The Power of Social Media

At Cisco Live 2016, I was invited to join a panel of fellow Cisco Champions to discuss how we use social media to develop our personal brand. This was a great experience, and it has had me thinking about the true impact that social media has made over the past year that I’ve been doing this blog. I wanted to share some of the insights that I’ve gained over time, and even be introspective on what I would like to do differently moving forward.

At the last Cisco Live in 2015, I made a decision that I wanted to move in a new direction and create something that would identify myself and my online presence. Even as I read that sentence, I want to assure you that I have zero pretentiousness when it comes to this sort of thing. My online footprint dwarfs many of those that I admire, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a voice to share as well. I decided to go with the Network Introvert “brand”, as it really described my persona accurately.

Once I changed my Twitter handle and registered my domain, I then had to come up with content to fill this site. As you can see, I sometimes go a while without saying anything. I tried to make sure that at Cisco Live this year that I ran a daily recap of what my day looked like. Hopefully others enjoyed it, but I really wrote it for myself as a reminder of what happened this year.

Another big reason that I even decided to start this was to make connections online that would then translate into things in the real world. I’ve chatted with people through Twitter that I’ve then met at Live, been able to join an online CCIE study group, and most recently I was invited to Networking Field Day 12 in a few weeks. (#NFD12) None of this would have happened if I hadn’t made the conscious decision to create a brand online. My introverted personality would have taken over and made excuses to avoid in-person interaction with people.

Let me clarify that last statement as well, as I don’t want to come off as someone who doesn’t enjoy the company of others. I’m not good with small talk, as I’m someone who wants to actually get to know the real person. Unfortunately, this ends up making it difficult to start up new relationships with people. Using social media as an icebreaker has made it much more comfortable to meet people in person who I’ve talked to online through different mediums, and for an introverted person like myself, it has been a game changer.

The next aspect that I wanted to make sure I imparted on this site, as well as on my Twitter feed, was to be honest and to state things from my perspective. My goal is to not be a parrot, or someone who simply re-hashes someone else’s thoughts and ideas as their own. This isn’t always a simple feat to accomplish, as I know I’ve inadvertently taken something someone else might have written that I came across, absorbed it, then ended up saying something similar without due credit.

Coming up with topics has been something I’ve struggled with from day one. Sometimes I go weeks or months without posting anything here, but I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to write reminders to myself when an interesting topic comes to mind. Just a few days ago, there was a Cisco Champions Radio broadcast on social media, which is where my idea for this topic came to mind. I’ve had other ideas that, upon second look, seemed overly saturated and I decided against writing. I have to decide if I’m posting something for myself or for an audience, then decide on how I want to approach the subject from my own perspective. Sometimes the article takes a few minutes to write, sometimes it can take days or even weeks.

In summary, the best advice I can give to anyone struggling with creating a presence online is to ask those who you follow on Twitter or other platforms for advice in how to get started. Most people are more than willing to help out, as we all want to continue to see the community grow. I’ve been able to participate in the Cisco Champions program this year, and the experience has been great. I’ve met people both online and in person who are leaders in their industry and been able to exchange ideas about topics I hadn’t even thought of. Getting the opportunity to attend NFD12 will also be a great chance to meet up with others who are excited about where our industry is headed in the future. I encourage those who are afraid to put themselves out there to take the leap. Get involved with the social media community through Twitter, find blogs of people and read them, listen to podcasts, watch live streams of events, and find organizations like Cisco Champions to join.

~Dustin (@net_introvert)


Cisco Live – The final day

I’ve had to wait a couple of days after Cisco Live ended to do my write-up of the last day of Cisco Live. This year was by far my favorite Cisco Live, and I can only attribute that to being more involved in sessions, events, and socializing than I have been in the past. Participation in the Cisco Champion program has really helped me to lessen my introvert bubble and get to meet some really amazing people. But now, as I’m back home and reflecting on the week, I’m seeing how much this event has helped me grow in many ways.

