Why Cisco Live Will Be the Best Professional Week of Your Year


Succeeding in life is often about building relationships. We build relationships with our families and neighbors, with lifelong friends and colleagues. I believe everyone in the IT space should put themselves out there to build their careers. But it can be difficult to know where to begin. That’s why I keep my rule for networking simple: Your best networking match is someone exactly like you—only one year from now.

None of us knows the future, and navigating the present can be like rafting on a raging river. We each know that the next 365 days will involve challenges and triumphs. But someone like you—who’s one year ahead—already knows the terrain. Three years might be too advanced, but someone just ahead of you is fresh with research, lived through the puzzles, and reflected on the solutions. 

Wouter Hindriks’ simple networking tip: Find someone who’s one year ahead of you.

But how do you find this person? Searching online can be time-consuming and may never amount to anything. But if you’re in the IT field, the easiest path is going to Cisco Live

Building an Ecosystem

I have worked closely with Cisco products since my time with British Telecom. In that role, I often had to provide troubleshooting assistance for international clients using Cisco products. In the twenty years since I received my first Cisco certification, I have been regularly impressed by the company's commitment to providing a support ecosystem. It was not enough for Cisco to just create reliable technology.

I often advocate for Cisco because their company vision goes well beyond market share or pushing products. Cisco has the desire to help humanity grow by providing the technological infrastructure we need to sustain that growth. They have the foresight to understand the future of communication and data exchange, and they are committed to leading that future. You do not accomplish that by selling boxes with blinking lights.

Cisco's primary product is creating an environment for solutions. That is why they are so focused on providing a support ecosystem as valuable as the actual products. That is also why they created Cisco Live.

More Than Just an Event

At face value, it is easy to say that Cisco Live is just another customer event. Cisco certainly uses the conference to roll out new products and services. However, the bulk of the conference is about bringing together customers, partners, and technical staff to talk about solving problems. I say conference as shorthand, but the term does not do justice to the experience.

Each year, Cisco hosts multiple events at locations all over the world. Each is several days packed with seminars, panel discussions, and speakers on a variety of IT subjects. Every session is recorded and made available to attendees on the Cisco Live website for years.

They also offer Meet the Engineer, which is an opportunity to talk personally with the engineers who create Cisco's products. This provides a deeper understanding of the tools you need to reach your mission objectives. It also provides an excellent opportunity for clients to give those engineers direct feedback for future developments.

Making the Most of Your Time

Some may go to Cisco Live to casually attend a few sessions. In my opinion, they’re missing out on a lot. Participants have the option to attend sessions from 8:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Each evening, there are voluntary networking events.

After each of these conferences, I returned home with a laptop filled with presentations, white papers, and random notes to review. I usually spend the next four months digesting all the contacts, resources, case studies, and references. It can take a few more months to unspool what I learned and begin the process of adopting the data to my work.

Events aren’t just for schmoozing. They’re a chance to pick your peers’ brains.

We all want to believe that our lives are unique, but in IT we know that there are a limited number of problems in the field. Every single IT professional has similar concerns about security. We all need to update our systems occasionally. We all need to manage data storage and minimize downtime. That is the power of Cisco Live. The event is a world of solutions to problems you already have or might anticipate. 

Considering a migration to a virtual system? You will talk directly with professionals who considered and completed the migration a year ago. They can give you the benefit of their experience and contact information for questions down the line. No matter your circumstance, you will get multiple perspectives from professionals at different stages of the same decision tree.

This is exactly how you find someone who’s a year ahead of you. 

Finding Our Next Solution

I always get excited about Cisco Live whenever I’m interested in a specific Cisco solution. Here at Missing Piece, we provide IT assistance for business, finance, and accounting firms. Aside from the tremendous networking opportunities and general information, the biggest impact to our operations came from our adoption of Cisco HyperFlex.

HyperFlex is software-defined and provides storage and data services. The system is designed to integrate processing, storage, and networking in a simple and efficient management structure. We made the switch to HyperFlex last year and it currently manages around 60% of our environment. We love HyperFlex because Missing Piece is growing around 40% a year, meaning we had a dire need for scalability.

I had the confidence to trust HyperFlex for our operation because it was introduced at Cisco Live. I was able to personally speak with the developing engineers about our operational needs. There were a number of booths, presentations, and technical sessions including consumer feedback. It all happened live and unrehearsed. You cannot get that kind of information reading a sales website.

Selling Cisco Live to Your Boss

If I’ve sold you on attending Cisco Live, unfortunately, the job isn’t done. Let’s be honest. For most of us, being interested in a conference is not the deciding factor. If you want your company to cover the cost of attendance and let you miss work for a week, you have to convince your leadership of the value. My advice would be to present the events as an opportunity to gain pro bono consultant advice.

For three to five days, Cisco engineers, IT partners, and customers will be in one place at one time. This is an unprecedented opportunity for real-time conversations about every angle of the future IT environment. These are not salespeople pushing a product. This is a technical conference where you can have hundreds of conversations about IT solutions at organizations with similar circumstances.

When you factor in the number of conversations you can have and sessions to attend, it’s a great deal of knowledge that can be packed into a short period of time. If you’re expected to figure out this information anyway, getting it all done at one event is definitely the best use of your time. 

How to Plan for Cisco Live

Like many of life's opportunities, the key to making the most of these events is planning. With all the information being presented at these functions, you simply cannot afford to wait until the last minute. Two months before the event, Cisco Live's registration site will have the conference agenda. That is when you want to begin building your schedule.

Don't be afraid to indicate interest in multiple sessions at the same time. Because they record each session, you can watch anything you missed after the event. You can revisit the schedule every few weeks and remove or add sessions to match the needs of your everyday work life. If you have specific problems, now is also the time to begin writing those questions.

After the event, take time to create a presentation for your work colleagues that were not able to attend. If you are going to represent an organization, remember that this is a great opportunity for every member of your team. Demonstrating the value of what you learned may also make it easier to make the pitch for next year.

Just Do It

If you work in an IT environment, there is no better opportunity to grow than at Cisco Live. Every IT professional has those moments where the headaches and lost sleep seem permanent. We all have fears of system failures or botched migrations. Talking to professionals at every stage of these future challenges provides an unparalleled level of pertinent information.

This is the best professional week of the year. You owe it to your future self to take advantage.