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My Job Moves with me Anywhere I Go

In the last five years I have moved from Siberia to San Francisco, to Berkeley, to San Jose, to Phoenix, and now to Minneapolis. Unlike most people, moving so many times almost feels like a privilege to me. My husband and I have been able to explore the “sparkle” of Silicon Valley. We enjoyed Phoenix during the not-so-hot months. And now we are in Minneapolis where every day of summer seems like the 4th of July. (I might not be bragging in January when its -30 degrees. But hey, I’m trying to tell myself that it’s healthy for the soul to endure a Winter Wonderland in the U.S. Midwest.)

There are many reasons why we’ve had to relocate so often. Whether I moved to be closer to the beach, the snow, or family — or due to a tragedy — I’m glad that my personal life did not impact my professional life. Aside from constant packing, unpacking, and doing the legwork of finding housing – I don’t know what I would do if I also had to start and restart the process of finding a job.

I have worked for Cisco a little more than two years now. Throughout my transitions, my responsibilities have changed only slightly. Surprisingly, my productivity and efficiency have increased thanks to my new, liberated perspective of work.

South Long Lake_MN_OK3My job moves with me anywhere I go. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work from my home office, my backyard, a restaurant, a coffee shop, or even on my family’s boat. My laptop and smartphone are the only devices I need to be fully functional.  And Cisco tools such as Jabber, WebEx, and now Spark (a team collaboration solution) allow me to collaborate with my colleagues across continents.

If I need to join an important meeting with executives or managers, I have a DX70 desktop endpoint for better audio and video quality. If I have a meeting with local colleagues, we can use room systems like MX800 or IX5000 in a Cisco office. It has been fun to explore the differences between the Cisco offices in Phoenix, San Jose, and Bloomington, Minnesota. (Hmm, I think next year I should visit the Cisco office in New Zealand.) Read More »

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Changing the Future of Healthcare with Collaboration

All of us have hobbies and some have passions. And then there are causes, which many of us are passionate about. I have a special place in my heart for making a difference in anything to do with healthcare.

I obtained my Master’s degree in Child Psychology. I realized that most of my student projects pivoted around activities like spending time with and reading stories to sick children in hospitals. And teaching families in rural areas about healthy living and good nutrition. My project reports were quoted as examples of near ideal written pieces that other students could emulate. The seed was sown.

I started my career with writing, mostly on health, fitness, nutrition among many other topics. I critiqued books on health, care, and life. As I progressed in my career, I moved into IT marketing. I could feel my satisfaction levels peaking when I could bring technology and healthcare closer together. Technology can improve healthcare access and delivery. It’s especially impactful in rural areas where the nearest hospital or clinic could be hours away.

The Promise of Technology-driven Healthcare
There is no doubt that technological advancements are transforming the entire healthcare industry. The proliferation of new collaboration technologies is helping to address issues such as:

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Raising Standards Through Collaboration

AJ September blog post 9 2015I spent last Sunday in a cold, damp changing room with 15 other forty-something parents. We were attending the first day of our FA Level 1 Soccer Coaching course.

It was fascinating! Our instructor really brought to life a framework for coaching the young footballers that we volunteers look after every Saturday between August and June.

But then he dished out the homework!  We were to work in teams to plan a training session that followed the FA framework. And we’ll be assessed on our work in a couple of weeks.

One of our first discussions was around how we would get together to develop our plan and divide up our responsibilities. Of course my immediate thought was to use Cisco Spark to set up a room to keep the conversation going.

I invited the other coaches simply via their email addresses. Very quickly we were up and running, exchanging ideas on what we would do, and which of us would lead each task.

But the collaboration didn’t stop there. Other Spark rooms have since popped up to share player appearance and performance stats, discuss team formations, write match reports and arrange transportation to and from fixtures. Read More »

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Life of a Cisco Video TME: My Run-in with Ridley Scott

THE MARTIANWorking on a movie set is not typically part of the job description for a Cisco technical marketing engineer. So, I was pleasantly surprised when, back in October, an invitation popped in my inbox to spend a couple of days in Budapest on the set of the latest Matt Damon movie. I was asked to help build some video conferencing systems, which were to be used in the movie, but I would’ve been happy to even get coffee for the movie’s world-renowned director, Ridley Scott.

