The Art of Network Engineering

From Aerospace Dreams to Tech Sales Triumphs: Alexis Bertholf's Journey and Personal Branding in the Digital Age

June 19, 2024 A.J., Andy, Dan, Tim, and Kevin Episode 148
From Aerospace Dreams to Tech Sales Triumphs: Alexis Bertholf's Journey and Personal Branding in the Digital Age
The Art of Network Engineering
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The Art of Network Engineering
From Aerospace Dreams to Tech Sales Triumphs: Alexis Bertholf's Journey and Personal Branding in the Digital Age
Jun 19, 2024 Episode 148
A.J., Andy, Dan, Tim, and Kevin

This episode was recorded on April 11, 2024.

Unlock the secrets of a successful career pivot and the art of technical storytelling with our special guest, Alexis Bertholf, a Sales Engineer at Cisco. This episode's highlight is Alexis' inspiring journey from an aspiring aerospace engineer to a thriving tech sales professional. Growing up as a first-generation college student in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Alexis pursued aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. However, a conversation with her boyfriend's uncle, a client executive at IBM, led her to discover a fulfilling career in tech sales. Alexis candidly shares the challenges and rewards of switching fields, underscoring the importance of following your passions and staying open to new opportunities.

Alexis dives deep into the realities of the solutions engineer role, emphasizing the necessity of humility, continuous learning, and the crucial skill of admitting when you don't know something. She speaks about the importance of working closely with customers to tailor solutions to their needs and leveraging the extensive resources available at a large organization like Cisco. Alexis also reflects on the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it transformed traditional sales approaches. Her insights offer valuable lessons for anyone looking to excel in a technical sales role, highlighting the importance of adaptability and collaboration.

Finally, we explore the power of personal branding and the impact of social media in shaping a professional identity. Alexis shares her innovative approach of integrating humor and personal expression into professional spaces, particularly through TikTok memes on LinkedIn. Despite initial resistance from colleagues, her persistence paid off, resonating with an audience that appreciated her authenticity. We discuss the balance between professionalism and authenticity online, the strategies for building a digital portfolio, and the significance of creating engaging technical content. Tune in to discover how to effectively build your personal brand in the digital age and make a lasting impression in the tech industry.

More from Alexis:

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@digital.byte
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexisbertholf/
Twitter: https://x.com/digitalbyte_

Thank you our sponsor Unimus! Learn more about Unimus today, visit https://unimus.net/

Find everything AONE right here: https://linktr.ee/artofneteng

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode was recorded on April 11, 2024.

Unlock the secrets of a successful career pivot and the art of technical storytelling with our special guest, Alexis Bertholf, a Sales Engineer at Cisco. This episode's highlight is Alexis' inspiring journey from an aspiring aerospace engineer to a thriving tech sales professional. Growing up as a first-generation college student in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Alexis pursued aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. However, a conversation with her boyfriend's uncle, a client executive at IBM, led her to discover a fulfilling career in tech sales. Alexis candidly shares the challenges and rewards of switching fields, underscoring the importance of following your passions and staying open to new opportunities.

Alexis dives deep into the realities of the solutions engineer role, emphasizing the necessity of humility, continuous learning, and the crucial skill of admitting when you don't know something. She speaks about the importance of working closely with customers to tailor solutions to their needs and leveraging the extensive resources available at a large organization like Cisco. Alexis also reflects on the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it transformed traditional sales approaches. Her insights offer valuable lessons for anyone looking to excel in a technical sales role, highlighting the importance of adaptability and collaboration.

Finally, we explore the power of personal branding and the impact of social media in shaping a professional identity. Alexis shares her innovative approach of integrating humor and personal expression into professional spaces, particularly through TikTok memes on LinkedIn. Despite initial resistance from colleagues, her persistence paid off, resonating with an audience that appreciated her authenticity. We discuss the balance between professionalism and authenticity online, the strategies for building a digital portfolio, and the significance of creating engaging technical content. Tune in to discover how to effectively build your personal brand in the digital age and make a lasting impression in the tech industry.