The Thursday 8 AM session began with the legendary Denise Fishburne (@denisefishburne) giving us a great speech on the Techniques of a Network Detective. Historically, the morning session following the Customer Appreciation Event sees about half of the people signed up for it being a no-show. This was not the case, as people know that Fish is going to give a great lecture and here was proof of this:


In the five Cisco Live’s that I’ve attended, this single session had more people in it than any I’ve ever attended. After getting to hear Fish and talk to her, there is a reason why: she is an all around awesome person.

Later in the morning, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to be on a panel with Cisco Champion’s Justin Cohen (@cantechit) and Ed Walsh (@vEddieW), discussing Building Your Personal Brand Using Social Media. There were more people in attendance that I’d expected, and I really enjoyed giving my insight on this great tool that has helped me to expand my network and meet some great people. It was really good to listen to Justin and Ed as well, as they had really great insights on this and we had a great discussion. The panel was moderated by one of our fearless Cisco Champion leader’s, Kim Austin (@ciscokima).

Following the panel, I had my final session of Cisco Live: Three Secrets of VIRL. This was another very insightful lecture and I was able to learn some great new techniques for using VIRL in my CCIE studies. If you are working on any certifications, I highly recommend looking into VIRL to help you with learning the technologies. It has really helped me to set up labs without needing the physical equipment like we needed in the past, plus it’s helped me learn a little more about virtualization in general.

The final keynote of the event was given to us by the legendary actor Kevin Spacey. This was an event that was in a league of its own. When he began, I thought this was going to be a lighthearted speech filled with stories and characters that he has done, but what I got out of it was something I didn’t expect. He really inspired me to follow my dreams and to constantly push myself to go against the grain and to challenge myself. I honestly didn’t expect the kind of motivation that he gave, and I was really glad that Cisco Live was able to book such a talented and inspiring speaker for us.

The day ended with the farewell tweetup and final picture in front of the huge Cisco Live sign at Mandalay Bay. This was bittersweet, as it meant that it would be another year until I saw most of these people again. It was also the first year that I really was sad to be leaving Cisco Live. I can only attribute this to the amazing time that I had this year. I can’t emphasize it enough, but if you want to get the most out of Cisco Live it means getting out of your comfort zone and doing the things that normally you would avoid. For me, it was getting out and talking to others and being more of a social butterfly.

My final summarization of Cisco Live is that if you have the opportunity to attend, I would implore you to go. There are so many fantastic aspects to it, that even after five of them, I’ve still not been able to see everything that it has to offer. It has given me the opportunity to find out and then be accepted into the Cisco Champions program, which has been a great experience. I’d like to also thank Brandon (@prebynski), Kim (@ciscokima), and Lauren (@lauren) of the Cisco Champion program for everything that they did for all of us this week. I’m honored to be a part of this great program.

Thank you to Cisco and everyone involved for putting on another awesome Cisco Live. I look forward to seeing everyone again next year in Las Vegas!

Cisco Live – Day 4

Wednesday is typically the day that the mornings seem to be a little emptier in both the amount of people walking around and in the session sizes. This year, it seemed to be a little lighter traffic, but my first session of the day was still at capacity. Day 4 is also when we all get to get our groove on and rock out to the Cisco Customer Appreciation Event. This is my fifth CLUS, and it definitely delivered.

Today began bright and early at 6am, as I’m still on Central Time and my body is waking up at this time regardless of an alarm being set or not. This does work to my advantage and gives me plenty of time to get ready in the morning and locate caffeine. Coffee is a necessity for me and thousands of other attendees, and this morning was no exception.

My first session of the day was with another legendary presenter at Cisco Live, Johnny Bass (@CCIE6458). This session was all about Tunnels for CCIE R&S Candidates. He hit the areas that were of interest to me and helped to fill in some of the gaps that I had in my studies. Always a great presentation and a pleasure to listen to someone who can keep your interest.

