CEWN Event at CLUS 2017

Cisco Empowered Women’s Network event at Cisco Live 2017. It was four hours filled with inspiration, motivation and networking. Kevin Bandy, Cisco’s Chief Digital Officer, was the host (yes a man hosted the event and he was great!). He says we should be cross pollinating our functions. He mentioned several times that he can’t believe we only do this once a year and that once a year is not enough! I agree. And I often wondered why there aren’t more CEWN events. He stated that last year there were roughly 300 attendees and this year we are up to 400. That’s a huge increase! Let’s follow that trend and get next years attendance over 500. Next I’ll tell you a little bit about each speaker. I’ll try to make this quick but there was so much good advice that I apologize if I start to ramble.

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Patrice D’Eramo, VP, America’s Marketing at Cisco. She’s Italian, has a huge family, she’s got a pair of balls so to speak and says that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support women”. She says that 23% of people with sponsors are more likely to move forward with their career. A sponsor is someone who’s willng to see the talent in you that you don’t see but also call you out when you’re wrong. She encourages you to act “as if”!

Liz Centoni, Sr. VP and GM of Cisco’s Computing Systems Product Group. She had fears just like many of us but put those fears aside to get her where she is today. Her top five fears were Fear of being judged, Fear of change, Fear of failure, Fear of committment, and Fear of success. “Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanore Roosevelt.

BE BRAVE, BE BOLD, BE FEARLESS.

Christine Holloway, VP of networking, digital workspace and security solutions at CDW. One great tip she had was before a big meeting, stand in front of a mirror for 60 seconds. Breath in, stand tall and breath out. Get into your power pose and you’ll do exponentially better.

We paused for a little intermission and the song that boomed from the overhead speakers was Diamonds by Rhianna. Gets you pumped up and ready to be bold, be brave and be fearless.

Tania Katan, CEO of Creative Trespassing. She’s rediculously hilarious and so motivating. She finds creativity and sneaks it into unsuspecting places. She tells us to beta-test your life. And quotes Dr. Suess “Why fit in when you were made to stand out”. She had the whole room filled with laughter. She had us do a few exercises. We had to turn to the person next to us and talk about what our superhero powers are and how we use them. Then describe an area we feel we need to work on and the other person was to come up with an idea on how you can use your superpower to aid in that area. It was a great way to put yourself out there and in turn listen to and help a peer.

Tania helped Axosoft launch this campaign called It was never a dress. ❤ This campaign was to “start a much-needed conversation about the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry and the inequality that exists for women in many other spaces”.

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And then there was Carey Lohrenz, the first fully qualified female naval aviator to fly the F-14 Tomcat in the United States Navy. My husband mentioned that she was a motivational speaker at one of his work conferences. She was so good. She had so many inspiring things to say but the one that stood out the most to me was “Not taking a risk is one of the biggest risks you can take.”

 

Oh and Shari Slate, VP Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer at Cisco. But as Kevin states, everyone in the office calls her Sunshine. She and Kevin chatted about some of the speakers points and she gave us guidance and said that both mentorship and sponsorship are needed.

All were awesome!

And afterwards was a cocktail hour at the Border Grill (delicious margaritas, sangria and south of the border appetizers) for networking with your newly found friends!

If I am blessed with the opportunity to attend CLUS next year, then I will definitely go the CEWN event!

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Cisco Live! 2017

If you haven’t attended Cisco Live yet then you’ve got to figure out how to go next year. It’s a technical conference that you have to go to at least once in your lifetime. But the problem is, it’s like a Lay’s potato chip; you can’t stop at just one. I’ve been to two so far. But if I can never go again then so be it. Wait… what? why would I not ever go again??? Well, you need time, money, and the blessing from all of the bosses in your life. But if you’re smart enough to configure an SSL VPN on an ASA 5515 or code a widget in Finesse, then you can figure out how to save $$, budget time and butter up your bosses. So by all means GO already!