More from Alexis:

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@digital.byte
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexisbertholf/
Twitter: https://x.com/digitalbyte_

Thank you our sponsor Unimus! Learn more about Unimus today, visit https://unimus.net/

Find everything AONE right here: https://linktr.ee/artofneteng

Speaker 1:

I can't imagine, you know, having a one year kind of a intensive thing and going into environment and being like, OK, these are the solutions you need, and you know, it blows my mind that you could even do that.

Speaker 2:

Well, and it's, it's a lot of you know you're, you're me, I would never walk in and recommend something I'm not comfortable with or that I don't understand fully. I've straight up told some of my customers like, hey, can I lab this with you or can I work on this more with you so I understand it better, before we move forward. Because, again, no one's an expert in everything, no matter how long you've been in the field and no, quite frankly, no, a year is not enough to know everything under the sun.

Speaker 2:

But that's part of being an SE right Saying you don't know when you don't know, being honest and just being I don't want to call it like a servant to your customer, but making sure that they have a good experience and you're helping them technically with all of the resources you have at your disposal where you can.

Speaker 3:

This is the art of network engineering engineering podcast In this podcast we explore tools, technologies and talented people. We aim to bring you information that will expand your skill sets and toolbox and share the stories of fellow network engineers. Welcome to the Art of Network Engineering podcast. My name is Andy Laptev and tonight is a special one. Folks, this is going to be awesome. I just felt myself wake up. I was tired.

Speaker 1:

I'm not tired anymore. You could tell immediately.

Speaker 3:

It just happened. Tonight, I am joined by Kevin. This is embarrassing, is it Nans? Yeah, nans, we got it. Thank God, kevin Nans, also known as the adjacent node. How are you, kevin? I'm doing well, I'm tired too.

Speaker 1:

It's been a long week.

Speaker 3:

The old guys are tired.

Speaker 1:

It's been a long day and we're just trying to do the podcast thing. You can't keep up with these young kids anymore, man.

Speaker 2:

These whippersnappers on their tiki-takis got to say that intro was a lot more intense than I expected.

Speaker 1:

It's got some riffs on it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the voice that you heard. If you don't know this person, you have been living under a rock. We are joined tonight by the living legend, the one and only Alexis Bertholf. How you doing, Alexis?

Speaker 2:

I'm doing great, Andy. How are you?

Speaker 3:

Good. Thank you for joining us. I know you're like moving in the morning and you have boxes and I really appreciate your time that you just you know you're giving us. To do this in the middle of your Moving's no fun, right? Moving's the worst I don't enjoy it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a new start. It's a fresh start Trying to see the glass.

Speaker 3:

Come on, that's half full, I love it.

Speaker 1:

No, it's terrible. You can say it's the worst thing.

Speaker 2:

It's been. Yeah, the past week has been rough, but it's fine. Tomorrow, some people are going to come to my house and take all of these boxes away, so that's so nice.

Speaker 3:

That's. That's the way to do it.

Speaker 2:

Um so for the folks living under rocks that don't? Alexis, do you want to give us, like a high level, who you are, what do you do, where are you at, and then we'll dig in? Yeah, absolutely. Hi y'all. My name is Alexis Berthoff. I'm currently a solutions engineer at Cisco. I've been here for about three years. I support customers that are based out of the Washington DC area in our commercial segment and, just because I feel like I have to say this, anything I say over the next hour is not. It's solely my own opinion, it's not representative of my employer.

Speaker 3:

I always laugh when I see that on. Like the Twitter social profiles, like these opinions are mine, and they're not like you know.

Speaker 2:

I'm not trying to get myself fired, man, Listen.

Speaker 3:

as a guy who said something not smart on socials. Working at a vendor, I get it. I don't know if that little disclaimer would have saved me from the dumb thing, but yeah, it's a good thing to have up there. So we have a lot to talk about, right, and I think a good place to start would be how you got into the networking field, because you're not a network engineer by trade. I don't really know too much of your comeuppance. I don't know if you were into tech or if your family was in this stuff or if you were building PCs, but can you kind of walk us through.

