What I learned at my first Cisco Live, as a Cisco Employee

I remember the first time hearing about Cisco Networkers as a conference, it was a deep dive into the world of Cisco. Education, trainings, product information, and the ability to get together as a user group seemed to be the fundamental thing that Networkers represented. I always admired the show, but never got a chance to go. As Networkers turned in to Cisco Live, the emphasis on education, products, and the future of Cisco weren’t lost, however, the new introduction to the World of Solutions was brought on. Now, it wasn’t just about what you could do with Cisco equipment, but everything that existed in the Cisco universe including third-party tools and services.

I’ve been coming to CiscoLive for about half a dozen years now, and it only gets better with age. No matter where it is, it’s always a fun event filled with education, knowledge, networking, and a really fun concert!

This year CiscoLive is a little bit different for me. This is the first Live I have attended as a Cisco employee and it was a little bit different. I thought I’d take a second to write down what it was like to be on the inside of one of my favorite events.

I started at Cisco in January as an Engineering Product Manager for Wireless Experiences on the new, combined wireless team. This is the combination of the existing Catalyst wireless and Meraki wireless teams working together as one Cisco wireless team. This is what it was like from my perspective, which may be different than the perspective of someone in sales, engineering, strategy, etc.

Leading up to the event, there is an enormous amount of activity around the organization. Everyone’s trying to make sure that they put the finishing touches on the content they’re delivering, the way to address every question imaginable from a customers perspective, and what to talk about, as well as what not to talk about. With a company this big, it’s absolutely essential that everyone is on the same page. There are a number of internal sessions we go through to make sure that we have everything we need to be able to present the products, answer questions, have conversations, and most importantly, receive feedback about what we’re doing. The fun part is where we get to talk about where we’re going and how we’re getting there.

It was a lot of fun to get all the information about where we are as a company condensed down to the slide decks that we could use to carry on conversations and receive honest, live, customer feedback. It’s a great time to be at the company because of everything that we’re doing combining wireless teams. We get to learn about everything that we’re proud of and everything that we’re trying to achieve. It’s given to us as a team in one PowerPoint deck which we get to share with customers, partners, and everyone in between.

I had the opportunity to engage directly with customers in what are called our Whisper Suites. These are the areas that are reserved for meetings with customers and partners, all under NDA, where we talk about what we’re doing today, what we’re doing tomorrow and what we’re thinking about doing in the future. When someone signs up for Whisper Suites, they know that they’re going to get direct access to product management and executives of the organization. Let me tell you, they come prepared. It’s an awesome opportunity to hear the customer voice direct about what we’re doing.

In addition to customers and partners, if you’re part of the Cisco Champions and Cisco Insiders programs, you get a special invite to some of the big picture Whisper Suite sessions. If you’re not part a part of Cisco Champions, now is a great time to sign up. Shout out to Lauren, Amilee, Breana and Danielle for being the incredible foundation for Champions!

I also had the opportunity to interact in the World of Solutions on the floor for a few hours. This wasn’t a scheduled time, but just hanging around answering questions for people that wanted to know more about certain products or services that we have was awesome. There are specific staff booth hours, but anytime you get, an organization that is filled with people who are passionate about what they do, it’s pretty difficult to keep us away from end users!

The networking at CiscoLive isn’t just about security, route, switch, and wireless. The people networking is exceptional!

All in all, the networking and community found at CiscoLive is unmatched in the industry. There are a lot of other vendor conferences out there, but nothing really brings it home like CiscoLive does. You come in to the show knowing that you’re gonna have access to everyone in the organization but people are usually surprised at the amount of other customers there as passionate about what they do as you are. Pro-tip: hang around RiRa Irish Pub and you’ll find your people.

Speaking of access to Cisco personnel, one of the things that made it tremendous for me wasn’t just reserved for customers: the ability to have all the people from one company in one place at one time. As an employee, it is an incredible opportunity for us to shake hands, hug, and meet face-to-face with people we usually only see on webex calls throughout the year. With an organization this big, it’s difficult to be able to spend time with everyone, but when Live comes around, we’re all there.

So while you may see us in Whisper Suites, in the floor or at customer dinners and meetings, there is some amazing team get together, team building and our own networking that is happening at different times. It’s a great way to synchronize with everyone and make sure we’re on the same page and all pushing forward with one mission.

When the show was over and it was time to pack up, you saw more of that team work on the show floor. Groups of coworkers and partners got together to help each other pack everything up. It’s great to see so many friends, coworkers, partners, and others chipping in to round off an incredible week.

I wanted to write this out because I didn’t know what it was gonna be like going in to Live as an employee. I thought I might be stuck in a booth, having to work a grueling schedule, and waking up too early after being out late in Vegas. I didn’t know how I would be prepped, if I would have the tools necessary to answer all the questions that were asked of me, or what I could *or couldn’t* talk about. What I will say is that I feel like we were all well prepared, given the tools to be successful, and given the freedom to make it an enjoyable experience for us, our partners, and our customers.

It’s been a tremendous experience on the inside and I had just as much fun, if not more than I did as a regular attendee of the conference. Now not only do I get to enjoy everything that CiscoLive offers, but I get to do it while helping other people understand more about the products and services that I get to work on everyday.

See you next year!

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