This year’s USA conference was held in Las Vegas, NV. It was a blistering 100o Fahrenheit the whole time. But luckily there were so many sessions to attend, vendors to visit, engineers to talk to and peers to mingle with that you didn’t have time to go outside! My boss and I arrived mid-day Sunday and checked into the Delano (think Franklin Delano Roosevelt) which is on the Mandalay Bay property. I have a love for Vegas that began in my 20’s so when I walked into the hotel I took in a deep breath so I could discover its signature scent. Sound strange? Well there’s a science to it so I’m fascinated by it. And Delano? You had me at hello.

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No trip to CLUS is complete without a picture with the infamous Cisco Live sign.
We picked up our badges and our CL backpacks and I headed off to attend the CEWN (Cisco Empowered Women’s Network) event. It was four hours filled with inspriation, motivation and networking. Kevin Bandy, Cisco’s Chief Digital Officer, was the host (yes a man hosted the event and he was great!). He says we should be cross polinating our functions. He mentioned several times that he can’t believe we only do this once a year and that once a year is not enough! I agree. And I often wondered why there aren’t more CEWN events. He stated that last year there were roughly 300 attendees and this year we are up to 400. That’s a huge increase! Let’s follow that trend and get next years attendance over 500. I realized that this event left such an impression on me that I had to write a separate blog post just to cover it. They even provided a free professional headshot to those who wanted one. Then I was off to the CEWN cocktail/networking hour. I didn’t know anyone there so I just grabbed a margarita and walked up to a table out on the patio that looked inviting. The two ladies did not know eachother but the three of us (and later a fourth) were able to engage in conversation about our career and home towns. The next day was going to be a very full day so off to get a good night sleep after some dinner.

Monday I had three sessions (sometimes 2 hours long), the opening keynote and World of Solutions on my agenda. My focus for sessions is around Collaboration and Security. Every speaker that I heard was so good. These people are not only smart but they know how to deliver a good session. And the opening keynote? Wow! As we waited patiently in our seats for the keynote to begin, the DJ kept us engaged by providing some entertainment (lip sync contests and dance off). And as the keynote began, the lights dimmed and the room was pumped with what I can only decipher as a beat that was written specifically for Cisco Live. “Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning and the thunder“. Blue and green orbs dropped from the ceiling and danced in unison with the music. George P. Johnson Experience Marketing contacted me a few weeks before Cisco Live to see if I would have time for a quick interview so I can only imagine that they were the ones responsible for putting this together. Here’s a link to the full keynote if you want to see some of the magic.

As the music and light intro ended, Chuck Robbins took the stage. He emphasized that we are in a new era, explaining that the number of new machines added to the network exceeded the number of phones and tablets added to the network. Scale. Complexity. Security. He had two guests come on stage. First was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. He was there to explain the partnership between Apple and Cisco. Apple is priding themselves in the security of their devices.

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Then later he brought on David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. He was there to explain the partnership between Optum and Cisco. He showed us a prototype of a system that would keep physicians, family, friends and the patients all on the same page. A way for the physician to present references and materials to the patient. A way for the patient to share appointment dates and diagnoses with family and friends. A way for family and friends to cheer on and keep tabs on their loved one. It looked pretty revolutionary.

After the keynote I worked my way out with the crowd and attempted to find Miss Abby, with GPJ. After a phone call and a few texts we finally found each other and landed in the ultimate spot for my short interview. Right in front of a mural on the wall representing my superhero. I didn’t actually have a chance to see where my interview was used at the conference but she said that they would be using parts of it on some of the social media boards. She sent me a copy. Here’s a clip:

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I tried to refrain myself from saying Um a billion times and I did ok but replaced my Um’s with lots of pauses!  A little sceince behind why we say Um.

