Five Champions discuss the program and why they chose to be part of it

What do you get when you put five Champions and two Cisco employees on a roundtable? A very cool discussion about one of the most awesome, technical influencer communities in the industry. Welcome to the latest episode of Cisco Champion Radio. This roundtable discussion focuses on what it’s like to be a Cisco Champion. It is hosted by Lauren Friedman and Kim Austin, Champion program founders and five Cisco Champions representing four unique regions. We have Tony Cuevas and Alex Bisset from the United States, Gert-Jan de Boer from the Netherlands, Amr Nasher from Saudi Arabia, and all the way from Nigeria, Peter Onipe.

This episode had lots of great questions, I won’t get into all of them here, you’ll have to listen to the podcast for that. I’ve included some of the questions I think highlight the program, and in order to make this consumable, paraphrased most answers. Enjoy! 

How did you find out about the Cisco Champions Program and why did you join?

A perfect way to kick off the podcast is a question about how and why panelists joined the program. Answers included, “I found out about it through the Cisco Champion Radio podcast;” “I’ve done a lot of stuff on behalf of Cisco, and thought this would be a good way to help me get recognized;” and my favorite, “I found Cisco Champions through the communities and thought it was real opportunity to advance my skill set and to hang out with some really smart a multi-background folks from all over the world.”

As you can see, everybody has a slightly different reason for joining.

By the way, you should know what the Champion program is

The Champion program is a Cisco customer and partner influencer program. Champions are highly technical and like to share knowledge through blogging, podcasts, and social media. They are engineers, architects, educators, problem solvers, and all-around good people.

And what do the Champions do?

Champions get exclusive product pre-briefings and provide feedback on products and messaging. They participate in a weekly podcast series called Cisco Champion Radio, learn from each other in our blogging club and webinars, get access to some of the smartest people in the industry via the Champion Webex Teams rooms, and more. Champions also have lots of opportunities at Cisco Live and other events around the world.

What did you get out of the program, was it what you expected?

When asked if they were getting the value they expected from the program, the panelists unanimously responded with, “YES!” But some gave more specific answers like the following: “I’ve gotten a lot more out of the program than I expected…when I heard about the program I thought it’s just a bunch of engineers and a community but it’s much, much more than that.”

Another panelist stated, “It’s almost like TAC on steroids, I didn’t come in expecting TAC support but I’ve noticed people just love to help each other and they’re super-kind, giving, and friendly.” Still, another said, “I think it’s great! We meet up at Cisco Live and other places too. If I’m traveling someplace I’ll look up which Champions are in the area and invite them to a beer or coffee.”

Additionally, the panelists mentioned the opportunity to network with like-minded folks from around the world; that they learn from each other as well as Cisco, and that they have the chance to take part in exclusive learning opportunities.

What makes this Program different from all others?

While the Champion program provides a lot of information, it also provides a forum for Champions to provide candid feedback; and as noted above, the community is a major aspect of the group, providing camaraderie, tech support, and a place to share both good and bad situations without judgment. This is evidenced in a comment from one of the panelists, “The Champion community has helped me solve several problems over the last few years. For example, if you’re working on a project for a customer and you need some reassurance, there’s always somebody online who has experience with the technology you’re proposing and that’s invaluable.”

In addition, Champions get access to executives including in-person feedback sessions at Cisco Live and other events around the world. It was brought up in the discussion that some Champions met with Susie Wee (CTO of DevNet) and her team at Cisco Live and others have had similar opportunities elsewhere.

Is it all about tech?

The short answer is no. While tech is the main focus and what we all rally behind, the Champion program is much more than that. It’s about friendships, camaraderie, and sharing moments and experiences with similar people on the same wavelength. Champions meet up just to get to know each other better and just recently, the program started collecting recipe’s (food, drink, and technical) for a Champion cookbook.

What was new in 2018?

2018 saw some new programming to expand on the program:

  • Blogging club: meets every other week, to talk tips and tricks for better blogging
  • Feedback Friday: meets weekly to discuss a topic or architecture and provide critical feedback on next steps
  • Beta Testing and Product Evals: this is a beta program in itself and we’re currently trialing it with a few Cisco teams and Champions
  • Virtual Coffee Hour: meet once a month. Nothing but a bunch of friends getting together to chat and get to know each other better. It’s a great opportunity to discuss movies, sports, the latest gossip, or whatever might be on someone’s mind.

On blogging club, one of the Champions mentioned that he isn’t a natural blogger and not something he’s done a lot of. “But,” he says. “Blogging Club gave me a chance to break through, get a bit of coaching, and put something together that’s meaningful for the folks that I surround myself with.” Pretty powerful stuff!

On a separate note, don’t forget to submit your blog to the Cisco IT Blog Awards, you have till November 2nd.

What’s in it for you?

One of the panelists explained that it’s exciting for him to see people taking advantage of the Champion program and use what they’ve learned to take on different opportunities they might not otherwise have had. He went on to say it’s been great for his personal growth and has helped advance his career as well as visibility in the industry.

On the topic of message testing, specifically around Cisco DNA, one of the panelists explained he was really proud to have participated in something that was so big. And regarding the DNA pre-briefing, he says, it gave him an edge, hearing about the product directly from the product team before other people knew about it.

Beta testing is another benefit of the program, the Champion program just started a beta group with Meraki and one of the panelist’s expressed interest in having more opportunities to test products and give feedback.

Here’s how you apply for the program

You’re in luck, we just opened up the application period for 2019! ! If you think you have what it takes to be a Cisco Champion, we strongly urge you to apply.

You have until November 12th to get your applications in, so don’t wait!

To learn more about the program, check out the Cisco Champion FAQ.

Listen to the podcast to get the full story from Alex, Amr, GJ, Peter and Tony.

Get the Podcast

Cisco Champion Hosts

  • Alex Bisset (@abisset1) Cisco Champion member and VP Platform Strategy
  • Amr Nasher (@amr_abari), Cisco Champion member and Solutions Architect
  • Gert-Jan de Boer (@gjdeboer) Cisco Champion member and CTO
  • Peter Onipe (@c0dell) Cisco Champion member and Systems Engineer
  • Tony Cuevas (@cuevas27) Cisco Champion member and Practice Lead

Cisco Moderators

  • Kim Austin (@ciscokima), Cisco Champion Program Management
  • Lauren Friedman (@lauren), Cisco Champion Program Management

Podcast Discussion Topics

      • Why each of our Champion hosts joined the program
      • What is the Cisco Champion Program and its benefits
      • What the Champions have gotten out of the Cisco Champion program and did it meet expectations
      • What has surprised the Champions about being in the program
      • The Cisco Champion Blogging Club
      • How being a Cisco Champion has impacted careers
      • What kind of time commitment is required for the Cisco Champion Program
      • Nerd gossip!
      • Advice for potential Cisco Champions

Listen in and provide us feedback, we would love to hear from you!

Cisco Champions are an elite group of technical experts who are passionate about IT and enjoy sharing their knowledge, expertise, and thoughts across the social web and with Cisco. The program has been running for over five years and has earned two industry awards as an industry best practice. Learn more about the program at http://cs.co/ciscochampionprogram.



Andi Fisher

No Longer with Cisco