Speaker 3:

You know aerospace is in there, right. So that's what I really want to touch on. But I mean, how do you what's your arc look like? How did you get to Alexis?

Speaker 2:

My villain origin story. So I grew up in Scranton, pennsylvania, if you're familiar with the office, and I'm a first generation college student. So I was the first one in my family to go to school. My dad used to sell furniture, my dad is in, or my mom is an orthodontist assistant and I, I don't know. I did good in school and you know, if you're a girl and you do good at math and science, everyone your senior year of high school is like oh my God, go be an engineer. And that's kind of what I did.

Speaker 2:

I wanted to get out of Pennsylvania and so I picked something as far away as I possibly could and decided to go to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. I chose aerospace just because it sounded cool. I mean, you could go for mechanical engineering, but aerospace engineering sounds way cooler. Yeah, of course, there was no rhyme or reason behind it. My family didn't travel a ton when I was little and I always said I wanted to be a pilot growing up until I learned that I have terrible eyesight and being a pilot like flight training is really, really expensive, and so I felt like I was kind of picking the next best thing right. School was great. I really enjoyed studying and my classes and stuff. But when I got to my senior year I had a couple internships during school. I was super lucky. I landed great internships with GE Aviation and the Navy and then with Boeing, and every summer I walked away.

Speaker 3:

Wait, wait, wait, wait, you were in school already. And you just nailed those. There's some big name like yeah, it's like summer internships. How smart are you? Boeing is like yeah.

Speaker 2:

I went to a school that was tailored towards the aerospace industry, right, um, not that. Not that it was super, super common for kids to nail those, but those were the companies that came to recruit at our career are you like a super math brain, like you're good at all the math it used to it used to be man not anymore. You lose that.

Speaker 1:

You lose that so quick her first networking networking job was at Cisco too. So I mean like it's not like I know.

Speaker 3:

I went to aerospace and did an internship at the biggest aerospace company there is. I sauntered into networking and I'm for Cisco. Anyway, continue. I'm sorry, I interrupted, no, y'all are so kind.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, every summer I just kind of walked away from my internships and I was like I don't know if I could see myself doing this the rest of my life. And I I worked in design and then I worked um on a little bit of the maintenance side and then I went back to design and I walked away from Boeing and don't get me wrong, like what I did was so cool. I was working on the advanced concepts team, um, which is like the the planes that haven't come out yet. I like kind of bounced between them and the. I think it was called like the safety analyst.

Speaker 3:

Did you meet the aliens at Area 51?

Speaker 2:

No, but it just it wasn't what I wanted to do. I felt like I kind of sat at a desk and tapped away at buttons and if anyone is listening to this and they kind of feel the same way in their internships, I used to do this thing on Fridays where, instead of sitting at my desk, I would bounce between people's cubicles and bug them to be like how did you get here, what was your career like, how did you end up doing this?

Speaker 2:

And I guess I was yeah yeah, If you caught me in the break room, you know I'd catch you for like 20 minutes.

Speaker 1:

Oh, you're one of those.

Speaker 2:

Well, I just didn't want to sit at my desk, you know, yeah, and I guess, looking back, I was just trying to figure out, like, why are all of you so satisfied doing this every single day?

Speaker 1:

Because, I just wasn't. You know, there must be some secret yeah.

Speaker 2:

They're like we're putting rocket ships in space.

Speaker 2:

Right, I mean, I went. I went back to school and I was talking to a couple of my friends like I don't know what I want to do. I felt like I tried out three different companies. I didn't like any of them and I ended up meeting my boyfriend now.

Speaker 2:

His name's Michael and his uncle was a client exec at IBM, and before that I had not looked at IT. I didn't know anything about tech sales, like anything. And he was like, hey, you're pretty technical and you like talking to people. I bet you could do tech sales and you're also six figures in student loan debt, so that'd be great. And I was like you know what? That would be great. And I decided to pivot my entire career. Um, basically off of two or three conversations, um, I think I talked to a couple of people on LinkedIn that I met. You know, you're applying for jobs as a college student. You find some random people that work in that position at the company and you message them to do a coffee chat. Um, I, I did two or three of those and I was like, all right, that's it, I'm going to be, I'm going to go into tech sales. All of my friends thought I was crazy. I mean I completely pivoted and I was applying my senior year exclusively to sales roles at Citrix Cisco.

