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DevNet Express: Cisco SEs Get Trained to Lead Hands-on Programmability Events

August 13, 2018 - 8 Comments

Scaling up to train more partners and customers on Cisco APIs

Some of you reading this post might know what a DevNet Express event is, but you probably don’t know the history behind it. Let me give you a bit of background on how DevNet Express events came to be and what they actually are.

We found that the most successful way to train people to use Cisco APIs is to encourage them to listen to trainers talk about the concept and then have them play with the APIs. Thereby experiencing for themselves what the technology can do. Although the DevNet team has been able to provide this type of experience at events such as the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live and GSX, there was a clear need identified by the WorldWide Sales Enablement (WWSE) team for the concept to be replicated by Cisco Systems Engineers (Cisco SE) and delivered to Cisco Partners and Customers around the globe. Therefore, the experience of attendees being able to listen, learn and then put their learnings into practice needed to be able to scale so that any Systems Engineer or trained person could deliver such an event, anywhere, at any time, by taking the standard event material ‘out-of-the-box’.

Cisco SEs take on the world of automation and network programmability

It was clear from a WWSE perspective that as the Cisco SEs transition to a world of automation and network programmability, they initially constituted the perfect users of the program. Their feedback was instrumental in the evolution of the program.

Cisco Live US planning session with Hank Preston, Par Merat, Jay Gardner, Genna Cargill, Mandy Whaley, and Mike Koons.  (Photo credit: Silvia Spiva)

And so, DevNet Express events were born: the first product to emerge from the newly-formed DevNet-in-a-Box program. DevNet Express is a two-day event with a structured agenda, technology-specific content, and a reward mechanism to motivate attendees over the two days. DevNet provides the trainers with everything they need to enable them to deliver the event: the website, registration site, project plan, trainer material, content through a Learning Track, virtual pods, post-event feedback forms and so on.

The approved trainers are responsible for the project management of their DevNet Express, the venue, funding, prizes, providing proctors and attracting and communicating with the attendees before, during and after their event. While the Learning Tracks (the technology being taught at a DevNet Express) change, the other deliverables of a DevNet Express remain the same. We have three Learning Tracks for DevNet Express events currently – DNA, Cloud Collaboration and DCI – with a Security Track coming online by the end of this calendar year.

Cisco SEs and partners get trained to lead

In order to ensure the trainers are able to deliver the content in an optimal fashion we have a requirement that each trainer, before presenting at a DevNet Express event, attends at least one DevNet Express in person. While this decision might limit the number of events we are able to run it ensures that we maintain the quality and the spirit of the event in the long term. What started as an SE training program and evolved into a very successful one at that, can these days be run by anyone be it a Cisco partner, customer, or student anywhere around the world in front of any audience.

This year I was able to attend the inaugural DevNet Express DNA version 3 event in Orlando in a double role: as an attendee but also as a content developer for the event. The event took place at the Cisco office in Orlando over the weekend before Cisco Live US 2018. Between setting up the DevNet Zone, making sure my DNA Center network works flawlessly and getting ready for my NX-OS workshops I managed to squeeze some time to attend in person this DevNet Express event.

As a first time attendee it was an eye-opening experience for me to see the level of detail that goes into organizing and running a DevNet Express event as well as the whole flow of the event. Starting with the introductions, the MC role, the presenters, the proctors, the prizes, the stamps, to selecting the right music to play during the hands-on part of the event. I could definitely see why you really have to attend one of these events in person before you are able to run and present at one.

My personal goals for this event were also on multiple levels. First I wanted to see what the attendees think of the brand new content – if we need to make any adjustments and corrections. Second, I wanted to be able to participate at future DevNet Express events as a presenter or what we colloquially call “get my ethos“. There’s a whole different story around this and people in the know might chuckle at this reference.

Building content for DevNet Express DNA Track v.3

Earlier this year in April, for a whole unseasonably cold week in Cleveland, I had the privilege of working on developing content for the version 3 of our DevNet Express DNA track together with an amazing group of individuals. Together with Bruno Klauser I covered the DNA Center module. I worked on the NFVIS module with Ryan Shoemaker. Hank Preston did a great job of overseeing and guiding the whole group towards the end goal.

The Cleveland content creation team arduously working on creating new content for
DevNet Express DNA v.3 (Photo credit: Dmitry Figol)

It was an intense and fast-paced week of discussing, learning, compromising and a lot of writing. If you’ve attended a version 3 DevNet Express DNA event already or will in the future, I’d be really interested to know your thoughts on the event and the content we decided to cover. Having worked on content creation before alone in a secluded environment, I’ve got to admit that being within a group of like-minded individuals for a whole week, working towards a common goal, discussing and brainstorming has definitely resulted in what I think is much better content.