Then I was off to find my boss to grab one of the boxed lunches at one of the lunch and learn tables. These tables are great and I highly recommend going to at least one when you’re at Cisco live. The table will have at least one expert on a specific subject and the rest of the table is filled with customers like yourself. It’s a nice casual way to have open discussions about challenges, tips, upcoming features and the like. The rest of my day was filled with more sessions and a trip to the World of Solutions for some good networking and of course who would want to miss Hoppy Hour. Hoppy hour is a networking opportunity sponsored by the vendors. Lots of yummy appetizers, beer and wine. We ran into our northwest territory Cisco representatives for some good conversation. These networking situations are such a great way to get to know your vendors and Cisco reps on a slightly more personal level. There are so many things around you in the WoS that spark conversation that it just flows out naturally.

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We had an invitation to an afterhours event hosted by Stealthwatch at the SkyFall Lounge at Mandalay Bay. As we walked in we received a Cisco branded Moscow Mule cup. The SkyFall lounge is a rooftop lounge with a nearly 360o view of the strip. It was mezmerizing watching the sun set and the city lights come to life.

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Oh and how could I forget… I’ve never seen a Loo with such a view! Yes that’s a toilet facing floor to ceiling windows with a view of Vegas.

Cisco has a goal to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025. So at CLUS 2017 they had a couple of platforms of Kinetic tiles. Their goal was to gather 1 million steps from Cisco Live attendees, harness the energy and ship the batteries off to Nepal to donate to schools without electricity. Well by the end of the conference we had doubled their goal ending with over 2 million steps which equated to over 4 million joules of energy.

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It’s hard to describe the magnitude of the WoS (World of Solutions). It’s roughly a million square feet of activities, technology advancements and learning opportunities. Need a more resilient ethernet cable? Or someone to install it for you? Or maybe you have a complex call center and need a dashboard to help better manage your call flows. There were over 300 hundred vendors and they probably had what you were looking for! And even if you don’t think you need anything, you’ll most likely find something you either want or didn’t realize you needed. The World of Solutions is so much more than vendors though. There’s the Cisco Campus which showcases the latest in Cisco technologies and services. DevNet is where you can get hands on training for the development side of Cisco technologies. I wanted to attend a few sessions but they fill up fast so was only able to sit in on one of them. These people are smart! Do not skip this. You don’t have to be a developer (I’m not).  Then there’s Meet the Expert where over 500 engineers are available to talk to attendees in depth about any challenges they might have. We scheduled a 1:1 with an expert and he resolved our problem in about 30 minutes! It would have taken us hours or days. There’s the Cisco Store where you can get the latest Cisco swag, Cisco Press books and even meet the author at a book signing. And there’s no short of lounge areas where you can plop down to rest or if you’re on-call during the event you can whip out your laptop to do some remote troubleshooting.

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Some of the fun things to do at the World of Solutions.
One of the first things that caught my eye when I stepped into the conference area at Mandalay Bay was this area where an artist was painting a superhero mural. As the days passed you could see the mural come to completion so I snapped a picture every day which made for a fun collage. 🙂 The artist was Bunka. Check out his final product below.

More Cisco Live sign pics. It’s hard to avoid the urge!

And then there’s the Customer Appreciation Event. This time they hired none other than Bruno Mars! The CAE is the event where you pick up your infamous Cisco Live hat. This one was fun because it had lights on it with a button that changed the sequence. So the entire stadium was lit up with flashing hats. So fun. And Bruno… it’s really hard to describe how good he is. He was on stage for exactly 90 minutes. He often had his band dance across the stage with him. His voice was dreamy. He sang one song with no instruments (or maybe there were but I was so mesmerized that I didn’t notice any) and everyone was quiet and just started in awe. But most of the songs everyone was dancing!

And luck us, on our way back to the hotel we stumbled on a great cover band in the Mandalay Bay casino that ended up playing a couple of Bruno Mars songs after some of the attendees threw their CL hats to them on stage.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the security keynote from earlier in the day. Cisco’s SVP, Chief Security and Trust Officer, John Stewart spoke about the utmost importance of security on the network. He brought on guest speaker, Theresa Payton, Former Whitehouse CIO and Cybersecurity Authority on CBS’s new TV program “Hunted”. She was great!