Speaker 3:

IBM. I got a question Were you scared?

Speaker 2:

Not really, you don't seem scared.

Speaker 3:

It's kind of cool. No, I mean, if it doesn't work out, you just find something else that does listen. I was, I'm I'm in pa, still right, I didn't get out. But like I was from pa, I was first generation college I wanted to be a pilot.

Speaker 3:

My eyesight was bad, like I'm just so many things are like hitting home for me and then I think, wow, if I had the mathematical ability to like work in aerospace, that would be amazing. But I'm also a person who's highly technical. But I love talking to people and after years of sitting at the keyboard toiling away tech you know, tippy tacking it was kind of torturous, so but but I don't. What I'm amazed at is just you're kind of courageous, like well, that's not lighting my fire, so like I wonder if I would have stayed in that safer aerospace like you know that that seems like a clear path for you to just pivot to like, oh, I'll go into tech sales, like I'll figure that out. You seem very courageous and you're not very scared of making big.

Speaker 3:

That's a big pivot is what I'm trying to say, right.

Speaker 2:

I think it's also easier when I don't know. I think if I was to pivot my career again now, which I'm thinking about again it would be a lot scarier, because now there is a little bit more to lose. Right Like I'm trying to save up for retirement, I'm paying down my student loan, but senior year of college you can fit all your stuff in the trunk of your car and go wherever.

Speaker 3:

So this is all your boyfriend's dad's fault? Did I hear that right?

Speaker 2:

Michael's dad worked at IBM. Yeah, his uncle, his uncle, close. Yeah, huh.

Speaker 3:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

So a couple of conversations with him and you're like I'm out it just it sounded like a really cool career. There was a lot more opportunities for growth and and plus, if you're I mean you guys know now that you're in the industry and it you can really go anywhere, work for any industry. And aerospace there's six big names and they all get their money from the government, most of them in it. If you know it, industry in aerospace there's six big names and they all get their money from the government, most of them um, in it. If you know it, you can realistically work in any industry in any vertical anywhere across the country. Like there's so many opportunities, um and I. So I had the spreadsheet. I mean I was applying to anywhere that had a sales training program because I didn't want to wait. Once I decided I wanted to go into sales, I was like you know, that makes a lot of sense. I love talking to people.

Speaker 3:

So are we looking at technical sales?

Speaker 2:

Like somebody listening.

Speaker 3:

Who wants to follow your path, like tech sales on LinkedIn.

Speaker 2:

There's a lot of companies that have and I'm not talking about careerist boot camps or some kind of like tech sales boot camp six figures in six months or whatever camps or some kind of like tech sales boot camp six figures in six months, or whatever.

Speaker 2:

I mean there's actual sponsored programs from vendors like AWS, palo Alto I know one of our partners, ironbow has one that my friend is a recruiter that leads, cisco has one, citrix has one. There's all of these big name vendors that have post-graduate college programs to help get younger talent into tech sales roles. Traditionally it's a role that you have very senior in your career, for good reason. I mean, when you're helping advise companies make these large technical decisions, you need a lot of experience under your belt. You need a lot of experience under your belt. But as they're trying to get more diversity in the field, both in gender and age and experience, and so what they've done is created these postgraduate programs where it's basically a year-long ramp or a six-month ramp where all you do for six months is train to go into this role and that's what I ended up in it.

Speaker 3:

It's paid, and that's what I ended up in it it's paid and that's what I ended up in at Cisco, so it was called the Cisco Sales Associate Program.

Speaker 2:

It's a year-long technical training down in Raleigh and I mean it's basically a fifth year of college at that point. You take your CCNA, ccnp, devnet. You do weekly whiteboarding sessions on every single Cisco architecture technology.

