Today is the final day of Cisco Live US, and like I’ve already tweeted out today, this is a bittersweet day every year. This has been the sixth time that I’ve attended Cisco Live, beginning with my first event in 2011 in Las Vegas. For some reason, it also brought about a sense of reflection for me about what this event has meant to me on not only a professional level, but on a personal one. To say that my life has changed over the past six years would be an understatement, but part of it has been because of this event and the people that it has helped to connect me to.
As a self described introvert, I spent my first few CLUS events lurking in the shadows. I had a Twitter account, and I followed people who I saw were making changes not only on the social media side of things, but within the industry itself. I’m not going to name drop here, but these were people who I always sat at the cool kids table and I felt like an outsider looking in. This comparison, I would come to learn, was not accurate. As I started to drop my walls of fear of rejection, and yes, i’m psychoanalyzing myself here, I found that these were people who were passionate not only about the same things that I was, but they were people who were so very inviting of everyone into the circles they were in and more than happy to talk and share their experiences and their wisdom with everyone.
Continuing on, I started to hear about a program called Cisco Champions in 2014 and 2015, and the same people who I held in high regard were a part of this program. I decided to put myself out on a limb and apply for this program and was accepted into it in 2016. My social skills in person, still very shy and introverted, started to go away when I would talk to more people who shared the same passions that I had. I started to find it more comfortable to engage with others, even if I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing. I know that I often had a sense of imposter syndrome, something that I still experience at times. But putting myself out there and feeling uncomfortable in social experiences was something that while difficult at first I discovered often led to opportunities that I never thought possible. I ended up getting involved with things like Tech Field Day and RouterGods, where I continued to meet more awesome and friendly people who I can now call friends.
This isn’t a technical post, but I think for the first time attendee to Cisco Live who feels like they need to stick around what makes them feel comfortable, I would highly suggest doing otherwise. What makes us comfortable doesn’t evoke change from within, it keeps us in the same places we’ve always been. Cisco Live is one of the best opportunities I’ve had to get outside of my comfort zone, and while I didn’t embrace it at first, I’ve learned all that is possible when I did get outside of what I used to find comfortable. I would wager that many of the people here have that same fear of opening up and putting themselves out there, because of long held fears of judgement from other people about them. My personal experience has been that these fears have been proven wrong every time, and I have found a community of people that inspire me.
Keep coming back to Cisco Live, remain engaged through Twitter, Spark, Slack, or whatever channels with the people you meet here. Start a blog, find an identity for yourself online and a way to brand yourself, and get outside the walls that you may have always lived in because they were comfortable. Become passionate about something and share it with the community, give back and help to lift up others, because in the end, that has been what this community has given to me. And hopefully I’ll see you at Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando next year.