And on the final day we attended the closing keynote which was a QA session between Chuck Robbins and Bryan Cranston (four time Emmy Award winner). He was hilarious!! And at the end of it all came the reveal of the location for next years conference. Orlando! And then later, Cisco social media tweeted the estimated lineup for the next five years. I say estimated because I found a lineup on an old blog and it was supposed to be at Vegas three years in a row but it did end up that way.

  • 2018 – Orlando
  • 2019 – San Diego
  • 2020 – Las Vegas
  • 2021 – Las Vegas
  • 2022 – Orlando

Cheers and I hope you all can go next year! (and I hope I can go too)

Set up Jabber Contact Photos for MRA

So my boss just configured Expressway for MRA (Mobile and Remote Access). Wow, was that a feat! Kudos to him. Maybe he’ll be a guest blogger for me at some point to explain how he did it. After all was said and done we found that after some research that getting photos into Jabber mobile is not as simple as a checkbox. You must configure the jabber XML file to pull the photos from a web server. Here’s how we did it.

First we watched two of Jaime Valencias awesome videos.

How to configure Jabber photos in a Web Server when using UDS

How to confiugre Jabber photos in a Web Server when using LDAP integration

Then we performed the following:

  1. Created a directory on one of our existing Windows 2012 R2 servers running IIS. New directory name C:\JabberPictures and copied a couple of pictures to it for testing.
  2. Created domain user jabberpics (in Jaime’s video he used Administrator).
  3. Created DNS record for the site. SNAGHTML8a5218
  4. In IIS, I created a new Web Site named Pictures.
  5. SNAGHTML1a1d5874
  6. Tested authentication settings. Success.
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  7. Browsed to the URL of one of the pictures to see if it worked. Voila! So onto the next step of configuring CUCM and Expressway. SNAGHTMLed0800
  8. In Expressway Core, we added a new Editable rule under Configuraiton > Unified Communications > HTTP Allow List named Jabber Contact Photos. The syntax is very specific. It took several tries and a Meet with the Engineer session (at Cisco Live) to get it right. SNAGHTML1a1fd39cSNAGHTML1a201991
  9. We created a test jabber config XML file and added the highlighted string under the Directory section. And also changed the Directory Server Type from EDI to UDS if it’s not already UDS. SNAGHTML10c3ff1
  10. TFTP’d the XML file to our CUCM server. You can find some tips on the Jabber config file from Cisco Shizzle.
  11. Restarted the Cisco Tftp service under Feature Services since it’s a new file.
  12. For testing, we added configurationfile=jabber-config_test.xml to the Cisco Support Field of my CSF device.
  13. I performed  a Jabber Reset on my Jabber for Windows and also deleted the CSF folder located in %appdata%\Roaming\Cisco\Unified Communications\Jabber.
  14. I logged back into Jabber and noticed that all users photos were missing except for the few test photos I added to our web server. Wahoo! SNAGHTML11ee8ae

Last Minute Items Before Cisco Live!

Things I’ve done this week to prep for Cisco Live:

  • Read up on each of the speakers that will be presenting for CEWN (Cisco Empowered Women’s Network). I looked for video clips on each of them. I’m such a visual learner so I will feel more of a connection when I see them speak at the CEWN event. Like this 2 min video on Kevin Bandy where he shares what he loves about working at Cisco or this TEDx Talks with Tania Katan.
  • Downloaded the Cisco Events app. You have done that already right? You’ll find great features like the ability to search for attendees, map your sessions, join in on the social contests, and take surveys. CiscoEvents1
  • Downloaded the MGM Resorts app so I can have a super smooth check-in and check-out experience while I’m staying at the Delano.
  • Check my emails for any special invites such as the one I received today for the The West Heroes at CiscoLive 2017 Spark room connection!
  • Check Twitter and LinkedIn for anything that CLUS is tagged in. I was cruising through the posts the other day and found out that ExtraHop is having a VIP event.
  • Map out which vendors I’d like to visit at the World of Solutions.
  • Check the News Flash page on the Cisco live website for any new updates.
  • Study for my exam (you know the exam voucher comes free with your fall conference pass right?).
  • Pick out my outfit for the Bruno Mars concert. What what!

