A Cisco account manager and a Cisco engineer walk into a bar… sounds like the start to a good punchline, no?
In this case, it was not a joke. It was the beginning of a journey – This adventure started when a pact was made to climb the highest mountain in Africa after some pizza and a beer or two at the legendary Trophy Brewing Co. in Raleigh, NC after work with some friends.
Our friends weren’t buying that this would ever become a reality. “Matt, you’re about to get married. No way this happens!” To be fair, we made a lot of big promises at Trophy Brewing.
However, this promise was different and schedules aligned when a good friend from high school was put on rotation for medical school in Moshi, Tanzania, right outside Kilimanjaro National Park. There wouldn’t be a better opportunity than this – we purchased flights almost immediately.
My name is Matt Shaver and I’m an Account Manager based out of Nashville, TN working in US Commercial Sales. Through the Cisco Sales Associates Program (CSAP) that I participated in at the Cisco campus in Raleigh, NC, I met Alex Thompson – what a day! Alex went west to San Diego, CA after our time together in RTP in CSAP and became a Sales Engineer. Some of our best friendships came out of the program and it makes traveling so much more fun when you have friends scattered all across the country.
To summarize, that’s one Cisco Account Manager and one Cisco Engineer – signed up to climb Kilimanjaro.
You could say Kilimanjaro was our Mt. Doom and we were like Frodo and Sam from The Lord of the Rings series – in a place far from home taking an unexpected Journey. I’d like to say Alex and I came up with a strategy to destroy our competitors while on this quest, but the only thing that was destroyed on that mountain top was our quads, glutes, and knees.
After 33 hours of travel, we were in Tanzania. We hadn’t even arrived at the foot of Kilimanjaro yet, and my knees were already hurting from being locked in position for the duration of that flight.
We began our six-day journey on a Saturday and had four other people in our group. To support this foursome, we had a team of 15 individuals to assist in setting up camp, transporting gear, and making sure the trip went smoothly. From start to finish the temperature ranged from 80 degrees at the base to subzero degrees at the summit.
Walking up the mountain and passing through five different ecosystems due to this temperature change was simply incredible. One day you are having a leisurely walk in the rainforest and the next you had gloves on as you trek through snowfall while playing 80’s & 90’s throwback tunes on the blue tooth speaker. The trip was not terribly difficult given the training we did until the last 36 hours.
On the final ascent day, that difficulty level changed dramatically. At this point, we had been hiking uphill for about 30 miles over the past few days so we were pretty sore but dealing well with the altitude. We started our last day early in the morning and hiked for about 5 hours, had lunch, then hiked 3 more hours before taking a nap from 7-11pm. At around 11pm, we woke to finish the final 6 hour hike to the ascent to see the sunrise from the roof of Africa. For me personally, the ascent was the most challenging thing I have done physically. My muscles were exhausted, my camelback was frozen, we had close to no rest, and my body would sporadically fall asleep on me as the altitude started to get to me. I was slowly falling apart but had friends to help get me to the top.
Reaching the Peak of Performance:
The metaphors and clichés involving a mountain that needs to be overcome are endless. However, I did derive some real value from my trip as it translates to the our jobs here at Cisco.
- Team Dynamics: Just like our team to get us up the mountain carried different functions, the same holds true at Cisco. Engineers, PSS, Cisco Capital – the value comes in a detailed understanding of how each of these roles plays a part in our customer’s success. Each of these roles is different along with the people that hold them so pin pointing individual strengths to reach a common goal holds so much importance.
- The View: Seeing the sunrise from the top was one of the most breathtaking things my eyes have ever seen. It was extremely difficult getting there so the reward was worth it. Often times it’s a challenge for us to show our customers the full view of the value our organization brings and it is our job to work as a team to help them get there.
One thing is for certain – climbing and reaching the peak of Kilimanjaro at 19,341 ft. would have been immensely more difficult had it not been for our large team. Accomplishments are dramatically limited when the only strategy is self-reliance. By teaming together and working in unison, only then, can the greatest object be accomplished. Everyone comes to the table with special skill sets that are unique and being successful relies on the understanding of this dynamic.
Challenge yourself, challenge your customers, and what we can accomplish as a team will be a great view.
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