Cisco Portugal Blog

Maria Kol, our new HR Country Lead, and her journey at Cisco

May 9, 2022

Three months have passed since your first day at Cisco. But before we hear about your experience here, we would love to know more about the career path that led you to Cisco.

I’ve always worked in the human resources field, although I had different experiences since my career started in 2009. My last professional challenge was as Head of Human Resources at the Portuguese Competition Authority where I was responsible for people management processes from 2018 to the end of 2021. Previously, I worked at Itaú Unibanco, in Sao Paulo, where I was responsible for the Bank’s organizational culture and career projects.

During my professional career, not only have I had the opportunity to work directly in human resources departments, but I was also integrated into the consulting world. I worked for about 5 years at Overlap and MyChange in Sao Paulo and Lisbon. Here I strongly focused on topics related to change management.

My main area of studies is Social and Organizational Psychology, having subsequently invested in training in Leadership Development, Human Resources, and Business Management.


More than ever, despite companies choosing their candidates, candidates choose their companies. Why did you choose Cisco?

When I applied for this position, I believed that it suited the experience I acquired throughout my professional career. I embraced this challenge motivated by an extremely strategic and collaborative position, aligned with a strong and agile culture. Professionally, I aimed to work in the technology sector, but more importantly I was seeking to work in a people-centered company.

Along my path, I was lucky enough to learn that the organizational culture of a company is one of the main reasons that make us choose not only to apply but more importantly to stay. No culture is more valid than another. There are cultures that are more or less allied with our values, and it is this differential key that we as candidates and employees must seek.


And what are your challenges at Cisco? Can you explain what is your role and responsibilities?

Cisco Country Consultants Team EMEAR

Cisco Country Consultants Team EMEAR

At Cisco, I joined the People and Communities (P&C) team, where I’m part of the EMEAR Country Consultant team. In Portugal, I represent P&C at the Country Leadership Board, contributing to setting the strategy for country engagement, identifying country needs, trends, and engaging with the board on P&C changes at a local level or on global initiatives such as Hybrid Work.

As Country Consultant, I am the first point of contact for the Senior Country Leaders, and, for them and for the site strategy, I partner with Employee Resources Organizations (EROs) and the P&C eco-system to provide country P&C consulting and orchestrate global P&C programs. I also support scaling global P&C programs in-country and leverage innovative frameworks and best practices to ensure a locally relevant and consistent engagement experience for our Country Communities. Additionally, I provide consulting on a variety of P&C country-related topics and orchestrate local P&C changes and initiatives within a country.


So far, what touched you the most at Cisco?

What most impressed me, without a doubt, was Cisco’s culture, a culture that is not only transmitted but also lived by employees. A culture where the organization gives employees the right tools so a true “walk the talk” can take place. A practical example is that Cisco not only encourages giving back to the community but also gives their employees Time2Give, 10 days per calendar year which encourages our people’s passion for community service to give their time to a cause that matters to them.

What I also like about Cisco’s culture is the autonomy and flexibility given in exchange for accountability. At Cisco, we have Our People Deal, a critical ingredient in creating a Conscious Culture built on a relationship of giving and take, and that shows us how we can live up to our culture every day. Our Conscious Culture is composed of an inclusive, diverse environment that positively impacts people, society, and the planet, where unique beliefs, behaviors, and principles are experienced by everyday interactions between our people. Bringing all of this together is what sets Cisco apart, and it is by being ‘conscious’ that we are aware and accountable for what is working, what is not, and how we can improve.


Cisco recently ranked #1 on the Great Place to Work. Why is Cisco the best place to work?

Cisco Portugal has participated in Great Place to Work since 2009, and in March 2022 we were again awarded the #1 Best Place to Work in Portugal.

At Cisco, everything we do is designed to help people thrive with the purpose of powering an inclusive future for all. This not only applies to our partners and clients, but also to our employees that work in a place of support and integrity, where dignity, respect, and equal access to opportunity for all communities are key priorities. We drive and support a set of initiatives that truly illustrate how these values come to life and are experienced. At Cisco, we encourage accountability and empowerment. Here employees are expected to act in creating a culture we can all thrive in. By giving them tools and resources, we can really see that our employees truly create the best place to work by putting their hearts, time, and energy into initiatives related to sustainability, innovation, inclusion, mental health, and so many others.

Not only do our teams create this best place to work, but also our leaders are the pillar that sustains our position as a company, supporting their teams by creating open communication, allowing and encouraging them to be themselves at work and getting involved with topics that they are really passionate about. We embrace a holistic view of our People. We know that what they do professionally is only a part of who they are, this awareness is incredibly important and guides how we care about and support them. After all, at Cisco, there’s genuinely pride and love for the company, and that is what makes the difference.


What would you say to someone who is looking for a new opportunity?

I would say that it is important to have well-defined goals, do a self-assessment to recognize our own values, and identify the values we are looking for.

The search for a new professional challenge is as strategic and rational as it is emotional. We must seek financial stability, develop new skills, and have a good stage for our career to flourish, but we also must pursue a place where we can be ourselves, where we feel good, and where we can find the level of support and collaboration that is important for us, not only to be better professionals but also better human beings.

I would say that if you are looking for an agile technological company, with sustainable results, where culture is seen as a way of life, with an environment with the full spectrum of diversity and inclusion, where you will feel accountable, empowered, and are expected to act in creating the culture we can all thrive in, Cisco is the place!


Cisco Portugal Leaders Community

Cisco Portugal Leaders Community

Cisco Portugal PRIDE

Cisco Portugal PRIDE

Cisco Portugal Inclusion & Collaboration

Cisco Portugal Inclusion & Collaboration