I was lucky enough to spend 2017 as a Cisco Champion. If you're not familiar with the programme, it's a Cisco-sponsored network of technical experts, who love what they do, and are fired up about Cisco's technologies and solutions. Being new to it at the start of last year felt a bit like being a fresher at university, but the support on the programme meant that I quickly felt at home. I got so much from it over the year that I really wanted to stay on for 2018.
Now I'm not the only person at Ideal who loves what they do, and when it comes to network technologies few people have a better grip on them than my fellow solutions architect Richard Harvey. We talked a lot last year about what I was getting from collaborating with other Cisco Champions, and the benefits of the programme in general. He was enthused to join himself, and I'm really happy that we've both been confirmed as Cisco Champions for 2018.
So what does that mean? For a start, we've been recognised for our in-depth technical knowledge - and not just of Cisco technologies. Being a Cisco Champion reflects that we're intrigued by the possibilities of all the latest technology in our field, and equally that we enjoy explaining it to others, or sometimes just thinking out loud on the Ideal blog.
More importantly, it means we're part of a global network of like-minded professionals with enhanced access to Cisco information and expertise. Aside from getting each others' views, we have access to key Cisco personnel, and we get pre-release information on new technologies. Ahead of events like next week's Cisco Live, we get sight of key announcements, and often the chance of special briefings and insight.
Well that's great for us, but also for our customers. All these perks get us closer to Cisco, and help us better understand the strategy and innovations driving probably the most important and influential networking company. It means we get the best possible understanding of key products that we work with, and how to get the most out of exciting new technologies like DNA Centre.
Oh, and it means that sometimes we get to do podcasts - listen out for us at Cisco Live!