Speaker 3:

Wait, wait. Did you just do your CCNA, ccnp and DevNet in six months? Is that what you just said?

Speaker 2:

CCNA, CCNP, I think in eight months, and then I failed DevNet and they let me slide.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, DevNet was bad.

Speaker 2:

I'm not great at programming.

Speaker 3:

I fought the NP for years and it won.

Speaker 2:

I lost great at programming. I fought the np for years and and it won. I I lost the battle.

Speaker 3:

That's a lot easier when it's your full-time job andy, yeah, yeah, yeah, your.

Speaker 1:

Your job is to get the certification no, that's pretty awesome but do you do you think, like I know it's kind of like a intensive thing, but like, as a solutions engineer who typically that that like mentioned the path is like you're an network admin, network engineer for years and years and years is a year of this educational program. Do you think that really is like, gives you everything, all the tools you need to go right into a business and be like here, I have the solution for you.

Speaker 2:

Yes and no and I guess, like that's the general answer, it depends, it depends, it depends, right? I guess that's the general.

Speaker 1:

SEO answer it depends, it depends right.

Speaker 2:

It depends on what the business is looking to accomplish, how complicated their architecture is. Personally, that's one of the reasons that I chose to go into our commercial business. They're still large companies, but they're not as large as the Fortune 500s. So you get a really good diverse experience working with a lot of different clients and a lot of different industries, but they're not as large as, say, like wells, fargo or bank of america or starbucks. You know, um, as as far as like getting more hands-on experience, I mean, if I had a crystal ball when I was 17 years old, I would have done a year at least as a network engineer and network admin.

Speaker 2:

I don't think it's hard to go back and get that experience Right. And even you know you can get as hands on with your customers as you want. But if it's not your network that you're responsible for, it's like a different level of risk, you know. So like hindsight's 20-20. I wish I did do that first, but I didn't. Does it make me any less effective as an SE? There's definitely some things I miss in conversations just because you know it's over my head or I didn't do the job. But I think you know we've got a large team at Cisco. Obviously there's what data center security, collaboration, enterprise networking, all of the new like observability and visibility tools they're onboarding. We just we, they, cisco just bought Splunk. Right, you can't be an expert in everything and we've got a great extended team that I learn from every day in my back pocket that you can call on for help.

Speaker 3:

Is it about pulling in the right resources for the deeper conversations, pulling in the right?

Speaker 2:

resources at the right time. Knowing your customer, I would say, is the most important part, like understanding what their goals are, not business-wise, but technically right. Like what does their architecture look like? Is this solution something that they can adopt? Right? Because even when you look at the portfolio, like Catalyst Center versus Meraki, typically I don't walk into a customer and say, okay, I got two options. What do you want? I'm the one that makes the judgment call of well, I know your team, I know your architecture and this would be better for you. I'm the one that makes the judgment call of well, I know your team, I know your architecture and this would be better for you. I'm not going to make you spin your wheels looking at everything under the sun. That's just not realistic. Does that make sense?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's just crazy to me. I recently transitioned jobs and it took me a good three, four months of just being in that environment to even understand it and to grasp what needs to be done. I can't imagine, you know, having a one year kind of a intensive thing and going into environment and being like, okay, these are the solutions you need, and you know, it blows my mind that you could even do that.

Speaker 2:

Well, and it's, it's a lot of. You know you're, you're me I would never walk in and recommend something I'm not comfortable with or that I don't understand fully. I've straight up told some of my customers like, hey, can I lab this with you or can I, can I work on this more with you so I understand it better, before we move forward. Because, again, no one's an expert in everything, no matter how long you've been in the field and no like, quite frankly, no, a year is not enough to know everything under the sun. But that's part of being an SE right, like saying you don't know when you don't know, being honest and just being I don't want to call it like a servant to your customer, but making sure that they have a good experience and you're helping them technically with all of the resources you have at your disposal where you can.

