Cisco Live Dream TeamCisco Live is an annual conference held in different cities across the world and it gives Information Technology (IT) professionals a chance to learn more about Cisco’s products and services, along with news in the industry. Cisco Live US is usually held during the early summer in different parts of the US [1]. 2015 was the year that is was held in San Diego, California. The Cisco Networking Academy [2] administration introduced a program for outstanding students enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academies around the US. This program is known as the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team.

The Dream Team was started in 2010 by Gena Pirtle and the first event this team did was Cisco Live US 2011 in Las Vegas, NV, hence being called the Cisco Live Dream Team. Sara Shreve and Jen Miller were brought onto the Dream Team administration to help Gena with getting the right students for this elite group. The hand-picked students helped the Network Operations Center (NOC) engineers with setting up the wireless network for the Cisco Live conference. Then they would help maintain the network during the conference. The team gained a lot of useful knowledge and exclusive benefits of being in this elite group. This experience is considered as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it is definitely an honor to be a part of this elite group. Another Dream Team has been formed to help with the National Basketball Association (NBA) but this article is focused on the Cisco Live Dream Team.

The Cisco Live Dream Team has been growing since its inception and for the 2015 Cisco Live US in San Diego, there were a total of 27 students and four instructors on the team [3]. Two instructors were local (San Diego Continuing Education and Cuyamaca Community College) and the other two were from Minnesota and Virginia. There were 17 local students, mostly from Cuyamaca Community College and San Diego Continuing Education, and 10 national students from all over the United States which also included one student from Canada.

I was selected to be a part of the 2015 Cisco Live Dream Team and my experience was 10 times better than back in 2012 when I went to Cisco Live US 2012 in San Diego as an attendee with an Explorer Pass. I met some amazing people who became great friends throughout the conference and learned so much from the NOC engineers with the whiteboard talks. Jim Grubb and Pat Finn were a couple highlights of being a part of the Dream Team. Jim Grubb is the Vice President for Emerging Technologies and Chief Demonstration Officer. Pat Finn is the Senior Vice President (SVP) for the U.S. Public Sector Organization. Each member of the entire Dream Team received a challenge coin from Pat Finn as a token of appreciation for the team’s service to Cisco.

The local San Diego team started to work on setting up at the San Diego Convention Center on Tuesday June 2, 2015 and there was not much to do since the NOC engineers were still getting all of the equipment into the right area. This day was mainly to get acquainted with what the team was going to be doing and find where the different switches and access points (APs) were. The team met Roger Prince and J.W. McIntyre from the NOC team. Roger had the team get all of the Cisco Catalyst switches out of the containers and set on carts for them to be moved to the areas where they needed to go.

The national team got into San Diego that day and settled into their hotel rooms at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel. They did not have to be over at the convention center to start working until Wednesday morning. They were able to enjoy the hotel and check out the convention center space before getting to work. These individuals came to San Diego from all over the United States and Canada. The local team gave the national team a chance to rest after a long trip to San Diego before the entire team got together to set up the switches and APs.

Petco ParkThe entire team worked on setting up the APs and the switches in the San Diego Convention Center, Hilton Bayfront Hotel and the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel from Wednesday June 3rd through Sunday June 7th. This was the bulk of the work the team did for the Cisco Live conference and it helped all members to develop and utilize skills in order to make the wireless network be successful. Teamwork and efficiency was the key to getting the equipment set up and ready for the Cisco NOC engineers to finish the setup. The Dream Team had quite the workout during the setup stage of Cisco Live because there was a lot of walking involved.

Cisco Live US 2015 officially started on Sunday June 7, 2015 with some Breakout Sessions and some of the women on the team were able to join the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network after they were done with the finishing touches to the network. During the week of the Cisco Live US 2015 conference, the Dream Team enjoyed the conference but also helped with any wireless network problems that arose. They were able to check out the different sessions available and all of what Cisco Live has to offer. Also, they were able to attempt a certification exam of their choosing and this helped some of them receive a certification or notified them on what needs to be worked on. I attempted the CCNA Security (IINS 640-554) in which I did a good job but did not pass it. I found out what things I needed to work on.

One of the best parts of Cisco Live, for a lot of the attendees (including the Dream Team), was the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) at the San Diego Padres Petco Park Stadium. The CAE was one of the highlights and it was a way for the attendees to decompress and enjoy the night. This event included all-you-can-eat food and drinks (except a limit on alcohol), a Cisco Live hat which was a black or white fedora, and entertainment. Royal Machines was the opening act for the night of fun and then a team of acrobats performed as an intermission before the main act came on. The main act for the CAE was Aerosmith and their performance was amazing. Everyone that attended the event thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cisco Live offered a day for college students in San Diego to learn about Cisco and it is called the Cisco Live Student Career Day. This career day took place on the last day of Cisco Live and the 300 students were able to hear from industry professionals and some of the Dream Team regarding different issues. They had the opportunity to do a scavenger hunt in the World of Solutions (WoS) expo and see what Cisco and their partners had in terms of technology. The students gained a lot of knowledge and networked with professionals. The students were able to go to the Closing Keynote where they saw Tylor Kytasaari (a Dream Team member) share his story and Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs [4]. After the closing keynote was finished, the team went through the process of tearing the wireless network down. It took them that night and the following day to get it all taken down and ready for the equipment to be shipped back to Cisco.

The Cisco Live Dream Team is definitely an elite group to be in as it opens up the door to many possibilities and it enables the students involved in this group to use their knowledge and skills to help setup and maintain the Cisco Live wireless network. Two members of the team were spotlighted in a case study: Kwame Ohemeng (Lawrenceville, GA) and Zoë Rose (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) [5]. Kwame and Zoë were extremely excited to be a part of the team and Zoë became a Cisco Live Social Media Yellow Cape Crusader as she dominated the social media scoreboard. It was found out that the 2015 Cisco Live Dream Team was the best team ever and they helped to make the wireless network be the most stable and reliable network in Cisco Live history. The network had 99.999% availability and it was well secured. I completely enjoyed the experience and gaining new friends. I hope to be invited back to be on the 2016 Cisco Live Dream Team in Las Vegas.

[1] Cisco Systems (2015). Cisco Live US 2015.
[2] Cisco Systems (2015). Cisco Networking Academy.
[3] Cisco Systems (2015). Cisco Live 2015 – Dream Team.
[4] Cisco Systems (2015). Impact Story: Career Day at Cisco Live United States 2015.
[5] Cisco Systems (2015). Impact Story: Career Paths Converge at Cisco Live: Cisco Networking Academy students bring networks to life.


Tim Harmon

Cyber Security & Network Professional

Cisco Champion