What Superhero Are You?

This year Cisco Live has conjured up a new theme. IT Superheros. When I attended Cisco Live in 2015 I thought it would be fun to participate in their social media gatherings, contests, etc. I found it helped to keep me and other attendees pumped up and allowed us to network with peers that we may not have had the guts to walk over and talk to. It probably also helped to keep the Cisco employees pumped about being there too. I can only imagine that going to the same conference year after year might get a little stale. But Cisco really knows how to shake things up. Whether it’s with a 40GB throughput super server, a wicked Spark board or a bringing big acts like Aerosmith, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars to it’s customers, Cisco delivers.

And this year, they remind us that we are superheros!

To quote Cisco Live… “As vital as oxygen; as indispensable as nourishment—you’re the ones who hold IT all together; who keep IT running; the ones who will transform IT into a future that will truly amaze.”

Will you be attending? Have you taken the superhero quiz?

I did. I’m an IgnITor. Defined as an “innovator, the superhero who inspires collaboration with everyone and everything, ultimately bringing amazing solutions to light where once there was nothing.” So now I’m pumped! I’m ready to go. Cisco Live! here I come!

Click here to find out what superhero you are. Haven’t registered to attend? Why not? Need help convincing your boss? Here’s a template to help you out.

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A Showdown with Ransomware

In my career I’ve had encounters with Ransomware a few times. A few months ago we were attacked again. And rather than just recover from the effects, I decided to do some more investigation as to how the virus got into our network. The strain we were faced with this time is the ODIN Locky Ransomware.

First we were notified by one of our end users that several folders on our shared drive have missing files that were replaced with a strange looking file with the .odin extension. I was not familiar with the ODIN extension but as soon as I saw the files, I knew exactly what they were. Ransomware.

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You may notice the first file listed is an html file. This is the ransom note. Typically it would also be displayed on the users desktop wallpaper but since this is on a network drive, we are unsure who the exact user that triggered the virus. The ransom HOWDO_ HTML looks like this:

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By investigating the security permissions on the folders and files, you should be able to figure out who the end user is that triggered the virus. However, in our case, there was a security group that had access with a large member base so it would take forever to track down who caused it.

I did a little research on the ODIN extension and found some great articles

Information on the Ransomware variants that caused this:

Steps Taken to recover:

  • Deleted all affected folders/files
  • If you have identified the computer that spawned the ransomeware, then it’d be a good idea to wipe it because there’s a good chance that some of the OS files have been corrupted.
  • Restored from backup
  • Performed a Full antivirus scan on the storage server

In our case we received a help desk call a day later from an end user that couldn’t access some of their files. I remoted into their PC and found she was referring to her local My Documents folder. They were all encrypted by the Locky virus. I ran a search of the C: drive to see whereelse the virus had touched. The ODIN file extension was in several directories. My Documents, ProgramData, etc. I noticed the time stamp on the files was one minute prior to the infected files on our storage server. So her workstation is very likely the root of the ransomware infection.

I found this in the registry. I didn’t get a screenshot of the command key value but I looked at it and it was calling Word.exe.

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I then decided to see how it got into our network. I searched our IPS for events with her computers IP address during the time frame of the infection. And lo and behold I found it. There was a botnet that was allowed from URL logwudorlghdou.info/apache_handler.php

Google searches on the URL logwudorlghdou.info came up with nothing. However, google search on apache_handler.php resulted in the top results being blogs talking about ODIN Locky Ransomware. Here’s an example.