Speaker 3:

I'm glad you said that I was going to ask you how do you answer the question? Like if somebody asks you a point of technical question, you don't know how do you answer, Because when I was in sales years ago. Well, yeah, like I don't know, but I'll find out Right, and then you can pull in resources and because it is like Kevin said, it's it's a testament to the program and to the resources they give you and everybody you, my own knowledge to help you do whatever it is right?

Speaker 2:

Is it straightening out your umbrella instance? Is it you're trying to upgrade your network? Is it you keep getting calls at 2am because the network's down? You don't know why? Right, like you know, we're just here to help. That's kind of how I view the job.

Speaker 3:

You're lucky you weren't my SE, because I just would have argued with you about smart licenses every day.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I can't do anything about smart licensing.

Speaker 3:

They're all doing it. It's fine. And I guess that scratched your itch right, Like you wanted more interaction with people. You like the. I mean, I went through the same thing. I was at a keyboard for eight years and I'm and I'm, something was missing. And then I realized like, oh, you know, I'm at the supermarket, like I work it from home, I'm working on the network, and then I go to like the supermarket for food and I'm like chatting up everybody and they're like yo, dude, take it easy, because I's recently. I'm like I need more people interaction.

Speaker 2:

I miss my people. That's exactly it, and the timing was almost uncanny. I graduated college December of 2019, onboarded to Cisco halfway through January of 2020, and then, almost three months later, got sent home for COVID. Sent home for COVID. So even during that time, it was uh, it was really strange, because even all of the current SEs were trying to figure out how to do the job virtually Right, Um, the sales motion, not just at Cisco, but at Cisco Partners, Cisco Competitors.

Speaker 2:

It was for so long like you're in person. You're, you know, living out of your car, you know getting breakfast with one customer, bringing donuts to the next, grabbing someone else for lunch and then going to happy hour day in, day out. And the only days you were at the off, the only days you were at home, were like Mondays and Fridays to send me your email. And with COVID, everything went remote and it's still I mean, it's still so much remote because it's easier to take a WebEx, even from our from, at least in my experience, the customers that I cover either they live out of state or they're also working from home, and it's easier for them to take a WebEx. So things have just definitely shifted virtually. Which, Andy, Andy, to your point do you get enough human interaction? Do phone calls count as human interaction?

Speaker 3:

Right, Do you do any traveling? I mean you get to go to customer sites a little bit yeah a little bit here and there.

Speaker 2:

I'm definitely trying to get out more and in person more, just because it makes the job a lot more fun, but it's. It's kind of funny. I think that social media has definitely scratched that itch too since I've started. I know Kevin and I started on Tik TOK almost the same time, but I'm building a community of followers and being able to feel like I'm helping the larger it community through the stuff that I'm doing at work anyways has been like really fulfilling. You're doing my job.

Speaker 3:

for me, that's the segue I've been trying to figure out and I'm texting Kevin on the side like, should we pivot to social media soon, right? So I guess, before we do that kind of pivot because, yeah, the community building that you've been doing in the social media, like, like, it's really next level I've been trying to dabble in this stuff since the podcast, we do branding stuff and all that, but you're just like, yeah, it's, it's really amazing what you're doing. So I want to dive into that right before we do so. You said you're a technical person and you like to talk to people. You've been doing the se role for three years, so would you recommend I mean, I know you might pivot to something else, but you seem to enjoy the job, you get a lot out of it. It's a good career Would you recommend it for people who are technical but really like to talk to people?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, and I get. It's funny, I get a lot of questions from network engineers. Actually, tim, before Tim came to Cisco, we had a call about it and a lot of people are so intimidated by the word sales, right, they see sales engineer or you know technical sales, and they're like oh, I'm, I'm, you know, I'm an engineer. I can't work in sales. I'm not a salesperson, I don't want to sell anything.

Speaker 2:

And, again, the way I look at the job is more of like I'm just a helping hand, like your friendly neighborhood SE here to help you do things. I'm not here to shove technology down your throat or it's, it's just, it's not, it's not my vibe, you know, um, and I think a lot of network engineers like like being helpful, right, that's why there's all of the community forums and discord chats and there's such an active community on Twitter. People like just helping other people solve problems, and that's, to me, the core of what the SE position is. Would you rather have 20 years of experience and work on your own network, or would you rather be able to be an advisor to 40 different customers and help them make improvements to their network based on all of your experience and all of your knowledge?

