Among the most recent additions to our global network of innovation centres, is a new, state-of-the-art facility in Dubai.
The centre itself is as eye-catching as our other facilities around the world, both inside and out, and offers an incubation space to a number of exciting emerging technologies.
But on a recent visit to the centre, what perhaps struck me the most was the outstanding efforts of the people at its helm.
Along with the centre manager, Yaman Hakmi, there are three women in particular at the heart of the innovation centre: Safiya Al-Badaai, Haya Alzeer, and Eman Al Tamimi.
They fully embody Cisco’s aim to pave the way and inspire future generations of engineers, from all spheres.
They’re all part of the Digital & Innovation Team that covers the Middle East and Africa. Between them, they’ve set up and run the entire centre – everything from DevOps and coding, to building solutions and showcasing the next gen technology featured there.
Yaman says the team thinks and functions like a start-up, innovating on a scale that can have impact for customers and partners across the region. It’s perhaps for this reason that my colleague Osama Alzoubi, Cisco’s CTO for MEA, has described the centre as a lighthouse of innovation in the region.
To me, the team in Dubai represents a case study for what engineers of the future should be: software-orientated, with the flexibility and willingness to adapt to new technologies. Excelling in their fields, exploring new ones, and staying true to themselves and their cultures while doing so.
A new breed of engineer
The Dubai Innovation Centre remains one of the most immersive and engaging innovation spaces I’ve visited. Its dedicated teams – including our three engineers Safiya, Haya, and Eman – are to thank for it.
In her role as digital innovation engineer, Eman builds new demos and proof of concepts and value for Cisco customers across the entire region.
Along with Safiya, she also drives programmability and automation in the region by running, instructing, and proctoring DevNet Express events.
Safiya, for her part, takes care of operations, new demos, solution packages and CDA interlock projects.
She’s an expert at delivering customer journey experiences and fostering co-innovation between ecosystem partners too – driving programmability in the region by running DevNet Express workshops.
Haya is an innovation systems engineer – her team’s vision is to become the bridge between customers, partners and employees and accelerate business growth through digital innovation.
Eman and Haya are both graduates of the one-year Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) in Amsterdam, while Safiya studied as a Network Consulting Engineer in Krakow; and with their collective range of expertise they handle the running of pretty much every aspect of the centre.
Covering the MEA region means encountering a mix of different languages and cultures. The centre has welcomed more than 6,000 visitors since it was founded two years ago, and counts 46 ecosystem partners and start-ups in its network (as well as other incubators and universities in the region).
This can make explaining advanced technology to non-technical customers – such as C-level executives – a challenge at times.
Eman has learned to use Cisco Business Architecture to bridge the gap between IT and business clients.
She’s also started engaging the Business Architecture team more heavily, and learned how to design workshops and build customer journey maps and roadmaps – making communication with customers of all kinds a more straightforward process for all involved.
Not all of the bridges that need crossing are metaphorical, though: Safiya crosses the border from Oman everyday just to get to work. I understand this as just another example of the dedication this team shows on a daily basis.
The future of engineering
To me, Eman, Safiya, and Haya are the best possible advertisement for talent initiatives like CSAP – as well as a reminder of the important work done by our innovation teams around the world.
They command the respect of their colleagues and communities, and it showed in every single interaction I witnessed.
And Cisco is all the better for it. Eman told me that working for Cisco was, for her, a dream come true.
I have to say that, being able to support and nurture such talent, and seeing the impact that she and her colleagues are already having in Dubai, means that the feeling is very much mutual.