If this was a “High Risk” reputation with URL Category “Bot Nets” then why was it allowed?? We found we had several URL categories blocked but Bot Nets was not on the list. So, we added Bot Nets and another one that looked like a good idea to block named Keyloggers and Monitoring.

I ran a search on the our email archiver and spam firewall. The only message I see sent to our end uers that is questionable is one that has an xls attachment. The from address is dionne.simcoe.195@sunshinecash.com.au so I googled sunshinecash.com.au and found it is some website and has various other websites with the same company name in it (ie. Facebook page) but I was scared to click on it. So then I ran a search for emails sent from that domain. Nothing. So then I ran another serach of emails to anyone but with that subject line. Bam! We received several with the same subject pattern. The emails all contain xls attachments but are from completely different domains. I also looked at the body of the email and all of them have the same body “Sent with Genius Scan for iOS”.

Moral of the story? Education is so important. Train your end users NOT to click on links in emails they don’t recognize! And add as many layers of security that you can. Antivirus, antispam, antimalware, intrusion prevention, firewall, dns protection, and the list goes on.

Cisco Live! 2015

This year I was privileged to attend Cisco Live! If you’re reading this, you most likely know what it is but in the case you don’t, it’s a technology conference put on by Cisco every year in several different countries. The first conference was held in 1989. Now being that this is the first one I’ve attended, I could not tell you what the events were like back then. However, I can tell you that now a days it is jam-packed full of technology goodness. As one person tweeted a few days into the conference, they felt like they walked into NerdVana, which I just found is actually a term defined in the Urban Dictionary ha! (by the way, the Urban Dictionary can be addictive). And it was just that. A mecca of gizmos, datacenter gear, IoT interfaces, hundreds of learning sessions, labs and tests, and don’t forget the keynotes with people who were giddy about speaking geek! This year’s US venue was hosted at the San Diego Convention Center.

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image courtesy of trolleytours.com

Surrounded by an abundance of activities it was hard to keep focus on the reason for my visit to San Diego… to LEARN! But who wants to go to nerd sessions when you’ve got this view outside: This is a picture of “The Lawn”. Each day there was live music during lunch. It was nice way to relax before heading off to another session.  Ok so this was Monday… the busses that Cisco hired out to usher everyone from their hotel to the convention center were supposed to run every 10 minutes in the early hours to make sure everyone arrives on time. Well, my bus decided to show up 20 minutes or so late. And when we started nearing the convention center we got stuck in rush hour traffic. So everyone decided to hop off of the bus and walk the rest of the way. Thank goodness we did because I just barely made it to my first session. This was my attempt at capturing the madness on the way up the escalator.

My first few sessions turned out great! One of them was put on by the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network. I know what you might be thinking but this is not a group of man hating power hungry women. Women still continue to be a minority in the tech industry and so this is a way for women to get together to share their experiences and help each other overcome the hurdles that might be getting in the way of your growth in the industry. I paid $45 to attend but it was well worth it. They actually had their own mini conference on Sunday but I was unable to attend. Luckily I was able to attend the session that they held on Monday. Such an inspiring group. The topics in the session were office politics, salary negotiation, networking for the introvert and taking charge of your development. I left feeling motivated, inspired, enlightened, and EMPOWERED!