I was also able to snag a front row seat to the keynote this morning, another benefit of being in the Cisco Champion program. If you ever want to know more about this amazing social networking program, look for someone with a Cisco Champion flag on their badge and they’ll be glad to tell you more. This was a great discussion on how we are moving towards a cloud-based world and how digitization and analytics are changing the world as we know it. It really pushed the idea that as a member of this new society, we need to embrace change and continuously push ourselves to learn new ways of thinking and doing things.

The afternoon also was an opportunity to take advantage of another Cisco Champion opportunity and see inside the Whisper Suites. Unfortunately, due to NDA restrictions, I can’t go into detail about what we saw here, but I’m excited about some of the new productions and technologies that are potentially going to be coming in the future.

The evening was capped off at the T-Mobile Arena. I was able to be invited into a VIP suite and watched two amazing acts: Elle King and Maroon 5. I’d never even heard of Elle King before, but she had a great voice and I was impressed by her performance. Maroon 5 blew the house down and put on a great show.

The highlight of the evening was getting to socialize with some of the other Cisco Champions before the event started. I got to hang out with people like Justin Cohen (@cantechit), Dennis Heim (@CollabSensei), and Bill Burnham (@stilgar). I got to meet some people who I have talked to on Twitter for years and finally meet in person like Amy Renee (@amyengineer) and the famous CCNA author Wendell Odom (@Wendellodom).

Finally, I want to take time to give a huge thanks to Lauren Friedman (@lauren) for giving me the opportunity to be a member of the Cisco Champions program. This has helped me get out of my introverted shell this year like no other, and has helped to make this my favorite Cisco Live so far. If you have any interest in this program, I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow is the last day of camp…er, Cisco Live. Enjoy it. If you happen to have time in your schedule, feel free to come to the Think Tank inside The Hub and listen to myself and some other Cisco Champions discuss How to Build Your Personal Brand with Social Media (CISTHT-1001). And if you see me around, feel free to say hello. I hope you have all had as amazing a week as I have. And I can’t wait to see President Underwood (aka Kevin Spacey) tomorrow in what should be a legendary final keynote. Also, don’t forget about the goodbye Tweet-up at 4pm tomorrow.

Cisco Live – Day 2 & 3

Since I wasn’t able to find time in my schedule to write up a Day 2 post this morning, I’ve decided to condense both days into a single post. Please bear with me, Cisco Live is extremely immersive and finding time to do this usually means skipping out on something else.

Monday, July 11th – Day 2

Monday kicked off for me by taking a free certification exam, which is offered every year to Cisco Live attendees (full conference only). After failing my CCIE R&S v5 written last year, I decided I might as well take TSHOOT to re-certify my CCNP. Unfortunately, I managed to fail this exam as well. I didn’t bother reading that there had been some changes since I last took it in 2012, including that there were now multiple choice questions. To avoid any NDA issues, I’ll just say that you should make sure you know what is going to be on an exam before you take it. This even applies if you think you are able to pass with ease.

Anyhow, following this disastrous start to the day, I was able to attend the keynote in a VIP suite for Cisco Champions. It is always nice to meet new people, and this was no exception. This was Chuck Robbins first opening Keynote for Cisco Live after being handed the reigns last year by John Chambers. I felt like it had a different vibe, but John also had the advantage of speaking at these for 20+ years. Chuck did a great job and gave some great insight into the direction that Cisco will be taking in acquisitions and partnerships in the future.

My afternoon was comprised of attending BRKCCIE-3345: The CCIE Candidate’s Introduction to MPLS L3VPN Networks. This session was led by Keith Barker (@KeithBarkerCCIE) and Scott Morris (@ScottMorrisCCIE). They have been doing this session for several years, and their rapport is phenomenal. This is my favorite type of session, where I not only learn a lot, but I enjoy the presentation. These guys know their technology, and if you have the opportunity to either attend this session or view it online, it’s a great one if you are studying for your CCIE.

The evening wound down for me with a vendor event at the House of Blues. As I expected, it was wall to wall people, and the decibel level exceeded what I’m comfortable being around, so I exited post haste. I was then able to meet up with some of the other Cisco Champions for dinner. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Friedman (@lauren), make sure you do so while you’re here. She is one of the people in charge of the Cisco Champions group, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the program, look for her or anyone with a Cisco Champion ribbon on their badge.

