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Cisco Live 2023

I was lucky enough to win a trip to Cisco Live this year through the Cisco Insider Advocates program – The event was amazing and I wanted to share my experience.

The Numbers

In true geek fashion, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my Cisco Live stats.

  • 2,598 miles flown from MSP to LAS and back (yay for direct flights)
  • 6 days (Satuday-Thursday) in Las Vegas
  • 55,000 steps (roughly 27 miles)
  • 3 books signed – CCDE OCG signed by Zig Zsiga, The Art of Network Design signed by Denise Donohue, and DevNet Associate OCG signed by Jason Gooley
  • 30 selfies taken (with too many awesome people to list here!)
  • 1 exam taken
  • 1 exam failed (but I was close and now I know what I need to study)
  • 1 award received – Cisco Advocates Transformation Trailblazer
  • 3 content presentations, a presentation in the Content Corner, a session with Itential at the IP Fabric booth, and an interview with David Bombal
  • 2 MTE sessions – Jason Gooley and John Capobianco
  • 6 ribbons collected

The Event

The event itself was a great time! Plenty (ok, maybe too many) sessions to pick, tons of vendor booths, and more activities than you could shake a stick at.

I wrote about Cisco Live 2022 previously so I won’t rewrite all the same stuff. Instead, I thought it’d be fun to review my previous post and see how much of it still applies.

The first big difference – last year I was a delegate of TFDx, and this year I wasn’t because I’ve crossed over to the dark side. I now work for a vendor, which means to avoid any conflict of interest or bias, I can’t participate as a delegate. However, since I work for a vendor that sponsored Cisco Live, I had the opportunity to hang out at our booth and talk to people.

The Good

The people. That part is absolutely 100% accurate. The people are by far the best part of Cisco Live! This year was even better because I’ve had the opportunity to meet people at the last Cisco Live, as well as meeting more people through the Cisco Insider programs.

I did the CCDE techtorial again this year, and it, again, was an awesome session!

The Bad

I tried to take my own advice this time. I didn’t attend some of the parties, and I was far more selective on the sessions I attended. I tried to focus my time on the things that were the most valuable to me, and that was mainly taking the time to talk to people. There was still a lot of walking, but so it goes.

I wasn’t planning to take an exam this year, but I was able to grab a spot Sunday afternoon, so I went for it. This year the test center was in Mandalay Bay, so at least there wasn’t the 20-minute walk to and from Luxor for the exam.

The Tech

This year I wasn’t blown away with the tech announcements. I will admit, I am extremely interested in the Full Stack Observability platform. I didn’t get a chance to look at it much, but it’s on my radar to dig into as I get time.

New Thoughts from 2023

There are a few things that are new for me this year that I wanted to dig into.

Cisco Insider program

Though I touched on the programs in my last post, the Insider team had a lot of new stuff that happened this year. As I mentioned, I won the trip to Cisco Live through the Insider Advocates program. In addition to the trip, I was surprised to see my picture in the Insiders Rockstar Hall of Fame!

I was also shortlisted for two awards in the Cisco Global Advocates Awards, and I ended up winning the Transformation Trailblazer award! I was interviewed after winning the award, and I participated in a panel interview with David Bombal. For a guy that can talk a lot, I don’t have the words to convey how awesome that was!

Moving past the ego boost, the best part of the Insiders program is the community. Through the Advocates and Champions program I had the opportunity to meet tons of amazing people. If you’re not already part of the community I strongly urge you to join.

Booth Duty

Though I wasn’t officially on booth duty, I did stop by the IP Fabric booth a few times to hang out. Again, the best part of Cisco Live is the conversations, and I was able to have some really interesting conversations with people. I’ve found there are two topics that universally resonate with network engineers – STP issues and MTU issues. Any time I asked people if they’ve had either issue (I know I’ve had my share) I could watch their soul die. Then I’d show the STP topology in IP Fabric, complete with root bridge and blocked ports, and I could watch the souls spring back to life. I’m not trying to make a sales pitch here, though I probably should. This just another example of how important the conversations are.

Recommendations for Future Attendees

Yes – I just copied this entire section from my previous post because it’s still accurate.

  1. Wear good shoes. It’s a lot of walking! I think I calculated something like 30+ miles of walking during the week.
  2. Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated. With all the walking, the Vegas heat, and the overall dryness, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Add in air travel and perhaps some alcohol consumption, and that’s a recipe for disaster. There are plenty of water coolers, but sometimes it was challenging to find one that wasn’t empty. Bring a water bottle, fill it when you can, and make sure to drink enough water.

Now that the basic human needs are covered, on to the actual conference recommendations.

  1. Make time to talk to people. Sessions fill fast, making it feel like you need to register for as many as possible. Don’t fall into that trap. Sign up for the sessions you really want to attend, and then use the open time to talk to people. Most sessions are recorded, but the chance to talk to people isn’t.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. See your favorite blogger, podcaster, and beard? Go ahead and say “hi” to me. And if I’m not your favorite, that’s fine. Say “hi” to me, and them too. Did you hear someone ask a question in a session, and it sounded like they might be in a similar position to you? Talk to them. Maybe they’ve solved a problem you’re working on. Maybe you have some advice you could give them.
  3. Don’t focus on the parties. Sure, they can be fun, but after an 8+ hour day of talking and tech sessions, if you need some downtime, take it. Maybe doing back-to-back-to-back 16-hour days for a week is something you can do, and if so, go for it. If not, that’s cool. The parties, swag, and all of that are great, but if you risk burning yourself out, make sure to pace yourself.
  4. Swag is great. Prizes are also great. Neither should be the focus of a trip to Cisco Live. The cost of the conference pass, hotel, and airfare far outweigh the value of the swag. There’s always joking about finding the vendors with the best swag, but really, look for the vendors that can help you. Talk to them. Talk to vendors you’ve never heard of. Maybe they have a product that can solve a problem you have, and you didn’t even know it existed. If it ends up not being a good fit, move on. There are plenty of vendors for a participant to talk to and plenty of participants for vendors to talk to, so if there’s no value, then it’s better for both of you to move on.
  5. If you need approval to make the trip, highlight how Cisco Live is a lot more than sales demos and swag. You have the opportunity to meet a lot of people and learn about what they are doing. The odds are pretty good that you can find people that have solved whatever challenge you might be facing or at least people that could provide useful information.
  6. (New recommendation) Book MTE sessions! I didn’t book any in 2022, and I have realized that was a huge mistake! I booked two sessions with people I’ve followed for years (Jason Gooley and John Capobianco) and I am very happy I did! They are both quite popular, and being able to have them alone in a room for 45 minutes… uh… in a non-creepy way… is fantastic! Again, the people and conversations are the best part of Cisco Live, and being able to get 1-on-1 time with people that you follow is massively beneficial! You can jump straight into whatever topic you want, and there’s no sales presentation. Just a couple geeks chatting about geek stuff.

TLDR: Go to Cisco Live. Talk to people. Enjoy.

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