Cisco lures talent with stock

Cisco Systems Inc. is wielding an innovative weapon in its hunt for new hires: the networking giant is doling out company shares to people it has not yet even formally hired.

Recently, 1,300 university students working on Cisco co-op and intern placements across North America were told they would receive 500 shares each. After 12 months with the company, they could sell 100 shares, worth approximately $9,800.

“We wanted to send a signal to the company that interns are really part of our culture and need to be treated as part of our culture. We wanted to send a signal to the interns themselves to say, ‘You’re contributing to our success and therefore you need to be a part of the success,'” said Graham Holmes, senior manager of campus recruiting for Cisco in San Jose, Calif. “Stock options are a part of our culture, ownership is a part of our culture, and since interns are now a part of our culture [this move] made sense.”

William Chan, a third-year electrical engineering student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, works at Cisco’s Kanata, Ont. operation just outside Ottawa. He said Cisco’s move is a great incentive for students.

“The culture at Cisco, especially in Ottawa, is amazing. They treat their co-op students like any other employees,” Chan said. “You are always constantly challenged with new tasks and products.”

Chan will graduate in 2002, and he said he expects to return to work for Cisco. “It is hard to say for certain that in two years things won’t change, but I am happy with the job I have right now.”

Hlmes said Cisco has benefited from its interns, as they contribute to real-world activities, products and events.

“These interns aren’t fetching coffee and picking up laundry. These students are participating in things that have business impact,” Holmes said. “These aren’t students who are here to surf the Web for the summer. These are students who…are contributing to our success.”

Every student hired at Cisco is automatically given 500 shares. Students must work at Cisco for any remaining work terms, and join permanently once they graduate. The students are given a three-month vesting credit when they do join permanently.

“Students have the opportunity to get their hands on some of the best-performing options that have been out in the industry,” said Randy Baker, human resources recruiter at Cisco in Kanata. “I think it’s a little bit more of the Canadian culture, because some of our managers here and so many of the staff we have on site have come from co-op; they know the benefits of it.”

Baker said the program is a good way to test out potential hires, as well as allow them to test out Cisco.

“We want smart people, people who have done well academically. We want some good work terms under their belt and some relative work term experience,” Baker said. “Ability to learn is the biggie.”