Thanks to the Customer Appreciation Event and some late night laundry at the hotel, the final day of Cisco Live began a bit later than the other days – just early in the morning as opposed to really freaking early in the morning.
A. Video Interview with Cisco & NetApp
The first item on my schedule was a mid-morning interview with Cisco & NetApp. That had originally been two separate meetings, but since the folks involved on the companies’ side work together all the time anyway, they offered to combine them to save me some time, which I appreciated. I headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel a bit early and walked around, admiring how … odd the place is. I felt sorry for the young ladies working the front desk area, as they had to stand in front of a giant LED wall with a loop of low-resolution “classic” music/video scenes. They were also dressed in 60′s Go-go dancer outfits, but at least they got to do their work on 27″ iMacs and not the usual boring PCs you see in most hotels.
I was met in the lobby of the hotel by a nice Frenchman from Cisco, Didier Rombaut (@drombaut). He escorted Pamela Kerman from NetApp and me up to a suite to conduct the interview. I have to be completely frank about this – when I walked through the door of the suite and saw the entire thing had been transformed into a professional-looking video studio, I got scared. They had lights, microphones, reflectors for the lights – everything. They even had a professional Italian cameraman and another guy working on an iMac (I think) off to his side. When I was asked if I’d be willing to sit down for a short video interview I pictured another person sitting in front of me with an iPhone or maybe a little camcorder and a tripod, probably with a little wired mic just to get decent sound. I found the professional equipment and actual professional video crew to be rather intimidating. Still, it wasn’t like I could just turn around and run away, or I didn’t think I could without looking like a wimp, so I sat down for the interview, nervous but determined to do it.
Didier was great. I’m sure he realized I was nervous, and he did a fantastic job of making me feel comfortable. He explained how we would do things, that we’d record for about forty minutes, with a goal of cutting it down to about three. That, combined with him saying I’d have final approval over what was eventually posted, made me feel better. Surely I could manage to generate three minutes of decent video out of forty, right? One thing he told me made me laugh inside; he said that given the short length of the final product, he might need to ask me to rephrase an answer to a question in a more succinct manner from time to time. Even keeping that in mind from the start, I’d say he had to ask me to go back and tighten things up several times, but I appreciated it. I know I tend to ramble, especially when I’m speaking on a topic about which I’m passionate, so brevity is something I have to work hard to achieve.
If you’ve seen a customer interview on a vendor’s website before, you’re familiar with the types of questions I was asked. Describe my environment, and the problem we were trying to solve. Explain why we picked the technology (FlexPod) and how we used it to help solve the problem. I’m not sure my video will help tip the scales for anybody looking at FlexPod, especially with my “face made for radio” good looks, but I was happy to tell the story and hope somebody finds it useful.
B. Lunch and Great Conversation
After the interview, I walked across the street to the convention center to have lunch before my afternoon session and closing keynote. I was going through the line when someone who had attended my main speaking session the day before said “hi” and thanked me for the session. We sat down and ate lunch together and talked about everything from the session itself, to the topic (Citrix XenDesktop), licensing, Microsoft licensing (a whole different kind of pain), and more. I’m going to save more details of this conversation for my post about my experience as a speaker at Cisco Live, but, in a nutshell, this one conversation made the whole trip worth it to me.
C. Closing Keynote – The MythBusters
Wow, these guys were awesome. I knew Weezer was famous and I’m sure some people were more excited to hear them, but the thing that I was looking forward to most from a sheer nerd joy perspective was seeing the MythBusters, and they did not disappoint. We cut the cable cord in my household about a year and a half ago, and along with Iron Chef and Alton Brown, The MythBusters are among the few things I actually miss about having cable TV. I think Carlos did a great job interviewing them, and while I’m sure many of the questions were ones they’ve heard and answered many times before, Adam and Jamie seemed as interested in answering them as I was in hearing the answers. And yes, they showed the video of Adam lighting his gas on fire, which had the audience rolling.
As a new dad, what really moved me was Adam’s answer to the question about what had impacted him most about the success of the show. He said he was humbled by the impact on kids, and that many parents had told them that their kids have been inspired to study science and build things because of the show. My boy’s only 16 weeks old, so it may be a while before I get to share MythBusters with him via Netflix streaming, but I sure am looking forward to it.
The closing keynote was great, and what I liked about it most was that it was so clearly just a cool thing for Cisco to do for its customers. I know from all the Cisco employees I met that they’re geeks just like me, and the closing keynote was an hour of pure geek fun.
D. Post-keynote Tweetup
Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd) had called for a Tweetup after the keynote and since the turnout was so large, he directed everybody over to the giant Cisco Live! sign out front for a picture, which you can see here. I’d say almost 40 people showing up after the closing keynote was pretty impressive. We tried very hard not to break the Cisco Live sign – assuming that would not go over well with Cisco. :)
E. Packing & Dinner
I learned a valuable lesson when I returned to the hotel to pack for my early morning flight the next day. There is such a thing as too many free t-shirts, especially in my case, since half of the t-shirts I collected were for my coworker Wojtek. I had trouble getting my suitcase zipped up and would later have fun getting it to fit in the overhead bin on the plane. Note to self: next time pack lighter or ship a box full of dirty clothes and vendor swag back home separately. You can see a picture of the swag I was bringing back just for my coworker below. Ironic that I came to Cisco Live to speak with Citrix and they didn’t have a t-shirt in my size, but such is the life of a fat man. My goal is to be able to fit into an XL or smaller when Cisco Live is in Orlando next year.
I had dinner that night at a little Italian place a few blocks from my hotel. It was described to me as family owned and very traditional – Operacaffe. I had the waiter bring me his favorite dish, Spaghetti di Mare, and it was quite good. The pasta was excellent and the seafood was fresh. Their Philadelphia style cheesecake was OK, but I’m really more of a New York cheesecake fan. Pic of the pasta below as well.
F. Final Thoughts
I thought about doing a general recap post, but I have too many other things to write about now and I think these daily recap posts got the job done. Besides, I’m back home with my family and my baby boy, so blogging time is cutting into my sleeping time.
So I’ll just say I really enjoyed attending and especially speaking at Cisco Live. I appreciate Citrix giving me the opportunity to come and share my story with others. I met some outstanding people, including some folks I’ve followed on Twitter for more than a year, and that was a blast. I learned a lot – so much so, in fact, that my number one goal when I returned to the office was to make the case to management that we need to start sending some of our real network engineers to Cisco Live each year. I was describing how valuable a long-time attendee said the conference had been to him over the past fifteen years to a network engineer pal of mine and he stopped me, took me into his manager’s office, and asked me to repeat what I’d just said, which I did. His manager’s a smart guy, someone who has moved up through the technical ranks, and he committed right then to sending a few of his guys from now on. Mission accomplished.