as your snack’s ingredients.

I’m an attorney. I did not follow the scientific path like my parents.

However, I did inherit their openness to the world, unconditional love for travel, and their belief that with the right level of motivation and hard work, there are plenty of possibilities.

I met my husband, Jose Carlos, in Madrid. We married seven years ago in my hometown.
I met my husband, Jose Carlos, in Madrid. We married seven years ago in my hometown. Here we are during our last pre-pandemic trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina.

I left home after high school and ventured off to Scotland. I studied law with Hispanic studies at Glasgow University and spent my exchange year in Spain. It was so lovely to see the sun nearly every day that I decided to leave ever-green Scotland and move to Madrid.

I specialized in competition law and took an internship in Brussels before settling back in Spain. While working at a law firm, a colleague saw an internship post at Cisco, which I decided to apply for. Eventually, I turned down the law firm’s counteroffer and came to Cisco.

I have now been at Cisco for nearly nine years, transitioning from internship to contractor to full-time employee. And in September 2020, I became a manager.

I have always had a dual role at Cisco, supporting our sales teams in competing fiercely while ensuring we remain compliant with competition law rules. I also advised the Cisco Brand Protection team — I have another master’s degree in Intellectual Property law.

Giving my all at Cisco

Since day one at Cisco, I have been willing to embrace additional responsibilities and challenges. I participated and co-led various projects with the Competitive War Room, legal sales, and our channel teams, in addition to stretch assignments within the broader Cisco Legal department.

I’ve also been involved in a lot of volunteering. I led Spain’s Cisco Citizen chapter with a focus on STEM-related projects. With Green Light for Girls, I helped organize hands-on events in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and the Andalucía region to inspire young girls’ interest in STEM careers.

In 2019, I assisted in organizing eight G4G events simultaneously across Andalucía, impacting over 1,000 girls. Our chapter has also been very present at Cisco Girls in ICT day and organized — with the leadership of Sara Macias — a full day of events at the Madrid office.

I am a big dog lover and advocate for pet adoptions. I have two adopted dogs, Kenia and Melon.
Cisco volunteers during a beach cleaning activity in Valencia, Spain.
Green Light 4 Girls event in Seville, Spain.

When I passed the responsibility of leading Cisco Citizen Spain (Spain's giving back activities) to Maria Martin Jodar, I looked for my next opportunity to contribute and engage in mentorship. I am currently a mentor at the Professional Women Network mentoring program for the local chapter in Madrid.

I’m a true believer that the right mentorship nourishes one’s mindset and helps with professional and personal growth. If you haven’t considered mentoring, I urge you to think about it.

All of these activities at Cisco would not have been possible without the continuous support of my managers. We read many testimonies that the greatness of Cisco lies in its people. I echo that testimony. My managers have always taken the time to coach me and support my growth within the company.

From nurturing young minds to protecting customers

In September 2020, I moved from the Legal Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) team as an individual contributor to the Cisco Brand Protection team as the leader for EMEAR and India. Our Legal M&A team is the best-in-class, but I felt it was time for me to take on a different challenge.

The move to Brand Protection seemed natural because I believe in the cause: Protecting customers from risks associated with counterfeit and pirated goods by disrupting counterfeiters, enforcing channel compliance, and educating our teams and customers. So, when the opportunity presented itself to lead the EMEAR and India team, I went for it.

My team is spread across Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and India. We work closely with our counterparts in the Americas and Asia, as our investigations often have international scope.

With more than 50 of us, it’s no surprise our global team members come from diverse cultures and beliefs, different perspectives on work matters, speak various languages, and include both early-in-career and experienced colleagues.

It’s exactly that mix that makes the job so enriching and contributes towards our growth as individuals. It’s a privilege to learn from each of them, and I cherish that experience.

I often ask my team to share their favorite food or local traditions and explain why they would do something differently from me so we can continue learning from one another.

I will be ever thankful to my parents for creating an environment that allowed me to dream big and to Cisco for all the opportunities it has and continues to offer me. A dear friend and mentor of mine said “be grateful for everything that happened and welcome everything that comes”. It reasonates so well with me and I do my very best to — as they say in Spain — “take the bull by the horns” whenever a new challenge comes and seize each day. And I would love for you to do the same!

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