This is Todd. I did not know Todd prior to being interviewed by him. I was noticing some hubbub in the Tweet lounge and he happened to be standing there so I asked if he knew what was going on. He changed the subject by asking if he could interview me. “What do you want to interview me for?”, I asked. He says, “I’m putting together a montage of peoples answers to the question, What is hyperconvergence?” I agree and answer as best I can. He later told me that the montage turned out great. I never actually saw it but I later googled to see if my answer was anywhere near correct. Not so much… convergence yes, but the hyper was derived from hypervisor, meaning virtual. So hyperconvergence is bringing the virtual aspects of infrastructure together with the physical, resulting in a single solution.  Clockwise: The Sails Pavilion (cisco store, DevNet lounge and stage, end world hunger station); The Hub (self-paced labs, meet the engineer, Tac solutions); lunch on The Lawn; the DJ who pumped music through the halls downstairs throughout the day to keep us energized. Opening keynote… and who do they invite? OK GO. What? Yes! They played three songs and I think I formed a crush on Damian Kulash during those ten lovely minutes. Heehee. John Chambers had a great speech and then invited Chuck Robbins to the stage. They had some serious moments and some laughs as they shared their vision of the future of Cisco. Here they’re demonstrating innovations in healthcare technology. World of Solutions (clockwise): appetizers and drinks start us off; a view from above but doesn’t do justice how big this is; a rack of gorgeous datacenter gear; nuf said.   On my way to class! Picture taken by my wonderful boss.

This year they had an awesome program to support the Global Hunger Relief Campaign. They brought in the Stop Hunger Now troops and recruited Cisco Live attendees to help assemble meal kits. My boss and I joined in and helped out. We’re not in this picture but each person had a role. Pour the contents in the bag, weigh the bag, adjust as needed, seal the bag and box them all up. I was in charge of sealing. Fun stuff! It felt great to be a part of it and during the conference over 100,000 meals were prepared and shipped! Each meal feeds 4-6 people. Wow! Can’t leave San Diego without riding in a Pedicab. Plus it allowed me to check off one of the items on my scavenger hunt. Yes, you heard me right. Social Media is a world wide way of communicating so Cisco Live decided to have a Social Media Scavenger Hunt this year. Each item on the list that you find, you take a picture and Tweet it. Now I must say I rarely use my Twitter account but I figured this game would break up the monotony of going to session after session each day. And it did!

  Here’s part of the list.

I participated in a Tweetup (a social gathering promoted on Twitter). This photo is courtesy of the Cisco Live US Facebook site.  Somehow I landed in front. They said “you’re short, get up there!”. Uh ok.

Each year they hold a customer appreciation event. A way to say thank you for being so loyal and probably a great way of increasing their number of attendees to the conference. I haven’t read up on the history but I know last year was Lenny Kravitz and Imagine Dragons. Here I am heading down to the stage at Petco Park for the customer appreciation event. And who was the headliner this year? Aerosmith baby! Opened by Royal Machines. And the act in-between was a cirque act where these large orbs started bobbing back and forth. Little heads started to poke out and then eventually the people inside dressed as birds revealed themselves and moved around making the orbs move in unison almost like a dance. It was like a weird dream. Oh and you may notice my hat. Every year there are two signature items at the conference. The hat and the backpack. The backpack you get at the beginning of the conference to allow you to lug around your laptop, your notes and your swag. This year the backpack was ho-hum for me. I ended up donating it to kids in need. They had a collection at the front desk which I thought was great idea. The hat is given to you at the customer appreciation event. I love this years hat. The fedora seems to be a trend the last few years. This blog has a few of the bags from over the years. Check out this blog of the hats going back to 1989! And he describes what the customer appreciation event is for almost all of the years. One year they rented out Universal Studios!         Aerosmith rocked the house! We were so close we could almost touch him.  They are definitely a band who caters to all ages.

  And the closing keynote… Mike Rowe. You know, star of Dirty Jobs, commentator on Deadliest Catch, etc. Let me tell you, he is just as funny in person as he is on TV. He told us the story of how he started Dirty Jobs. He is an amazing story teller. I could listen to him for hours. They actually had to tell him to get off the stage cause he wouldn’t stop talking! Ha! Well he started a new foundation called Mike Rowe Works. As the years go by, more and more trade skills are being forgotten and definitely taken for granted. His foundation aims to get kids back into the trade skills in hopes to close the gap. He’s very inspiring. Oh and the picture on the top… that’s Mike taking a selfie with the crowd behind him. Heehee! Would I go again? Heck yeah! I might even pay for it myself. It was that good. I came back with so much knowledge and a new found relationship with Cisco.