Speaker 3:

And sales is a skill anybody can learn, especially if you're a people person. I've told this story before, but I didn't want to sell. I never sold anything. They gave us candy bars. We had to sell in high school to like play on high school sports.

Speaker 3:

I refused. I bought them all because I had a part-time job. I'm like I am not because I was mortified at having to do that. You know up in a sales position and it was just a skill that I was taught. I'm like, oh, to your point, it was more about servicing. Like you're coming to me with a problem, I might be able to help you, let's talk about it. So you're right, it's, it shouldn't be. I can see it being intimidating, but, like, if you like people and you like talking to people and you're technical, right, like sales, it can be intimidating.

Speaker 2:

I was intimidated until I learned it and and you know what, it's really evident to not intimidating. It's all relationships. But if you've never done, it like anything right.

Speaker 3:

If you've never done it, it's like, oh, I could never do that. Well, you probably could if you know, if you're the type of person who likes talking to people and I think it'd be a good, you know, pivot to like your social media and community you've built. But I think that it's the value that you're creating, even in your videos. I don't know how you and Kevin you guys are wizards in saying something succinctly and that's helpful in a minute or two. It's beyond me, my brain I joke with Kevin it takes me five minutes just to get my thoughts together, right, but you're not. When I see all the content that you put out, it's all super helpful.

Speaker 3:

You are serving people. You are there to help. You're educating people. One of the first things I saw that you put out I was working in another vendor and I saw you put out something about an end of life announcement, but the way you did it was brilliant, because every other end of life announcement I've ever seen in prod or at a vendor it's some awful website that you have to register to see and it's a wall of text and then a bunch of like you had graphics and videos and it was.

Speaker 2:

It was great. I think the video you're talking about, I think it was literally the texting sound with, like my nose upwards that said, hey, if you're running this router, you should probably upgrade it.

Speaker 3:

Right, but I think you gave or maybe it's another one, like you gave the choices like, oh, if you're on this, you got to go to this and here's the thing, and if you're, you know you walk through it, like if your data center here's your thing, you got it, like it. Just it was a brilliant, simple, graphical way to tell your customers about an end of life announcement which everybody complains about, right? Nobody likes end of life and boohoo but and boohoo but the way you. So, anyway, that's just one of a thousand examples. So how, how did you become this Like?

Speaker 3:

I mean, I looked up your numbers before we started like 26,000 LinkedIn followers, like 35,000 TikTok, like that you know and you're providing so much value.

Speaker 2:

TikTok and Instagram are competing right now. They're competing. It's very interesting. So the impact you're making is amazing.

Speaker 3:

I mean, how did that start? Because you started at one follower at some point right, and why did you start for people?

Speaker 2:

to help with their TikTok, and one of my mentors has a YouTube channel that he's had for like 10 years. His name is Cisco Sal and they had asked him to help out with the TikTok channel and he was like hey guys, I'm 40. Like this is not my vibe.

Speaker 1:

But I have this mentee, Alexis Sal.

Speaker 2:

It wasn't his vibe.

Speaker 2:

It just wasn't Sal's vibe, and so he was like, hey, I have this mentee, she might have TikTok. Let me ask her. And at that point I had resisted downloading the app for two years and I literally didn't have TikTok. But I was like you know what? This seems kind of like a good opportunity, I'll help out whatever.

Speaker 2:

And as TikTok is addicting like it is, I started making so many videos that were super technical and not exactly what the social media team was looking for. I had all this content and I was like, well, if you guys aren't going to use it, fine, I'm just going to shit post on my own channel and if one goes viral, then I can send it to you and be like look, this went viral, now you can use it. I proved that it was good and that's kind of how it started. So I made memes very sporadically.

