This blog was co-written by the contest winners Kunal Shukla and Judith Thorp

Working at Cisco has a bunch of great perks – cool technology that lets us work from anywhere, time off to give back and more. But sometimes, the perks get a little off-the-charts.

Cisco’s Global Sponsorship Team recently held a global company-wide contest for employees to nominate their coworkers as MVPs (Most Valuable Players) for their team. Since Cisco is a sponsor of the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Cisco wanted to excite employees for THIS year’s 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. In addition, as an Official Technology Partner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), employees have unique opportunities, whether it be meeting NBA players at on-campus clinics or using our collaboration tools to chat remotely with NBA stars.

When all the submissions were counted and the votes were in, Data Scientist Kunal Shukla won a trip to NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, California, and Project Management Lead Judith Thorp attended the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang! For both, they found a correlation to the event and why they love working at Cisco.


Judith Thorp – PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games

ANYTHING is possible at Cisco – when we/Cisco set our minds to something we’d like to achieve, we have the powerful Cisco family support to do just that! And getting to do something like attending the Olympics just puts an exclamation point on top!

As a team leader of project and program managers who are responsible for the successful delivery of customer engagements and creating a culture of operational excellence, this whirlwind trip highlighted for me the sense of “team” that was so apparent amongst competitors. They really elevated each other – this is the essence of Cisco!

On our first day, we attended the pairs skating short program in the morning and paid a visit to Canada House (proud Canadian here)! We really wanted to make it to a hockey game that evening, but sleep won out due to jet lag (we had maybe four hours of sleep after 24+ hours of travel).

That meant we were ready to roll on day two! It was jam packed from early morning through past midnight – we attended the pairs skating freestyle medal event in the morning where Canada won bronze – woo hoo! Then we were off for some Korean BBQ and a quick visit to USA House. We managed to fit in some souvenir shopping just before we got to see the men’s speed skating 10,000-meter race where I not only saw Canada win a gold, but also break the Olympic Record!

It was thrilling to be at the events and to experience the Olympic spirit first hand! The Korean people are so welcoming, polite and helpful – everywhere we were, you would see this – such a sense of community and respect!


Kunal Shukla – 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend

I must confess that I wasn’t the biggest basketball fan, and initially I was pretty skeptical that I’d get excited about the game, and that it would all be about my little one having fun. However, as I was walking down the street that connects the hotel to the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, I could immediately see that the atmosphere was very different, there was so much of energy and passion among the crowd that really charged us. Plus, our seats were amazing and the view was great of the 67th NBA All-Star Game!

However, the weekend “experience” was exciting as well. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the STAPLES Center, and with my technology background, this was probably the part I was most excited for. At Cisco, I’m a data scientist. That means I work with customers (in the Sales and Finance organizations) to help solve their problems using analytics and digitization. We use different statistical models and machine learning to simulate the outcomes.

The tour started off with meeting the NBA technical executive who described how valuable the Cisco partnership is to them. He shared with us how the whole video broadcast works – so many cameras and live feeds are provided not only to their U.S. headquarters in New York but also to the whole world. He then went on to speak about how they use Cisco Meraki to provide Wi-Fi in Beverly Hills, how their team uses our products to avoid security breaches, and more. It was fun to see our products come to life in this way.

Then we got to go to a media event where the NBA All-Stars had press interviews for a VIP Photo Shoot, where we really got the red-carpet treatment. As we were participating in the photo shoot, guess who walked in? Magic Johnson! He was even happy to take a picture with me!

Additionally, we were treated to the All-Star Saturday Night event, where the athletes compete in a skills challenge, a three-point contest and a dunking competition – possibly the most coveted events of the NBA All-Star Weekend. The slam dunks were my favorite, because they try to get creative in some complicated ways.

The NBA All-Star Weekend is so much more than just a game, it’s really an end-to-end experience. I was amazed at how hundreds of components worked together to provide an unforgettable experience. Players, Cisco’s technology, cameras, media directors and producers, lighting technicians, artists, etc. all worked seamlessly together.

This is exactly what I strive for when I try to deliver machine learning models as part of my job.



Landon Calannio

Global Marketing Sponsorships and Olympic Games Project Specialist