The last 30 years of innovation at Cisco comes from people, and the amazing things that happen when we connect the unconnected. Cisco Champions are a part of that success. By sharing their knowledge and expertise, Cisco Champions play a unique role in contributing and enhancing the way people use technology. In fact, some Cisco Champions have been in the IT industry almost as long as Cisco! To celebrate innovation then and now, we’ve asked Cisco Champions to tell us about their first experiences with Cisco. Cisco Champions are seasoned IT technical experts and influencers who enjoy sharing their perspectives with the community. The Cisco Champions program encompasses different areas of interest, such as Data Center, Internet of Things, Enterprise Networks, Collaboration and Security. Cisco Champions are located all over the world.
(Cisco Champions are not representatives of Cisco. Their views are their own)

Here are their top answers.

I think it was circa 1998/1999. I had a Novell server running as a router between an Ethernet and a Token Ring network. It was taxing the server and I  needed a solution that would take the load off of my poor 3.1 Novell server. I’m sure I used a 2500 series router to solve my problem. Even running at 10Mbps it was a huge improvement.
Keith Townsend
Keith Townsend
IT Advisor

My first experience with Cisco was while watching the router market as a whole across the proverbial chasm as an innovation in networking. I had worked extensively with SNA networks and the related networking devices. By the early 1990s, it was clear that routers were going to replace many of the existing networking devices – the only question was how quickly the transition would happen, and which vendors would win in the market. I saw the handwriting on the wall, left my old company in 1993, and started contract teaching and consulting about how to build multiprotocol networks with both SNA and TCP/IP using routers. I had worked with other vendor’s routers before, but the first Cisco router I saw was in a classroom with 50 routers when prepping to become certified to teach Cisco courses, late 1993.
Wendell Odom
Wendell Odom
Cisco Press Author

I had never heard of Cisco Systems until I was granted a governmental scholarship to study Oracle 8 DBA, at AASTMT – Alexandria (Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport) in 2001. I was an unemployed university graduate. Microsoft Network Essentials was one of the courses we had to take to learn about Data Networking. Fortunately the instructor became unavailable before the course started and the only one who could replace him was the AASTMT network administrator, who was Cisco CCNA & CCNP certified. On the first day of the NE course he said “yes I should teach NE but I will teach CCNA instead.” From that moment on I fell in love with Cisco Systems.

My life has changed completely. After I had obtained my CCNA, I worked at AASTMT- Cairo branch, and in October 2003 I was nominated to join the Cisco Networking Academy program at the Egypt NTI (National Telecommunication Institute), via a scholarship offered from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and funded by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). Since then I have become a Certified Cisco Networking Academy Instructor (ID: 3460270) (CCAI: 3460270CCNA). And here I am after 14 years later, proud to be a member of the Cisco Champions Program.
Mohamed Yousef Abousena
Mohamed Youssef Abousena
Cisco Networking Academy Instructor

Way back when, in the old days of tech when the internet was still in its earliest phases and Windows 3.1 was the GUI to use, I was working for a company that consisted of a couple of strange radicals who named their devices after motorcycles and other stuff. US Robotics, as it was called, was eventually ‘merged’ with 3Com and suddenly the modem guy was confronting network tech he had never seen before, and with that one of the competitors, Cisco. In those days, network equipment was configured through the serial cable, and had never seen a web interface. If you didn’t know the language of the device, you were in trouble. I did not have any hands-on back then. My main knowledge consisted of AT commands for the best modems in the world.

After a few years my job changed to implementing SMB infrastructures. I remember we did a project for a small local government. They had a specific network for local communities built on green boxes with Cisco on it. This was 2003 and the user-friendliness hadn’t really improved a whole lot. At a certain moment in the project there was a problem with the connectivity and as probably everybody with a bit of history in IT can remember, if you’re the IT guy and there is an IT problem, you’re expected to solve it. No matter if it concerns the printer, the Microsoft Project server, a VMware ESX problem or a burning router or switch, it’s your job to fix it. I gave it a go and broke it, which meant a guy from the network company had to come over and replace the router. Apparently I screwed up the configuration so badly the guy replaced the router without investigating what happened, and went on his merry way.
Alex M
Alex Muetstege
Solution Architect

A previous employer used Cisco networking equipment for the entire data center networking infrastructure. I dabbled a bit with UCS in its early days, and eventually I ran into VCE equipment. At my new position, I got completely immersed in UCS, along with an entire Cisco data center networking infrastructure. Then I started down the road of data center orchestration with UCS Director (along with UCS Central action due to growing the UCS environment across multiple geographical sites). That’s where I am right now, learning more about the inner working of the data center, becoming more of an SME on UCS and working through the complexities of orchestration and automation in the data center.
Jon Hildebrandt
Jon Hildebrand
Senior Cloud Engineer

It was back in 2006. I was fresh out of college with a Bachelor’s in MIS. I landed a job as a Help Desk Specialist at a Titanium manufacturer and was quickly selected for an opening on the Comms team. That’s when I first got introduced to Cisco and their career certifications. I dove in and never looked back.
Chris Roessler
Christian Roessler
Network Engineer

My beginning with Cisco products started 16 years ago with the Cisco 2500 routers with the WAN interface card to inter-connect several remote sites with leased lines, and backup with ISDN line, all done with static routing.
Bertrand Bordereau
Bertrand Borderaeu
Network Consulting Engineer

My first Cisco memory is back in my freshman year of college when I bought my first Wifi adapter- a Cisco Aironet PCMCIA card. I remember thinking how amazing it was to be able to sit outside and be connected to the Internet…lol. Additionally, after starting with my current employer 12 years ago, I slowly started to see the big picture. We replaced various phone systems, switches, APs, etc., with Cisco equipment. As my role within the organization has grown over the years, I have seen how Cisco has not only met, but exceeded our needs. I have championed the push to evaluate (and usually purchase) Cisco products. I am excited to see how we may use other aspects of Cisco solutions (Collaboration, UCS, etc.) moving forward.
Chris Brown
Chris Brown
Networks Operations Manager

I think it was around 2002 that I started with Cisco, first at school with the Net Acad courses and after that at my first employer. After my studies I started with the official Cisco certification program. I started with CCNA then CCNP R&S, CCDP and now I’m studying for the CCIE certification. In total I’ve been working with Cisco products for about 13 years.
Rob Heygele_new
Rob Heygele

My first encounter with Cisco was when I started in the IT side of things around 2002. It was switches and routers. They always intimidated me until I put some effort into learning more about them and how to setup vlans and routes – just the minor basic stuff. I grew my route and switch skills but just enough to get what I need done. Then I was introduced to the Cisco B and C series servers. From that point forward I was hooked. I received my first taste with 3 C250’s. Now I spend my time in UCS interface and UCS central.
Chris Hildebrandt
Chris Hildebrandt
Network Administrator

What was your first experience with Cisco? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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