Rare Connection in Iowa

It might seem ironic to achieve career success at one of the world’s largest technology companies while working in a rural Iowa town (population less than 2,000) but that’s exactly what Mount Ayr resident Molly Murphy accomplished. 

Murphy is the Executive Communications Lead for the Office of the Chief Information Officer at Cisco, an American-based multinational technology conglomerate corporation headquartered in San Jose, California. Murphy has been working remotely in Iowa for Cisco for the past decade, long before remote work was commonplace in society. 

Coffee and a buttered muffin.

“[Remote work has] continued to evolve in ways we never would have expected.” Murphy said. “And working for a tech company like Cisco that really promotes and embraces the opportunity of hybrid work, I’ve been able to continue my career.” 

Murphy grew up in nearby Redding, Iowa before studying journalism at Iowa State University. After graduating, Murphy headed to Chicago, where she worked for several public relations agencies before becoming a vice president at a large global PR firm. While Murphy found her time in the Windy City to be extremely valuable, she also missed the sense of community that came with living in Iowa. 

Murphy recalled a 3 a.m. flight home from a business trip in London when she came to the realization that it was time to head home.

“I’ll never forget that moment, that deer in the headlights, that lightning strike of that cliché saying, ‘home is where the heart is,’” Murphy said. 

After nearly 10 years in Chicago, it was time to come home. 

Remote Work Is Easy in Iowa

Murphy leveraged her network to find job opportunities that would allow for a remote role. A former colleague connected her with a communications contractor opportunity with Cisco, and she’s been with the company ever since.

Molly Murphy sitting outside her home with her family.

“When I left Chicago, I was a VP and I really thought that coming back to a small town, my career wouldn’t have as much opportunity,” she said. “However, I’ve been able to expand it in other ways that I never would have deemed possible and continue to have an incredible balance between the life that I want to live and the career that I was striving for.” 

Murphy has seen the leaps in technology since becoming a hybrid worker. She says that, surprisingly, Mount Ayr is home to a “huge number of remote workers.” Murphy cited a number of benefits to remote work in Iowa, such as low cost of living, a central location/time zone and ease of travel.  

“I actually have more flexibility and freedom for my travel needs than I would in some major cities,” she said.

A Rare Mentality

Another benefit of remote work is more time available, which has given Murphy the opportunity to get involved in the community. Murphy, along with her husband and six other families started RAYR Market, a ‘food boutique’ that was created with the help of 40 local investors to make something new in the Mount Ayr community. It serves a wide variety of food and drink, like artisan pizzas, fresh sandwiches and wraps, ice cream and dairy products, wine and beer, and much more. RAYR is also responsible for the addition of 10 new jobs in Mount Ayr. 

“We try to do as much as possible to support other Iowa brands and bring them into our community and offer something that may not be available elsewhere within a 40-mile radius,” Murphy said. “That’s part of the name RAYR, it plays off of Mount Ayr, but we also feel like it’s unique and it’s rare, for people to truly band together to bring something to a community that’s needed based on trying to do good.” 

Young woman standing outside the RAYR market business.

RAYR also supports the local student of the month program for schools in Ringgold County and donates pizza giveaways to students who display exceptional character. According to Murphy, In Mount Ayr, exceptional character is the norm. 

In addition to her job with Cisco and role with RAYR, Murphy is a mother of two boys – meaning she has a full plate. But investing in the community is a priority for many of the Mount Ayr’s residents. “Mount Ayr and the surrounding communities as well, it’s been a culture and a mentality to give back,” Murphy said. “It’s not a requirement, it’s not an obligation, but it’s a sense of pride that we’re doing what’s right for ourselves, for our community and for the future.”

That sense of community is one of Iowa’s biggest strengths. 

“[Human connection] is something that a small town can offer, that Mount Ayr can offer, that Iowa can offer,” Murphy said. “‘Iowa Nice’ isn’t just a slogan, it’s truly something that people live by.” 

Cost of living comparison graphic illustrating difference between Chicago, IL and Mount Ayr, IA.

Last updated January 17, 2024

Published October 12, 2022

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