DevNet Express events include partners and clients

Having met Chara Kontaxi, the SE Manager for Greece, last year during a Cisco NetAcad event in Athens, we came up with a plan to organize a DevNet Express event for the southern Europe Cisco SE community and at the same time we also wanted to include partners and clients. And since we were going all the way to Europe we decided to actually run two DevNet Express events to make it worth it.

On June 25 and 26 2018, we ran the brand new DevNet Express DNA version 3 event in the Cisco Greece office in Athens. For this event we used the developer environment that we’ve setup in dCloud before the event. Each attendee had a dedicated virtual workstation with all the pre-requirements installed and all virtual machine instances needed for the modules were spun up and running.

Kick-off for the first ever DevNet Express event in Athens, Greece

At 9 am on that Monday, with a conference room overflowing with interested and engaged attendees we were ready to start the event. Time literally flew by as we went through the event content: Python and REST APIs fundamentals, DNA Center programmability, Model Driven Programmability, Guest Shell on IOS-XE and Cisco Meraki. You could see the surprise in the eyes of the attendees as they’ve been seasoned Cisco employees, customers and partners for a long time and the content we were covering was nothing like what they’ve seen before.

The week after, on July 2 and 3, we ran the second DevNet Express event covering the cloud collaboration track. Same location, different attendees but the interest and engagement stayed the same. After an introduction on Python programming, we delved into Webex Teams APIs, widgets, bots, integrations with Zapier and everything else cloud collaboration from Cisco. While the migration to bots and integrations should be easier for voice administrators that have used scripting previously in their jobs, there’s still going to be some getting used to to these new technologies. Let’s just say we are far away from the days of old school VoIP and Cisco Call Manager.

Surprise visit by Mike Koons and Luis Palacios during DevNet Express DNA event in Athens, Greece

Attendees are excited to improve their skills

I believe that most of the attendees for both DevNet Expresses left the event with a sense of excitement for what the future will bring while at the same time seeing the massive commitment that Cisco is making with DevNet, supporting and fostering a community with members that want to improve their skills, be it software development or network engineering.

Part of the team that made it happen: Adrian Iliesiu, George Piyiakis,
Kareem Iskander, and Patrick Riel

I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible at Cisco DevNet Express events around the world either in person or virtually. In the meantime let’s keep in touch on or @aidevnet.

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  1. DevNet Express is really a fantastic program. The idea of using SEs and Partner SEs as a force multiplier was brilliant. And at the same time, it turns us into leaders of the automation revolution that is sweeping our industry.

    With other SEs from SLED, Commercial and Enterprise, I've delivered the DNA DNE across the Western US. We're now getting started on the DCI class. And I'm very excited about the upcoming Security version.

    • Francois, thanks for the comment and more importantly for all the amazing work you do evangelizing DevNet, teaching and showing Cisco partners, customers, employees, students, pretty much whoever wants to listen to you about what is possible to develop around Cisco technologies and giving them a glimpse of the future. And you are right to be excited about the Security track. I've had a look at some of the content that was created for this track and I cannot wait for it to go public for everyone else to start enjoying it and learn from it.

  2. Great writeup Adrian. It is indeed amazing how DevNet Express has evolved into a highly successful global program since we've created and run the 3 very first pilot events back in December 2015 (Berlin, Germany) and early 2016 (Amman, Jordan and London, UK).

    Since then it's been highly effective (and good fun) to train customers, empower partners and in many cases has truly changed the careers of individuals in our industry.

    Thanks for the great partnership DevNet Team – definitely looking forward to many more successful content updates and events being tailored and held.

    • Bruno, thank you for the comment! You will always be the grand father of DevNet Express and should feel very proud of your involvement and contribution to this amazing program! And yes you are right, the first event ever was held in Europe! Had so much fun working with you on creating the content for version 3 of DevNet Express DNA in Cleveland! Looking forward to new collaboration opportunities with you and the rest of the Cleveland crew.

  3. As a DevNet Express, attendee, event planner, content author and instructor I can honestly say I've seen the DevNet Express events from almost every angle. From every one of those perspectives, the commitment and support from DevNet, the WWSE, the CSE and everyone else involved in making these events happen is truly provided with the hope that the attendees gain a sense of excitement and create a developer vision of themselves.

    • John, you are such an inspiration to so many people! Keep being who you are! Looking forward to the new and improved DevNet Express DCI track that I know you've been working on. And if you ever decide to publish some of your musing count me in as an avid reader.

  4. What an amazing learning journey!
    I'd like to give a special THANK YOU to Genna Cargill and Iftach Socher, who not only organized and advertised each DevNet Express, but also turned #DevNetExpress into a global brand.

    • Silvia, indeed there are many people that have been involved over the years in the DevNet Express program. Big thank you also to Chris Lunsford, Ruth Cattell and Stella Hannah! The program would have definitely not been as successful as it has been without their direct involvement and assiduous work!