The plot, as we can tell from the trailer, finds Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded and alone on Mars, and presumed dead by NASA. He must figure out how to survive on the hostile planet and to signal Earth that he is alive. It’s only 140 million miles away, but that’s no problem for our video conferencing technology, I thought. Already, I had found a way to be an integral part of this story: Tobias Brodtkorb, video conferencing TME to the rescue.

My active imagination immediately started working on ways I could land a role. I could help Matt build a video conferencing system from scratch, or as a last resort, sneak my way into the background as an extra. As it turns out, neither scenario panned out, since they were not planning to start filming until a week after I had installed the Cisco systems. So, I did not see any celebrities, but I did take a picture of myself next to a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Matt Damon. But that’s not the end of my brush with fame.

Kristin Wiig’s character, Annie Montrose, has a call with the NASA jet propulsion lab using Cisco video conferencing.

I worked on several sets in Budapest. The first was a modern glass building with steel structures. This was going to act as NASA’s mission control on Earth. It was really impressive to see the amount of work required to prepare a film set. Here, I set up an MX300 room conferencing system and installed ten DX80 desktop video units. Off to the next location at Korda studios, which is in the countryside west of Budapest. It was almost surreal: a big, modern facility in the middle of nowhere. Outside, they had different themed back lots — medieval, New York, Renaissance and what looked like something from central Europe WW2. They looked completely real on one side, but only were empty shells with scaffolding and planks on the back.

Cisco DX80 desktop collaboration system in call with with Kristin Wiig’s character, Annie Montrose, at NASA HQ.

After nosing around a bit, it was time to be productive. We unpacked and installed the MX700 and MX800, Cisco’s large room video conferencing systems. At that point, a small group of people walked past. It seemed like a tour of the prop room for some VIPs. I heard the guide mention Cisco, gesturing in our direction. I was sure he was referring to the debonair TME who could assist Matt Damon in making contact with Earth. After the entourage left, one of the guys helping us asked, “Did you know who that was?” Clearly, I did not, and it was definitely not Matt Damon, but possibly even more impressive by Hollywood standards: It was Ridley Scott, himself. Here was my chance!

As I suspected, Mr. Scott (or should I say Ridley, now that we are friends) would immediately spot raw talent when he saw it, because he came back and sought me out. Well, I couldn’t convince him to give me a part in the movie, but I did give him a run-down of the MX800. He was really impressed with the video quality and that the unit was able to automatically track people based on their voice. I was especially proud of the products, myself; they were beautiful and fit in perfectly with the sleek, space-aged environment of the set.

So, that was another day in the life of a Cisco video TME, and one that I will remember for a long time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Cisco and our products in such a special environment and setting. And Ridley, if you read this, please remember to call me when you’re planning the lead actor in Gladiator 2.

P.S. As it often happens in the movies, the MX systems got left on the cutting room floor, but keep an eye out for our DX80s when you go see the movie (opening in theaters October 2, 2015). There’s already a lot of Oscar buzz bantered about “The Martian.” Maybe the DX80s will get nominated for best prop or set dressing?

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Take Productivity to New Heights

Getting Value from Improving Internal Communications

In my previous post, I considered how better access to information can save time, reach many more people, and create a happier, more engaged workforce. All these benefits flow from improving your organization’s internal communications.

In-person meetings are effective, but with today’s increasing reliance on mobility, remote workers, and distributed teams, it can be prohibitively costly to bring teams together. Not just from travel costs, but lost productivity too.

We need more effective ways to collaborate.

  • 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures according to Clear Company HRM.
  • 50% of business productivity is tied to effective collaboration, according to CEB.
  • Cisco generates $250 million (US) in travel savings per year using video

With globally dispersed teams, it’s not enough to rely on email and chats on video. Fast access to secure, collaborative video content across dispersed teams is paramount.

Video, audio, instant messaging, and clouds have come together to offer the right solution to enterprises. The ingredients for success are operational efficiency, employee effectiveness, and customer experiences. And all these need a focus on connecting people and technology.

You can realize substantial value if you do it right and eliminate the potential for miscommunication.

But how do you do it? Read More »

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