Cisco’s rich history of innovations in networking is grounded on a commitment to Continuous Learning throughout our engineering teams. Continuous Learning is central to our belief that the development of employees at all levels of expertise promotes creativity and engagement which in turn creates best-in-class networking solutions. Cisco is unique among our technology peers in that we own the entire breadth and depth of the network. We provide enterprise-class wireless—such as Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Access Points and wired technologies with diverse speeds and feeds—to deliver secure connections from the workforce to internet applications, cloud platforms, and edge services while employing Zero Trust protection and SD-WAN reliability. Cisco globe-spanning networks are constantly evolving to adapt to new use cases and incorporate new intent-based capabilities to automate management of connectivity and secure the workforce and workplace.
With our very broad range of networking solutions, it’s a challenge for our engineers to be aware of all the “pieces of the puzzle” required to bring the highest quality solutions to customers. So, it’s imperative that engineers understand the “big picture” of our networking technologies so they can become the best at what they do. That’s why Continuous Learning is so important at Cisco. Learning about cross-solution and full-stack architecture is key to developing secure, innovative networking solutions that are based on multiple technologies spanning multiple domains. Multi-disciplinary learning also results in a reduction in development silos so that ideas can more easily flow among teams. Some recent examples include:
- Wi-Fi engineers collaborating with cloud developers to create a cloud-based AI Radio Resource Management (RRM) solution for Wi-Fi Access Points.
- Integrating ThousandEyes visibility into enterprise switching and routing products to provide deeper network insights for LAN and WAN.
- Combining security and networking to deliver zero trust connectivity.
Multi-disciplinary learning also enables more career mobility for engineers. Cisco Enterprise Engineering designs and develops a full-stack networking solution that includes the software running on network devices (IOS-XE) and On-Premises/Cloud network management and controller software (Cisco DNA Center and Cisco SD-WAN). Both software stacks are continuously evolving to be more programmable, model-driven, and automated to deliver a simple, secure, and self-healing network. These two software stacks are interdependent but require different expertise and use different toolsets for developing and optimizing the software stacks. The IOS-XE engineers are experts in near real-time programming and networking and routing protocols. Controller development uses cloud-native technologies and tools. Engineers with expertise in both software stacks can architect, design, and develop the best solutions and are highly respected in the company.
As Cisco Enterprise Networking Engineers cross-train in the NOS Stack and controllers, they gain more experience and can move up and across stacks to advance their careers. And as Cisco acquires technologies from pioneering companies, engineers gain experience incorporating their innovative features into the core NOS stack and controller architecture as well as benefiting from new perspectives from the talent joining our teams. It’s a win-win evolution of talent.
A continuous learning environment also includes studying customers’ network use cases and the desired outcomes for solving business problems. Understanding how an industry-specific network is implemented and managed in real-world environments helps refine the design criteria for new products and updates to existing solutions to make IT more efficient in delivering business outcomes. This customer-focused learning often begins by working with “Customer Zero”, Cisco’s internal IT team that implements many of our new network and collaboration technologies at our own campuses and continues with customer feedback through Cisco CX. With all the technology there is to keep up with, we know that it’s imperative to provide regular opportunities to focus on teaching, sharing, and collaborating to keep people engaged and productive.
Learning Together for Cross-Solution Synergies
While engineers often must focus on developing individual pieces of technology, it’s equally important that they understand the scope of our expansive infrastructure and how their code interacts with other components—thus cross-training is a necessary stage in the Continuous Learning journey. Providing dedicated blocks of time—without deadlines and meetings—for learning and sharing is critical to exposing engineers to knowledge from other teams and specialists so that cross-team innovations occur more naturally.
In the past, Cisco engineering’s Continuous Learning Journey consisted of multiple individual online learning sessions hosted by technology specialists; Lunch and Learns for feeding, fun, and training; a Building Bridge Learning Series; Learning Day with, as the title indicates, an entire day dedicated to sharing innovations across engineering teams; as well as an ongoing series of introductory TechTalks for new hires and interns.
Most recently, we completed an even more extensive Learning Week as the next phase of the Continuous Learning journey. The carefully orchestrated event brought together over 2700 engineers to cross-train in Cisco’s extensive portfolio of technologies. Virtual classes were held for a worldwide audience with content and classes offered multiple times to accommodate attendees’ time zones.
With the recent Learning Week, an interesting opportunity arose. We are just beginning the process of returning to the office after working at home for two years. The hybrid work model is here to stay as some employees visit regional offices several days a week, while others continue working from home offices. Learning Week provided an opportunity for a reunion of engineering teams. About 20% of our current workforce was hired during the pandemic and most of them have never been inside Cisco facilities. So, the week-long event presented a unique chance to unify new hires and old hands across the organization
Guiding Career Paths with Degreed Programs
Providing pathways for a fulfilling career at Cisco is a high priority. Cisco’s Networking Foundations Degreed platform—an internal vehicle for outcome-based learning—is a valuable resource with frequently updated courses that provide a deeper understanding of the diverse technologies that make up our solutions. It contains a wide spectrum of trainings, from introductory levels for new hires to detailed boot camps for experienced employees. Recordings of training events, such as Learning Week, become part of the Degreed platform, enabling employees to review and learn from the prepared content.
The Degreed Platform guides employees through phases of career development:
- The Career Launchpad guides employees through the process of defining strengths and skillsets, learning and career goals, and builds a people network to help achieve career aspirations.
- A Career Guide provides support and guidance to help develop compelling conversations that ignite relationships, increase engagement, and open a world of opportunities.
- The Build Your Brand pathway identifies strengths, defines career brand, and suggests how to market it effectively to support career momentum at Cisco.
Continuous Learning is Integral to Cisco’s DNA
As I previously highlighted, Cisco is a global technology leader that owns the entire breadth of the network. Our goal is to deliver networking solutions that empower our customers in many diverse industries to achieve their digital transformation objectives and make the world more securely connected and inclusive. We have networking solutions for nearly every customer’s need and are continuously working on new innovations to meet connectivity and security requirements for the decades ahead. With thousands of software engineers—just in Enterprise Network Engineering—that develop and support these innovations, continuous learning is in our corporate DNA to keep our people engaged, creative, and growing in their careers.
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