Tuesday, July 12th – Day 3

Hoping to actually start the day off right, I made my way to the breakfast area to fuel up for another fun filled day of information overload. I know that people have complained about the meals at CLUS over the years, but I will definitely give the event staff credit this year for moving 28,000+ people through the lines with speed and ease. After a quick breakfast and time to load up on some needed caffeine, I sped off to my first session of the day: Multicast Troubleshooting.

A quick tip here: If you want to get the most out of a session, sit as far towards the front as you possibly can. You won’t be as distracted by things such as your phone or computer because if you’re anything like me, you’ll fear that you will be spotted and called out.

Anyway, I made it a point to sign up for this class because in my four previous Cisco Live’s, I had never taken a session with the legendary Denise Fishburne (@DeniseFishburne). My multicast is probably one of my weakest areas in my CCIE preparation, so I hoped that she would help to clear up some of my difficulties in understanding this technology. In a word, yes, she definitely did just that. Denise is my new favorite presenter, and I can see why she was inducted into the Cisco Live Speaker Hall of Fame this year. If you know anything about multicast, you know that it is not the easiest thing to understand. I can’t recommend this session enough, and so far I’m batting 1000 on great sessions at CLUS.

Following a quick lunch, as I had to skip today’s keynote due to other obligations, I headed off to my first lab of the week: Dr. Evil’s secret VIRL hands-on lab. This was essentially an opportunity to broaden my horizons when it comes to VIRL, which I’m using heavily in my CCIE lab preparations. Unfortunately, there were some issues with the lab due to the wrong VM being built for the students, but we were able to work through most of the technical issues and I was able to take away some new knowledge on how to make this great product work even better for me.


What more can I say. Honestly, if you’re still reading this blog up to this point, I’m happy you’ve stuck it through and made it to the end of one of my longest yet. I hope you will continue to follow my journey through the week, as some huge days are yet to come. (Customer Appreciation Event & Kevin Spacey). Please feel free to hit me up with any questions, comments, concerns, or just a hello at @net_introvert.

Cisco Live – Day 1

The time is now…Cisco Live 2016 began yesterday for me, and it was a packed day and I was impressed by the number of people who are attending. If you’re anything like me, Cisco Live is your favorite event of the year. This year, I have the honor of being a member of the Cisco Champions program, and I am excited for everything that is happening this year at the event.

Sunday kicked off for me with the opportunity to attend the New Attendee Meet-up, where NetVets were paired with first time attendees to help mentor them and answer any questions they might have about this event. With the growth that CLUS has seen over the years, this is a great idea and something that will help both the new attendee and the seasoned veteran connect and discover Cisco Live.

After the New Attendee meet-up, I rushed over to everyone’s favorite opening event: The Opening Day Tweet-up. This year, I’ve made it my mission to actually talk to people and meet people. For me, this isn’t the easiest thing to do. I’m naturally an introvert and like to just observe and people watch. Some people probably find this unusual, but for me, just being an observer and watching is intriguing. However, I made it a personal goal to talk to and put faces to names that I had talked to over the years on Twitter and other means.

I was able to meet some of the people who I’d followed on Twitter for years, along with some familiar faces that I had talked to in the past and met at other Cisco Live events. To me, the most important aspect of Cisco Live is the connections that we all make at this event. Yes, the sessions are amazing and full of more information than I’ll possibly absorb in a 2 hour window. But making connections here is what I’ve found to be the best thing that I’ve done.

I hope that if you’re new to Cisco Live and reading this blog, you’ll feel free to say hello if you see me around the event floor this week. When I’m not in a session, I’ll generally be hanging out at the social media area, which actually started here in Las Vegas back in 2011 as Tom’s Corner. (Look up @networkingnerd on Twitter for more information). Make new connections, get out of your comfort zone, and enjoy one of the best places on earth…sorry Disney!