Tips on spending your time well at Cisco Networkers, plus: bring back the CCIE party!!

Cisco Live (Networkers) registration opened this week. As with previous years, I am excited to attend. But this year is particularly exciting since I have attended enough conferences to achieve CCIE NetVet status. So, now I get:

  • Access to a lounge reserved exclusively for NetVet and CCIE delegates.
  • An exclusive NetVet badge enabling everyone to acknowledge your NetVet status.
  • Your name in lights at the Keynote session as you and other NetVets are acknowledged on a rotating screen credit.
  • Preferential pre-party champagne reception and early access to the Customer Appreciation Party.
  • Lunch with John Chambers (if they have that again).

My "name in lights" is enough to sell me on the conference. ;-)

Seriously, Networkers is a good opportunity to learn if you have a plan. I went to my first Networkers, signed up for random courses, and didn't have the best learning experience. It felt disjointed attending 1-2 hours sessions on a variety of topics. After that first Networkers, I learned to have a training plan beforehand, and then pick Networkers sessions around that plan. At a high level I pick a technology track (let's say data center), then I do the following:

  • Pick a day-long Techtorial at the beginning of the week in that technology area (in this case, data center).
  • Schedule training sessions during the week in the same technology area.
  • Leave time in the schedule for the World of Solutions (vendors). That's where all the free stuff is and where you can learn about interesting products.
  • Schedule your free certification exam late in the week after the learning is done, yet fresh in your mind.

This creates a very nice training platform for the week. Mixing technology tracks inside of Networkers doesn't provide enough insight for real learning, so pick an area and focus on it. I have passed two CCIE Written Exams in the last two years using this plan.

But, now for the most important part of Networkers....partying!!! Which brings me to the most important part of this blog....."Hello Cisco, bring back the CCIE Party!". Three years ago, before Cisco Networkers 2005 in Las Vegas, I received an e-mail from Cisco inviting me to the CCIE party which would be part of the general conference appreciation event (party) on the last day. I thought that was a nice touch and signed up. When I arrived at the conference appreciation event I walked around for a while before making my way inside and saw the sign for the CCIE party. I was expecting it to be in a conference room off the first floor....maybe get a free t-shirt. Wow, was I wrong. I got on an elevator and was shot to the 55th floor of the Palms Casino and walked out to the Ghost Bar.

Words cannot describe the view of Las Vegas from the open-air Ghost Bar. Not to mention the endless supply of drinks, shrimp the size of my fist, and a beautiful waitress who took a lot of my money that night. Now that was a PARTY! They had to pry me out of that place around 3 AM. My friend called half way through to see if I would like to meet him downstairs.....yeah, sorry bud, see you tomorrow. All that work for the CCIE was starting to pay off. Networkers 2006, also in Las Vegas, had the CCIE party at the Hard Rock Cafe. A nice party, but nothing like the year before. Then last year - in LA even - no CCIE party. :-( What gives Cisco? So, I am issuing a Cisco Subnet challenge to our namesake......BRING BACK THE CCIE PARTY! We need it after suffering through those labs. What's a couple hundred-grand for your most loyal and experienced professionals? I expect something on par with the Ghost Bar too. I'm sure Orlando has something.

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