Technology changes. People do, too.
The dramatic shifts we’ve experienced in the past few years have caused tech companies to modify how they meet the market and build tools. Many employers have updated their practices to re-emphasize support for the people behind the products.
Not long ago, the tech industry was defined by sprawling, whimsically designed office campuses populated by casually dressed geniuses munching on expensive snacks and taking gaming breaks. Today, after two years of stay-at-home orders, remote work and economic uncertainty, the “work hard, play hard” culture no longer resonates. Tech talent across the world have been reevaluating what’s most important to them and their careers.
Take Dominique Oryol, who was in her early twenties when she first started working at Cisco Meraki as an office manager.
“When I first joined, all I wanted to do was go to happy hours,” Oryol said. “Now, I have two kids. I feel like the company has supported me through every stage of my journey.”
After a decade of working at Meraki, a company that builds cloud-managed IT solutions, Oryol has undoubtedly excelled in her career. Now, she’s an inside sales leader for the public sector, covering the Southeast region of the United States. And thanks to the support of her team and the company’s progressive benefits and resources, growing professionally didn’t mean she had to sacrifice her personal goals.
“The first time I was pregnant, my husband and I were so invested in our careers. We thought one of us would have to give something up to grow our family,” Oryol said. “But that hasn’t been the case. About a year after coming back from maternity leave, I was promoted to a leadership role.”
Oryol isn’t alone in her experience at Meraki. Rob Nutt, a regional sales manager, welcomed a baby boy over a year ago, and Joe Zitomer, vice president of operations, has a 5-year-old daughter. Instead of sacrificing their aspirations, the trio said they’ve found the support they need at their company to do their best work while also stepping up as a parent.
“The parent wave is just starting to happen at Meraki,” Nutt said. “It’s an exciting time for everyone, especially those who have just had kids or are thinking about it in the next few years. It’s been a lot of fun to be involved with a company that supports us.”
It’s not all just well-wishes and virtual baby showers. Meraki offers employees a generous amount of parental leave, along with subsidized child care, intuitive HR resources for navigating benefits and plenty of paid time off. Importantly, Meraki also fosters a culture that doesn’t judge when a parent chooses to work flexible hours because, for instance, they’re sleep-training an infant.
“Bringing your whole self to work means being able to work in a manner that best suits your needs while trusting your employees to do the right thing,” he said. “Giving us that freedom is paramount.”
To learn more about what parenthood looks like at Meraki, Built In connected with Oryol, Nutt and Zitomer. Together, they shared the most meaningful support systems they’ve found through their company, how they’ve continued to grow in their careers and why they never have to choose between work and family.
For Zitomer, there’s one lesson he’s learned from being a parent that also applies to building a successful tech company:
“Do what you have to do to be present. It goes by quick.”
What are some of the most meaningful company-provided benefits you’ve taken advantage of as a parent?
Zitomer: One of my favorite benefits is subsidized child care. For $8 an hour, 20 times a year, I can get in-home child care. Or, for no cost, we can drop our kids off at a Bright Horizons daycare center. Meraki also sends gifts to first-time parents and gives us a generous amount of paid time off — our managers are great about encouraging people to take time off. In addition, the company offers financial and legal services to help employees set up 529 college savings plans or create a will. The truth is, there’s a myriad of help that you can find as a parent.
Nutt: The company has a team dedicated to the parental leave process. Through our insurance program, we can access a company called Sedgewick, which helps set up parental leave. It’s made for a seamless experience for us, and I appreciate that a lot.
The child care benefit through Bright Horizons has also been extremely helpful. My girlfriend and I are not originally from Chicago, and we don’t have a family support system here. Having access to a program like this has helped us stay productive at work while also having some time for ourselves to get back to who we are.
“Having access to a program like this has helped us stay productive at work while also having some time for ourselves to get back to who we are.”
Oryol: To add to the list, I got a breastfeeding consultant through Meraki, and I was able to access an organization that sent me a lot of gifts, like baby bottles, formula, swaddles, and other things parents don’t realize they need until their baby is crying.
There are so many resources that we can leverage. Our parent-focused employee resource network, Parents@Meraki, has spearheaded an initiative to put all these resources together in one place. That way, new parents and parents expecting more children can easily access all of the information they need based on what stage of parenthood they’re in.
Culture of Caring
What does work-life balance look like at Meraki?
Oryol: Work-life balance is super important. My 2-year-old is wild, awesome and has a cool personality; the fact that I can hang out with him after my last meeting of the day is great. If someone needs me, I can easily answer a question on my phone.
I’m also a huge believer in taking PTO. As a leader, I tell that to my team, too. You have to take time to unplug, even if it’s just a half-day on a Friday to do something fun. The pandemic showed us that time goes by fast. Spending that time with close family and friends is so important – go enjoy them and take the opportunity to refresh. Then, when you’re back at work, you don’t feel burned out or like you’ve missed out on time with loved ones.
Nutt: Meraki offers personal days for mental health, giving us the opportunity to take breaks and come back to work stronger than ever. I also enjoy connecting with coworkers outside of work, which can be rejuvenating. Last week, I was at a Cisco Impact kickoff event in Las Vegas, and it was great to see everyone in person. We have a bunch of different clubs that people have started, too – like Peloton or running groups. These clubs can help you expand your community and enhance life outside of work.
Zitomer: Work-life balance was everything to me before I was a parent, and now it’s even more important. The company has a willingness to let you base your schedule around your life while getting the job done. I don’t work fewer hours than I used to, but I work hours that are more convenient for my family’s schedule. That lets me be so much more engaged in my work because I have time set aside to focus. It also lets me be more engaged with my family when I’m with them, because I don’t need to be on my phone checking email.
“Work-life balance was everything to me before I was a parent, and now it’s even more important.”
Tell us about Parents@Meraki. What is the impact of this group?
Oryol: Parents@Meraki brings parents, soon-to-be parents and even people who are thinking about having children together. People can share resources, ask questions and give advice. It started as a Webex Teams space before I became the lead. Now, we have a website full of resources. We have even done events with other employee organizations at Meraki, like the Latinx group, women’s group and LGBTQ+ group. We all partner together to put on events where people can share their experiences. These initiatives help team members feel more connected to the community we have here.
Zitomer: The truth is, Parents@Meraki provides a ton of support for both first-time and seasoned parents. If you post a question to the group, you’ll have 20 people chiming in and offering advice — that’s a wonderful tool to lean back on if you need it. We get to connect with colleagues who come from different walks of life and get an extra layer of support on the hard things. It’s also a great place to post pictures of your kid’s first day of school and share in the fun moments.
A Network of Support
What has your career growth looked like since becoming a parent?
Nutt: When I was on leave, I actually got a nudge that there was an opening I’d be a good fit for. I came back to work in October, and by the end of January, I was in a new position. I felt fortunate – opportunities didn’t pass me by just because I was on leave.
We also have tools for career development. I’m currently taking a coaching class that Meraki provides for us. The company continually invests in their leaders.
Oryol: Throughout my time at Meraki, people have helped me get to the next level of my career — even when I was on maternity leave — because they knew I could be a good potential candidate for a role. Recently, I participated in an executive shadowing program where I was able to connect with and learn from senior leaders across the company. There’s a real sense of community here.