As you might have read already, I made my first trip to Cisco Live in Las Vegas this past summer. As a first timer, the experience was overwhelming enough, but I learned a lot. I was able to take in a lot of the technical breakout sessions, watch the keynotes live, and network with fellow networking enthusiasts. The one thing I wish I could go back and change though would be how I handled the World of Solutions.
World of Solutions?
For those of you who don’t know, Cisco Live has a HUGE expo center type setup for vendors to show you the latest and greatest offerings that they have. You will find a little bit of everything here too, not just networking related. I talked to vendors on products ranging from conference room speakerphones to SSL decryption appliances to video equipment. Not to mention networking, you definitely have that too as you would expect. The other half of this is that it is not just outside vendors in the World of Solutions, Cisco also has a very noticeable presence. They have their main area that focuses on their new and existing equipment on the networking market for all areas. This includes voice \ video, switching, routing, security, data center, etc. Experts are on hand to answer any questions that you might have too. Then you have other specialty areas such as the ones for DevNet and meet the expert for instance. Overall, a good mix of Cisco and other vendors to keep you busy.
This past summer in Las Vegas, I had a lot of breakout sessions, keynotes, and other meetings scheduled throughout the week. I was able to squeeze in some World of Solutions time in the middle of all of these things when I was free. That being said, there was a lot that was missed too. For example, one evening I planned on getting done early with my breakout sessions and doing a lap through the different vendor booths. It was the best chunk of time I could set aside all week. There was a social event that evening with dinner and drinks, so I figured it would be a fun evening too. Well that it was. Fun AND productive. I quickly realized though that I would not have enough time to do it all. I got started at a good pace and knocked out a few vendors near the front of the expo center. Then I reached a vendor that I was already interested for a project at work back home. One of their experts was free and we got to talking about products that would work for me. Next thing I know I just burned over a half hour. Don’t get me wrong, it was well worth it, but my plan of making it through the entire floor that night was already gone. By the end of the night after watching a few presentations and getting some hands on time with some new gear, I didn’t even clear half of the booths. That gives you an idea of the magnitude of things to see and do.
Planning your attack
You heard a bit about my story and how things ended up for me, so here are my main 3 tips for anyone wondering how to get the most out of your Cisco Live, World of Solutions, experience.
- You’re not going to do it all in one day
Don’t even try, chances are it will not work out. My recommendation is to set aside an hour to two each day to walk through. You will also see how you remember later questions you had for a vendor or something you wanted to go back to, so spreading your time over multiple days helps.
- Go with a purpose.
Make a plan for your trip through the World of Solutions each day. For instance, are you working on an SSL decryption \ HTTPS inspection project like I was? My recommendation would be to stick to the vendors that would help you with that purpose you set. That day, maybe one day is focusing on your current projects you need product recommendations for, another day is educational with DevNet and Meet the Expert, and another day is just for collecting swag. Setting the goal makes it a lot easier to manage.
- Keep an open mind.
Everyone has their preference in vendors when it comes to equipment and systems. That allows people to get narrow-minded, if you want to put it that way, pretty quick. My last tip and recommendation is to stop and talk to vendors you might not normally work with and see what they have to offer. There may be a revolutionary new product you never heard of that they have developed. Keeping an open mind in the World of Solutions will give you the best opportunity to learn about the latest and greatest offerings from all of the tech field.
So that’s my recommendation based on my experiences last year, hopefully that bit of info helps you if you are new to Cisco Live. There is a ton that the World of Solutions can offer a person, so make the most of it and enjoy the ride!