Winter can be a tricky time to travel. Whether you are in the snowy Midwest or sunny California, mother nature might have a different plan for you than your travel itinerary states.

On a Sunday morning in December, I was getting ready to head to the airport to travel to a Cisco Design Thinking workshop in North Carolina, where not only would I be attending my first professional development workshop at Cisco, but I was also going to meet my new team in person for the first time.

As I was finishing up packing, Southwest called, “All flights from Chicago into Raleigh have been canceled due to a winter storm.” With one phone call, the wind was taken right out of my sails.

After an hour of unsuccessfully trying to re-book through another airline, I opened my Teams app my to let my team know I was not going to make it to the workshop.

My message was met with a response of sad face emojis and bummed out comments. Then my new leader – whom I would quickly learn is an eternal optimist – chimed in to say, “No worries, we have Webex.”

Fantastic, mother nature was not going to keep me away! After a quick confirmation with the instructor to add a virtual attendee, I was back on track as to not miss a beat.

Monday morning came, my coffee mug full and my stack of sticky notes ready for an exciting day of learning! I joined the Webex video conferencing meeting for the Design Thinking Workshop from my Cisco DX80 and watched as my windblown and shivering cold teammates shuffled into the conference room.

I have used Webex for many years to attend team syncs, catch up 1:1 with coworkers, host training events, and more. However, I had never been in a scenario where I was the only one in the room on Webex.

It was a bit awkward to realize I was on the DX80 big screen, like the “Wizard of Oz,” in the room – front and center all day. Thankfully, I have a very lighthearted team, having good laugh at my prominent presence in the room, but relieved I was still able to contribute to the Design Thinking Workshop. We all settled in, eager to dive into the day.

Design Thinking is a human centered approach to innovation. In other words, this is an approach that puts people’s experience at the center of the solution. The workshops are mostly comprised of hands-on collaboration exercises that enable you to think and work a little more creatively  with your teammates to ‘put yourself in your end user’s shoes.

At first glance, it appears difficult to participate virtually – drawing pictures on a whiteboard to adding sticky notes to journey maps are traditionally in-person experiences. After our facilitator reviewed the agenda for the day, I couldn’t help but think – how were people going to see my scenario drawings? Who was going to put my sticky notes on the wall? Would I be able to see what my teammates were working on in their breakout groups?

Then I realized the foundation of Design Thinking is to harness the power of humans, technology, and business to overcome what seems impossible to create a new solution.

Light bulb, I needed to stop putting up roadblocks in my mind on why certain activities would be difficult for me as a virtual attendee and start innovating on how I would be able to solve what I viewed as my obstacles. By shifting my mindset to be more open to new possibilities, I was able to turn my lemon of a situation into lemonade.

Thanks to the power of collaboration technology, my experience as the only virtual attendee was truly seamless and actually pretty fun too. I remained fully engaged in the entire session with my DX80’s HD video. I was able to follow the facilitator and my teammates with ease with the speaker tracking capabilities of the Room Kit in the North Carolina conference room. To top it off, I was actually able to incorporate my input on the journey mapping exercises using real-time whiteboarding.

While I missed the free lunch, I walked away from the workshop with a new perspective from the gratifying feeling of working to find a solution for a complex problem, and making joy-filled memories with my teammates who were over a thousand miles away.

With collaboration, I was able to re-imagine the possible. See what Collaboration Technology can do for you.



Sarah Church

Learning Manager

Collaboration Customer Success Team