Friday, October 16, 2009

Cisco Habitat for Humanity

Today was one of the days our local Cisco office got to do volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. I was really looking forward to it even though I'm not mechanically inclined by any means whatsoever. I participated in the Capital Area Food Bank drive back in July and had a great time so I knew today would be no different. The weather called for a perfect day in Austin because we just had a "cold" front blow through the night before. I knew the morning was going to be a little on the chilly side so I made sure to dress in layers; which included wearing shorts. We are in Texas after all. Upon arriving to the site I noticed several houses by Habitat for Humanity being built along with another crew getting ready to start. Game on. I see the Cisco sign in front of the site as well as some familiar faces from the Cap Area Food Bank drive. I sign in, put my name tag on and then run back to the car for my jacket and beanie. Everyone appeared to be saying the same thing "wow it got cold". Coffee don't fail me now. From the looks of it I wasn't sure if the sun was going to come out and I started questioning whether or not shorts were the right call. Time will tell. The first 30 minutes consists of signing in and awaiting duties. The trailer arrived and we all stood around while we watched Bethany from Habitat for Humanity try and back the trailer up next to the house. I'm glad that wasn't a duty for us because if that were me, I would still be trying to back that trailer up. Bethany blurted out "if there's a hell this is it!" lol. She did a great job! I could tell I was surrounded by software people when the foreman asked "how many of you have put up drywall before?" Dead silence. Everyone started looking around like they were afraid to raise their hand. Foreman Jesse said "no big deal, it's pretty easy and we can show you how to do it, we just need about 12 people. Oh and you'll be working inside". I guess people were really cold because 12 volunteers were already halfway to the supply shed by the time I looked up. So the rest of us, to warm up, unloaded the trailer full of plywood and materials. It wasn't long before I warmed up some and during this time I got to meet several new Cisco employees. This is one of the cool parts about doing volunteer work with your company. Another cool part is finding out which department, division, and building everyone works in.

After we unloaded the trailer the foreman assigned the duties and split us into groups
. It was here where I got to meet the 2 guys I would spend the rest of my work day with. I got to meet Alex and Schan both who work in the same department and building. Both extremely cool and funny guys. We got to work inside the frame of the house, while one group installed the windows and the other worked on installing the roof. Our job was pretty simple, it just involved a lot measuring, cutting, hammering and a little ingenuity. First thing's first though, we need tools! So we head over to the supply shed for the essentials: hammer, nails, measuring tape, pencil and gloves. By the time we got to the shed it looked like it had been ransacked, however we found what we needed and managed to find 1 decent pair of working gloves. I guess Schan figured one glove was better than none. It wasn't long before we found a rhythm. Alex and Schan would start on the measurements and I would jot them down and take them to the person making the cuts outside. It wasn't long before I felt like a waiter informing my short order cook what I needed. "I need two cuts at 21 and 5/8's, one at 21 and 3/4 and one at 18 and 1/4" It actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about. This was our job for a good majority of the day and we were moving at a good pace once we got our system down. Nailing in all the boards by hand seemed to be a daunting task when we could hear nail guns going off left or right. We decided as a group to find a nail gun! Want to know how to spot 3 software guys on a build site? Just look for one using a nail gun and then all 3 saying "man that thing rocks!" or listen for the group that always says "lock and load!" every time the nail gun gets reloaded or "hand me another clip this ones running low" Yes we're dorks.

We finished off the work day by working on roof decking. When the foreman asked if any of us knew what to do, there was dead silence. Schan and I just looked at each other like "he wasn't talking to us was he?" So again, there was a collective "no". You need a voice network setup? You need the house run with Cat-5 wire? You need a secure wireless network? You want to know Cisco's collaboration story? We're your guys! other wise we're pretty clueless. Not a problem because we have good teachers on site and turns out roof decking wasn't as difficult as we thought it might be. Then again my job was to make some cuts and hand sheets of plywood up top to the rest of the group. Before we knew it 4:00pm arrived and it was time to wrap things up. Just as fast as we unloaded everything from the supply shed, we quickly gathered all the materials and put everything back up. Time sure does go by fast!

Safety is definitely the number one priority and I can gladly say that there wasn't a single injury; minus a couple of splinters, that occurred today. One thing I always notice is that everyone appears to be having a great time and there isn't a single complaint about anything. Everyone looks out for each other and everyone has a smile on their face. You can hear laughter the entire day and the gratitude that was shown to us was extraordinary. The day turn
ed out to be another gorgeous Austin day and the high for the day was around 72. It was perfect weather for building a house! I must say that participating in today's Habitat for Humanity volunteer day was a humbling experience. I look forward to doing more of these and I encourage all of you to give it a shot if you haven't done so already. You will feel better about yourself and you will be doing something good for your community.

Thank you Cisco for putting this together and thank you Habitat for Humanity for letting us participate in such a great cause.

Now I want a tool belt and a nail gun!

Pictures from today can be found here.

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