People Behind CSR at Cisco: Volunteering With AppD Cares Fulfills a Passion for Giving Back
by Shelley D. Harper
We have created a new blog series that will focus on the people behind Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Cisco. Each blog in this series will highlight a different Cisco employee who works closely with CSR initiatives across the company.
Passionate best describes how employee volunteers at San Francisco-based AppDynamics feel about the work they do to support non-profit organizations addressing serious social issues to make the biggest impact globally. That’s why they formed AppD Cares, an employee volunteer organization whose early efforts AppDynamics supported with employee donation matches up to $250 and budgets to fund chapters around the world. After Cisco acquired the company in 2017, the organization got a major boost, and Cisco now matches all full-time employees’ charitable monetary donations up to $25,000 annually, and through the Time2Give initiative allows employees paid time off to volunteer.
When an AppD Cares chapter formed in Richardson, Texas, Jamelyn Banuelos was thrilled when tapped to head it up. As chapter lead, she leverages the people and leadership skills she has cultivated in her role as an AppDynamics customer success leader to fulfill her lifelong passion for doing charitable work.
I recently met with Jamelyn to talk about how her career has advanced, and to learn about what motivates her own drive to do good for others.
What were you doing before joining AppDynamics?
Jamelyn: Before entering the professional workforce, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Sales and Marketing at Texas State University in three years while working part-time, acting as the social and philanthropy chairs for a co-ed honors fraternity, and helping put on annual charity music concerts that benefited Teach for America and charity: water.
Sometime after graduation, I got a job at a wide format printing and paper company as a field sales representative and branch manager. Working collaboratively with another branch manager who had amazing people skills, I learned how to build relationships with customers and how to be a leader. One day she left to work for AppDynamics, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) software company specializing in platform, application, and business performance monitoring. We kept in touch for three years, during which she continually asked me when I would join her there. I thought to myself, “From printing and paper sales to software? Really?” But eventually I did, and it was completely life changing. To prepare me, AppDynamics put me through a leadership experience boot camp where I developed additional expertise.
Describe your role as a customer experience leader
Jamelyn: I mentor and lead a team of customer success managers and specialists who drive value every day for AppDynamics’ East Region customers, coaching them on how to assure the person at the other end of that Webex call they are getting the most value from our products and feel a human connection to our team. I also use volunteer events as team building activities.
Tell us about AppD Cares and its priorities
Jamelyn: For AppD Cares, giving back to the community is important, as well as actively supporting charity-minded employees who volunteer for the non-profit organizations, charitable activities, and causes that matter to them.
In 2017, a group of us AppDynamics employees who worked as a team but were scattered across the U.S. realized we all enjoyed giving back to our communities and decided to come together informally to volunteer, so we formed a grassroots employee group called AppD Cares. Since then, it has become a formal program, led by two CSR professionals, that aligns to Cisco’s Community Impact strategy, and I’m the chapter lead in our Richardson, Texas chapter. Right now, we also have chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area, East Region (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, New York, Chicago), EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region, Bangalore, and Sydney.
Our employee volunteers are most energized around bridging the ever-widening gap between vulnerable, historically excluded communities and the rest of society, which is caused by income and racial inequality, intolerance, and social injustice. More recently, our focus has shifted to global support, where our employees are most passionate, to make the biggest impact — critical human needs, specifically around food and housing insecurity, racial and social equity, economic empowerment, access to education in historically excluded communities, and disaster relief.
How does AppD Cares select charities to serve, and how does it support them?
Jamelyn: AppD Cares listens to its employees, who nominate the organizations that matter most to them. Then we examine the work each organization has already done to see if it aligns to our core values before finding ways to support them. This was, of course, a lot easier when we weren’t in a global pandemic, which caused us to pivot our approach. In lieu of getting involved hands-on, we mostly work virtually and donate to these organizations, still making a difference.
We also recruit employee volunteers through events that generate interest. Our very first Dallas Chapter AppD Cares Lunch & Learn launched in May 2020, and we invited the entire company worldwide to attend virtually. This event illuminated our partnership with the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, which takes on child abuse cases in Dallas County and provides, among other services, trained therapists to counsel abused children. We also conducted a training class for learning how to recognize child abuse and report it.
This event was highly successful and kicked off a series of other lunch and learns — to date, we’ve hosted 50 of them for nonprofits from all over the world, with 2,138 employees attending. We donate $2,500 to each nonprofit featured to thank them for their time, and as an added incentive, for each employee who attends a session, AppDynamics makes an additional $10 donation to the non-profit featured, starting a domino effect that sparks awareness and inspires our employees to engage in and learn about organizations that are potentially near and dear to their hearts. They also spread the word in their own communities to raise awareness and recruit even more volunteers, which we affectionately call our “ripple effect of goodness.”
There are other ways to assist besides financial donations and on-site work, especially during the pandemic. For example, we are in our second year of partnering with Team4Tech — a US-based nonprofit organization which provides pro-bono service-learning to educational projects globally — to jointly support one charitable organization per year, which in 2022 will be African Soup, an organization dedicated to empowering communities in Uganda through education programs. In the past our teams, who come with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, traveled to the country where the non-profit is located. However, for the last two years they have participated virtually. In addition, Cisco donates hardware and Webex licenses to the effort. This is such a popular volunteering opportunity we have to conduct interviews before assembling teams.
Can you tell me something personal you’d like others to know?
Jamelyn: People ask me all the time why I do what I do and why I’m so profoundly invested in helping others. If I’m not doing a million things to help someone else, I’m lost. During my early childhood years, my parents held full-time jobs and were always super busy, so I ended up spending a lot of time after school and on weekends with my retired grandparents, both of whom were heavily involved in community service, and they encouraged me to get involved, too. One day out of every month I would accompany my grandmother to help out at the local food pantry. She also hosted a monthly project day at her church where all the ladies would come together to sew or crochet baby blankets, hats, booties, and pillows, then donate them to local hospitals. And as a retirement community chairman of the board, my grandfather got involved with many of the volunteer programs open to residents. Just being around them and their activities, giving back became ingrained in me. I am forever grateful to them and for those early experiences, which have shaped me into who I am as a human being.