Position: Strategy Lead, Social Media Communications
Location: Seattle, Washington
Years at Cisco: 7
As 19-year-old Mary Wayte stood on the starting blocks at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, preparing for the biggest swim of her life, a sense of calm washed over her. There were no nerves, no pre-race jitters, no fear that the moment was too big. The 200-meter freestyle race passed in a blur – and just 1 minute and 59 seconds later, Mary was an Olympic champion.
“I don’t remember my swim except for the last 25 meters, where I thought, ‘I am not going to let her beat me,’” Mary recalls. “In the years leading up to that moment, I had swum and won that race a million times in my head. But it is only now as an adult looking back that I realize how amazing and humbling it is to win an individual gold medal.”
Over the course of her Olympic swimming career – the 1984 Games and the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Korea – Mary captured another gold medal, one silver medal and one bronze medal as part of the U.S. women’s relay teams. And now, Mary will have the opportunity to write one more chapter in her Olympic journey, when she travels to Rio next summer to participate in the 2016 Torch Relay on behalf of Cisco.
“To be a part of the Olympics in any sense is extraordinary,” Mary says. “I find it truly humbling to have had the experience as an athlete, and then this much later in life to have the opportunity to carry the torch…I don’t think there are words to express how excited I am.”
Athletic accomplishments aside, Mary continues to strive every day to be ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ – and give others the opportunity to reach their full potential as well. She was nominated for this honor by her colleague Ben Stricker, who pointed not only to her Olympic success, but also to her passion and leadership in making a difference for people on a global scale.
“Mary is an outstanding example of what Cisco employees and Cisco leadership is all about,” Ben says. “She proves that every employee has the opportunity to make an impact on a global basis.”
Mary’s passion for Cisco can be seen through her various projects that truly change the way we live, work, play and learn. She brings a boundless energy and positive attitude to work every day – from spearheading social media strategy for the worldwide Cisco Rocks event to leading promotion for the documentary Detected, set to be released in 2016, about the life-saving implications of the Internet of Things.
“I love to bring everybody in and move things forward together,” Mary says. “I also love working on global initiatives – it’s all of us, all in.”
With her own swimming career behind her, Mary has stayed involved in the sport through her participation in Swim Across America – a non-profit organization that enlists Olympic swimmers to raise funds for cancer research. Immediately following the 1984 Games, her hometown renamed their pool The Mary Wayte Pool, and she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2000. Mary has continued her award-winning ways at work, as the recipient of the Chairman’s Choice Award in 2015 for her work on Cisco Rocks.
“I believe every body has a gold medal moment in both their personal and professional lives,” Mary says. “At Cisco, we are always being challenged to innovate, make things better and bring those moments to life.”
Making next summer’s trip even more special, Mary and her husband Jim will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary while in Brazil. The couple has 2 children – Grace, 15, and Audrey, 13.
“Going to Rio makes me reflect on all the amazing athletes who are realizing their own dreams,” Mary says. “I get to participate in their Olympic dreams in a really small, but might way – and that is so special to me.”
And who better to represent Cisco’s values in Rio than a true Olympic champion?