Our customers are the heart and soul of everything we do at Cisco and each one of them has an interesting story to tell! Our Q&A series allows us to shine a spotlight on some of our most passionate customer advocates as we learn more about their stories and backgrounds.
Cisco’s advocacy community, Cisco Insider Advocates, brings our customers together and provides a way for them to make powerful connections, expand their professional and personal networks, and learn from top experts in their field. One of our goals with our advocacy community is to deepen our relationships with our customers and today, we have one of the friendliest faces in the community joining us for a chat. I’m excited to welcome Tobias Baader from BASF.
Welcome, Tobi! Let’s kick things off by talking about what you wanted to be when you were 16 years old?
Thank you, Rashik, for having me! When I was 16, the internet was still in its infancy. We connected with a modem. I also remember using Internet Relay Chat (IRC). At that time, networking was widely unknown to me until friends and I purchased our first NICs (10BASE2) to be able to meet and play iconic video games with each other like Age of Empires, Quake, CounterStrike, and Starcraft. I honestly did not think my professional career would take me down the IT route. Instead, I wanted to join the police.
That’s interesting, you and I had the same LAN experiences growing up. We also played Warcraft, in addition to the titles you mentioned above! Where did you start your career, and what professional decision or opportunity helped lead you to your current role?
Alright, I suggest you take a seat and get comfortable!
After passing my A-Levels, I ditched my plans to become a police officer, though not only due to failing the sports screening test, hahaha! I then started lessons at the University of Mannheim in the field of Technical Computer Science. However, when I heard Vodafone was hiring, I decided to leave. I applied and started an exciting apprenticeship as a system electronics technician with a focus on mobile communications. Here I got hands-on experience with my first Cisco hardware. One of my first experiences was configuring static routes for the management of a Base station, along with a colleague. Following the apprenticeship, I decided to continue my learning through a cooperative study with Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University in Business Computer Science at the insurance company Mannheimer Versicherung (now part of Continentale).
After graduating, I started as a network administrator in an SMB-sized managed service provider. Here is where I really got my feet on the ground! I quickly learned the foundations of networking from scratch, including experience working with service desk, troubleshooting, and first-level support roles. I learned how to configure switches, routers, firewalls, and much more. I believe I did all the possible networking tasks at least once during this experience!
I then transitioned into the consulting and architecture team, which I see as the foundation for my current role. From SMB and MSP, I moved to the customer side in an enterprise segment. I worked first as a senior architect at Heidelberg Cement and then moved to a similar role at BASF. Although I do not believe in fate, I was fortunate that great opportunities were presented to me and I feel lucky to have capitalized on them.
What a rich and extensive background, Tobi. I love that your experience with networking was so hands-on, and your role as an apprentice sounds invaluable. On to the next question, how has partnering with Cisco helped you in your role?
Partnering with Cisco made the difference! I was able to greatly expand my networking knowledge after becoming certified in CCNA, R&S, and now I am qualified in the CCNP Enterprise track. The connections I made helped me network with other customers through the Cisco account team. I remember my first Cisco Expo in Berlin back in 2012 or 2013. During a dinner organized by a Cisco account manager on the day before the event, I met colleagues from Heidelberg Cement. A couple years later, this became helpful when I got my role there.
You touched on one of the huge value add’s from partnering with Cisco, namely, the events we organize for customers and partners that help them network with other professionals in the industry. What’s been your biggest challenge in your company recently, and how did you overcome it?
In January of 2022, I was promoted to my current role as product owner for our company’s Wide Area Network. Before this, I was a WAN architect. Changing to a leadership-oriented role and supporting an agile digital transformation has so far been my biggest challenge. I am still learning, every day, along with my team.
Thanks for sharing some of the challenges you faced since moving into a leadership role. Let’s move on to our customer advocacy community. How would you describe it to those aren’t familiar with it?
Community describes it very well! Moreover, you can even call it family!
The Cisco Insider Advocates community is a global, diverse and open-minded collective of professionals who come together to share passions and interests. You get access to great insights, valuable information, and a huge network of highly skilled peers—paired with a lot of fun stuff!
We really are a family. You’re one of our community “Rockstars.” What made you want to join, and how has being part of this community impacted you both professionally and personally?
The first time I became familiar with “The Gateway” (the previous name for Cisco Insider Advocates) was at Cisco Live 2017 in Berlin. I remember the circle logo, and on the second or third day I started some friendly conversations with the team at the booth. After that, I was in!
On a professional level, I enjoy that the community provides me with a single-entry point to the world of Cisco. Over the years, the content within the community pointed to so many various topics—webinars, industry insights, blog posts, and products and services offerings—all of which I would not have come across so readily without being in the community. This content has helped me to think outside the box for my own role.
We would love to know more about your experience at Cisco Live in Amsterdam this past February. If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be? How did it compare to previous Cisco Live conferences you’ve attended?
Overwhelming! First of all, it was honestly great to be back at my first Cisco Live in three years. The atmosphere and energy of this event is nothing a virtual event can recreate, and I’ve heard from other Cisco customers that they share this viewpoint.
This year, Cisco Live felt very special to me! Previously, I would attend with my colleagues, however I was travelling on my own this time. This meant I could spend quality time with former colleagues, peers, and the Cisco Global Customer Marketing and Advocacy team. On a technical and professional level, this year was certainly different. Normally, I spend a lot of time at the “World of Solutions” to discover new things. This year, however, I focused on Cisco SD-WAN.
You mentioned you had a chance to meet for the first time or reconnect with peers from the Cisco Insider Advocates community as well as some of my colleagues from Cisco’s Global Advocacy team. How did you enjoy that reconnection?
That reconnection was the gamechanger in my relationship with the community. It was the first time I met a lot of the people in person, and it was also the first year I attended Cisco Live as a “Rockstar” from the Cisco Insider Advocates community. By the second day, the experience felt more like “coming home” then “going there.” Again, many thanks to Cisco’s Global Customer Marketing and Advocacy team for making my time at Cisco Live an amazing experience.
I’m glad to hear that, Tobi! What would you say to those who are on the fence about going to a Cisco Live conference, based on your experience this year?
Before attending Cisco Live in Berlin all those years ago, as I mentioned, I had attended Cisco Expo and Cisco Connect, which were also great events. But, because they were smaller, those events lacked some of the technical depth you find at Cisco Live. I also really like that attendees can create personalized agendas, based on what we want to see and learn.
We’re almost at the end of the interview and we’d love to finish with three things you can’t live without?
I don’t think many people can argue with pasta being on that list! It’s been a pleasure, Tobi, thank you again for joining us!
You are welcome, Rashik!
Read more advocate interviews
You might enjoy this interview with Rik Aragoza.
For our customers who have already joined our Cisco Insider Advocates community, say hello to Tobi if you haven’t met each other yet. And for those Cisco customers who haven’t yet joined, consider doing so. You’ll be able to:
- Connect with peers in a gamified, online community
- Have an opportunity to meet with Cisco’s executives
- Share your feedback, questions, and best practices
- Get access to ‘insider’ content and resources
- Grow your professional and personal brand
- Amplify your company’s success story with Cisco technology
Ready to get started?
Head over to the Cisco Insider Advocates Community and say hello!
(Requires registration / login)