The time for applications to the Cisco Champion 2019 program are fast approaching. As I learned this it caused me to reflect on the privilege I have had for the last two years of being part of it. I’d rather tell you about my experience and why you might want to join in on the fun. In those two years, I have seen it from two different views. My first year was 100% remote as I was unable to make it to Cisco Live. Last year I got to experience all of the greatness of some of the in-person events.
First, I’d like to start with all the technical fun. There are many ways to interact on a technical side. The program regularly hosts Cisco Champions radio. The topics on this are broad and cover the entire spectrum of Cisco products. You have the opportunity to be a host on this podcast. Here as a host or spectator you get the opportunity to hear from the folks at Cisco about products and ask questions. You can even ask the hard questions such as “why is there no IPv6 support yet?”. They love getting suggestions from the field too, which is a huge part of the Cisco Champions program. Giving feedback, suggestions, and asking hard questions. Trust me, those that run the program love that!
There are also pre-briefings where you will get to learn of new developments and technologies. This is always an interesting session to sit in on as you get a heads up and can prepare for releases. Naturally these are embargoed but knowing ahead of time is still a great advantage.
There are times you also get to speak with business units and executives about their area within Cisco. This allows you to be part of the in the field engineers that get an opportunity to help influence the technologies we work with on a daily basis.
This Webex Teams room is an amazing place for technical discussion as well. You’ll be surrounded by a group of people all passionate about the same thing as you. For some that work in small shops or areas, this can be a great place to talk shop when you might not normally have the people around to do so with.
If you are lucky enough to attend Cisco Live the program tries to offer unique opportunities for Champions there as well. Things such as behind the scenes tours, special Keynote seating, a group get together, and much more. They really try to make sure we get something special.
Many of the above can be attended remotely which is a great benefit to this program being very digital in its existence. However, it should be noted that it’s not just a Cisco Kool-Aid drinking group. It’s very diverse group of people with discussions about all sorts of technology, vendors, and topics that have nothing to do with technology. That’s just it though, whether remote or at in person events the shining light of this program is the members themselves and I’d like to tell you about that as it’s my favorite part.
The main place to interact is in the Champions Webex teams room. This is where you get to know each other. I know that sounds cliché and yes, there is technical banter in there but everyone quickly becomes friends and interacts. There ends up fun rooms about pets, recipes, and a wide variety of topics. There are also rooms dedicated to specific technology topics and trains. Getting to know each other on a technical level as well as outside of the day job really makes this group a family, and with that family comes one of the greatest things about the group. Many of the brightest and best technical resources are at your fingertips and people are always willing to help. Even better yet, this group spans the globe meaning at any moment there is a good chance someone is around.
Above I said things like “friends” “family” and “willing to help”. This is an important distinction between a large users group that meets once a month or a massive 2000 person slack space. As I mentioned above people get to know each other in the Champions Programs and are looking out for each other. I’ve seen people rally behind people working through tough project work, get behind people studying a specific topic, and my favorite part, providing support through day to day life. I personally experienced this when my mother passed away. The Champions group reached out to me in so many ways and gave me comfort through that hardship. This is where the group becomes a family.
The global reach of this group is important as well. People are traveling and will post where they are and you will often see people meeting up. This is an amazing part of networking with this group. More often than not if you are in a new place someone will be around to grab a bite to eat with, talk shop, or have a beverage. I myself was lucky enough to get informed of a fellow Champion that was nearly a thousand miles away from home to find themselves in the town I reside in and we met up for drinks.
Individuals truly become friends and get to know each other outside of technology. We share funny stories, photos of pets and family, accomplishments in our day to day life. You get to know people well enough to know who you can joke with and even the individuals running to program don’t hide in the bushes and take part in the fun. In fact, they’ve made the social aspect of this group such an important part that a blogging club has been created to help each other with content writing and building their personal brand in social media. They’ve also started a monthly coffee hour where anyone that chooses to, and can attend, hop on a Webex and just shoot the bull about anything and everything. In fact, I still owe Andi some microwave pork rinds. Long story but join in the fun and you can find out why!
To put it simply, the Cisco Champions program is one of the greatest groups of technical people I’ve been a part of. We talk shop, learn new things, influence others and even technology, but most importantly we have a lot of fun.