They say the best things happen when you least expect them. For me, it was 2008 when I interviewed at Cisco.

I had just passed my CCNA certification and was curious to experience technical interviews for the company whose certifications I aspired to. Two months later, I started working as Development Test Engineer at Cisco Bangalore for the ASR 1000 Enterprise Routing Platform Team. It was a dream opportunity for a fresh engineer like me who wanted to build a career in Network domain. Being among the first few members on the Bangalore team, there were so many things to learn and implement.

Sumant standing pointing at Catalyst servers.

Every project I worked on as DevTest Engineer established me as an all-round Quality Assurance engineer. It developed ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ with customer focus and I learned from the best senior talent in my team. The leadership was always encouraging towards innovative thinking and implementation.

After five fruitful years as a DevTest engineer, I gained great depth at various dimensions of role-planning, automation & execution. The next opportunity was already in front of me. I was ready for my next role at Cisco as BU Escalations Engineer for Enterprise Routing platforms. I was the first escalation engineer at the India site for the team. I have always believed in the ‘lead without a title’ philosophy. The Escalations Engineer role engaged me to explore this dimension of myself to develop new skills

Every day is a new challenge when you work as an Escalation Engineer. You are the single point of contact within Cisco for resolving the technical issues for customers. You get to work with multiple teams in the company and prioritize towards issue resolution. Each issue is a new learning. The best thing on this team was the awesome teamwork and global collaboration. The interactions with my peers and leaders were always uplifting and positive. This gave tremendous energy to tackle interesting problems and solve them with creativity, and it helped build amazing relations with global teams and Cisco customers.

The DevTest and Escalation Engineer roles groomed me to be my best. The duo made me ready to step into the next phase – I took responsibility as Technical Marketing Engineer (TME) for Enterprise Routing Platforms.

I loved the way my hiring manager described this opportunity to me, ‘Imagine you are walking towards your destiny, and there comes a horse next to you, running in same direction…you got to jump on the horseback and start riding at a faster pace!’ Isn’t it thought-provoking? I said ‘yes’ for the opportunity and got ready to relocate to the USA.

The last few years as a TME have enabled me to assist many more Customers and Sales teams working closely on the network solution designs. I get to assist our global customer base for Cisco’s Enterprise Routing offerings and 3000+ features. My reach into the field has been aided by the multifold levels in this role. And the best part is I am blessed with amazing leadership at Cisco.

Sumant and his team jumping in front of the camera

The technical ownership that a TME must sustain was nurtured by the learnings from DevTest Engineering and Escalation Engineering roles I served in past. As a lead TME I contributed to a major launch of Cisco’s Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms family in October 2020. The thoroughness that goes behind each activity we do in TME and the Product Marketing team at Cisco really seeds the real world use-cases the platforms deliver.

From the very beginning at Cisco, I developed rituals – I started my days lifting weights at the on-site gym and I’d end my days practicing volleyball on the campus as well.

While playing in a corporate volleyball tournament, I landed incorrectly from a jump and bang! I heard a big sound from my left knee. It took me 6 months to recover from that ACL tear, but I was able to witness the non-technical side of Cisco – the culture side – with awesome support from my team. There is a reason we call work mates our extended family, and that’s when I fully understood why.

As the days evolved, I never stopped my rituals, but the more time I spent weight-training in the gym, I realized there was a dream still unattended. I wanted to compete once in my life in a body building competition! Already in my 30’s, I decided to give it a shot. Being pure vegetarian, I went on fully natural preparation with proper workout and diet for almost a whole year. It was an awe-inspiring feel when I appeared on the stage in my best shape standing next to the national level bodybuilders. I lived my dream posing my routine to get the audience applause in two successive competitions.

It is always the best feeling when you achieve what your heart believed. The bonus is you out-perform in everything else as well. I was the top performer in my Cisco responsibilities while I took my dream journey in bodybuilding. Thanks to my awesome team and leadership at Cisco who was always supportive and encouraging to achieve my personal goals. My team cherished the moments along with me and that was the best prize!

If I look at the time I spent in Cisco, I love to refer these 13 years of valuable learning that has shaped me into who I am today. It almost looks like a celebration to me. There was always a newness, innovation and creativity involved.

They say you are happiest when you are growing, and this is truly witnessed by me here. Even if I‘ve got the variety of professional experience now, there is still more left to learn. I feel I have all relevant opportunities to lead my career in right direction inside Cisco.

It has been a passion ride all these years every day I login to the laptop. I am surely growing old with Cisco!


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Sumant Mali

Technical Marketing Engineer

IBNG Technical Marketing Team