Well that time is upon us once again, where thousands of networking geeks will flock to one location and partake of endless libations, a steady flow of geek speak, and countless conversations with industry peers. That’s right, it’s time for Cisco Live.
I’ve written about Cisco Live many times on this blog before. In fact, Celeste has also written about Cisco Live from a wife’s perspective. I can’t even recall how many of these events I’ve been to over the years, all U.S. based because I’m not cool enough to travel abroad much. I’ve learned much in my years attending, and the aim of this article is not to convince you to go to Cisco Live. If you or your employer don’t see the benefit already then I’m not going to convince you or them. This article is intended for the employer as well as the employee that have already committed to Cisco Live, perhaps for the first time. In this article I’ll provide you with the tips that I base my entire event on. Tips that have helped me to complete certifications, implement new solutions back at the office, and build a network of peers that are a $social_post away.
I think you absolutely have to step back and consider the entire landscape of the show. What are you trying to get out of it? What are your expectations? Each year the show has a focus on popular industry topics. One of those categories might be a fit for you. Are you in the midst of an IoT deployment? Perhaps you’re attempting to automate your network and make use of the new Software Defined and Programable network devices? If so, we’ve been talking about these things at Cisco Live for a number of years now and you’re probably going to fit right in. Or, maybe you’re a developer. That’s cool too. The Cisco DevNet Zone is probably going to appeal to you. But once again, you have to sit back and decide what it is you expect to take away from the show.
There are 10 areas that I always consider before attending. The way I see it is that time is short and I want to make the most of it.
The areas I consider are:
- The sessions
- The Keynotes
- The World of Solutions
- The DevNet Zone
- Networking with Peers in the Social Media Lounge
- The Certification and NetVet Lounge
- The CCIE Netvet reception
- The CCIE party
- The CAE
- The Cisco Press Store
While this is my shortlist, there are of course, other things to do at Cisco live. If it’s outside this list then I probably don’t have a lot of experience with it and I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. I’ll leave that info to someone who’s more familiar.
Most of that list above fall into the following areas:
- The Education
- The Community
- The Experience
Let’s begin with the education aspects of Cisco Live.
I’ve been a trainer since January of 2001. I’ve always had an opinion on what “training” should be. When I began attending Cisco Live it was called Networkers. Back the the training was sub-par in my opinion. That was then, and this is now. The level of education you receive at a Cisco Live is now top notch. Granted you will still run into a session here and there that disappoints, but overall the Cisco Live presenters are very knowledgable and the material is extremely relevant. That is, if you choose your sessions wisely. You can schedule your sessions by visiting the Session Catalog. I’d advise you to schedule early. If you haven’t scheduled sessions yet you’re probably going to find most of the good ones are now full. Next year schedule early.
This year I plan on attending the following sessions:
- 13 Smart Ways to Program Your Cisco Network [BRKCRS-3114]
- Opening Keynote – Accelerating Digital Transformation, Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco Systems, Inc [GENKEY-1002D]
- Coding class – Introduction to Git [DEVNET-1080]
- A Deep Dive into using the Firepower Manager [BRKSEC-2058]
- CCIE NetVet Reception [RSVP-11127]
- Advanced Security Group Tags: The Detailed Walk Through [BRKSEC-3690]
- Advanced Malware Protection [BRKSEC-2139]
- Kevin Spacey: Storytelling in the Age of Disruption [GENKEY-1004]
As always, something comes along and I’ll miss some of these. However I’ll be making a concerted effort to get the most out of the sessions.
Four Hour and Eight Hour Paid Sessions
You can also pay extra for some of the sessions at Cisco Live. If you’re on the CCIE track Id recommend the 8 hour Techtorials for your given track. It will give you some insider knowledge on the program that can help you in your preparation. Also, if you want to get some hands on, you can sign up for some guided lab sessions as well.
In my list of sessions I’ve added the keynotes. In years past I would have glossed over these sessions but I think my view has changed. One of the benefits of the Keynote session with Chuck Robbins is that you will get a sense for what the industry feels is important. This is valuable because if the overall industry has eyes on a certain technology areas but your organization doesn’t, you might want to find out why. Keeping up with industry trends may also help with career advancement.
The World of Solutions
While the primary purpose of the World of Solutions is for vendors to collect leads, you can actually use it as a way to learn about vendor technology. Each vendor puts on a dog and pony show to tout their latest initiatives. If you’re interested in vendor x, find out who their competitors are and visit their booths as well. Have them get you a technical person to explain their solution and put it in the context of your network. You’ll walk away better informed than if you just browse their web sites.
The DevNet Zone
This year I’ll also spend a bit more time in the DevNet Zone. If you are developing with Cisco technology you can get hands on experience here. The DevNet Zone addresses multiple areas of development including Network Programmability and Security, two areas I’m keen on keeping up with.
The community at Cisco Live is without a doubt, one of the best aspects of the show. I remember back when things started with “Toms Corner” at Cisco Live Las Vegas. That was a small group of social people who blogged, communicated on twitter and shared opinions and experiences. Today that community is so large I can hardly keep up with it, but you can connect with that community in person by visiting Social Media Central.
The Certification and NetVet Lounges
Another area of community are the Certification and NetVet Lounges. These lounges are a bit more filtered than Social Media Central area. You can usually find a refreshment and a snack in these lounges. Take a minute to visit them if you’re able to and join in the great conversations that take place there.
You might as well have some fun while at Cisco Live. participate in one of the contests and win cool prizes! Who doesn’t want to win backstage passes for Maroon 5? Check out the contests and get involved. If you’re not part of the twitter community already, participating in the contests are a good way to meet fellow attendees and get to know some of the folks at the show. I honestly believe you’ll find it beneficial to keep in touch after the show on twitter.
Cisco Live is an experience that I look forward to every year. The CCIE Netvet reception, The CCIE party, The CAE, visiting the Cisco Press Store to see if anything I wrote in the past is still on the shelf, and the FaceTime with many friends I’ve made over the years makes Cisco Live the absolute best conference of the year. It would be difficult to sum up the many great experiences I’ve had over the years at Cisco Live. If this is your first year I urge you to make the most of it by getting involved in the community and taking advantage of the various aspects of Cisco Live, both the ones I’ve discussed in this article as well as the the ones I simply didn’t have time to mention.
Call to Action..
If you’re going to be at Cisco Live and we have yet to meet in person, leave me a comment and lets try to meet up at the show. I look forward to meeting new people and catching up with long-time friends this year at Cisco Live 2016.