Speaker 2:

Eventually I started making, like I said, memes that were so specific to, I don't know, ice Meraki, just Cisco Live. I mean, they were memes, straight up memes. People would ask me questions and be like, hey, it looks like you work at Cisco, I'm having this problem, can you help me? And sometimes it was related to the meme, sometimes it wasn't, and what I realized is there's a whole community of customers out there that either don't have an assigned SE, that don't have a good relationship with their SE or their account team. Maybe they don't know who their account team is.

Speaker 3:

They might be small and they can't afford all that super support right.

Speaker 2:

Right, or they work at a super, super large company and there's only certain people in their organization that interact with their account team, and so by putting this information out there on the internet and a lot of the content that I create, is the same message that I'm giving to my customers. I mean, there's only 24 hours in the day. I don't have a ton of extra free time to go and create super original stuff like Kevin does. It's based on what I'm talking to my customers about day to day. So if I'm on a call today I was on a call about umbrella right, I'll take some notes. I'll learn something new that night. I'll make a video about it.

Speaker 2:

Right, if I get an announcement in my inbox about the renaming of a product or something, some new acquisition I'll go make a video about it. It's the same service that I feel like SEs should be providing to their customers just helping to disseminate information and keep everyone in the loop. There's a ton, no matter what vendor you work at I mean, if you've ever worked at a vendor there's a ton of information. There's a ton of stuff going on all the time, and so I just do my best to kind of stay on top of it and help keep everyone in the loop, and that's really how it started. There was questions that I was getting. I did not like talking on camera. I thought my hair looked weird and my voice sounded bad and I did weird things with my face, like everyone does when you watch yourself on camera. But I was like man, like this question, I can't answer it in 50 characters. I need to actually get on camera and answer it. And that's how it started. And here we are.

Speaker 3:

You got to find that person. We got to thank them.

Speaker 2:

The question that you had to get on camera for. Yeah, yeah, you can scroll back and find it. And now a word from our sponsors.

Speaker 3:

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Speaker 1:

So you recently, it feels recently I don't know how recent it is you've recently kind of transitioned to more of a LinkedIn folk dist presence. Now have you found that to be a different animal altogether? I feel like linkedin is a very um sterile kind of more boring. You represent your employer, like it has this connotation that it's. It's um more boring and adultish, I guess. Less memes, less fun, um, and I've noticed you transition more to linkedin. So how, like what was the reason for that and do you? Is that accurate or am I just reading into it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it's funny, my one year anniversary of posting on LinkedIn was last week.

Speaker 1:

Oh, wow, so it hasn't been that recent anniversary.

Speaker 2:

It started. So I guess, if you want to know that again, the full journey it started with TikTok. It started with memes on TikTok and one day I was like you know what? This is pretty funny, I'm going to post this on LinkedIn. And so I started posting some of the memes on LinkedIn and I didn't know I was the same as everyone else. I didn't use LinkedIn as a social media platform, it was just kind of for virtual resume job announcements.

Speaker 2:

I never went on it and I posted a handful of memes because I thought they were funny and I actually had people in my DMs on LinkedIn saying post more memes. I don't have TikTok and I see that these are TikToks and I want to watch TikTok, but I don't want to download TikTok. So can you please post more TikToks on LinkedIn? And I was like hey, guys, not every TikTok is appropriate for LinkedIn. Some of them are, but not all of them are. And I actually had a senior SE. I remember we had this training and this guy pulled me aside in the parking lot and he was like hey, alexis, see what you're doing on LinkedIn. I think maybe you should stop. This is going to damage your credibility with your customers. What would a CIO think if he saw this? Um, you need to be taken seriously as an se. And I was like, nah, these are just memes, like it's fine, don't worry about it, and um who said that I just kept.

Speaker 3:

It doesn't matter, but I mean, but they were talking about linkedin right, like hey, I see what you're putting out there. It's not professional maybe.

Speaker 2:

yeah, linkedin's more professional, don't post memes on LinkedIn. And I was like memes. The thing is, people on LinkedIn seem stuffy but it's the same people on every other social media platform. Right, Like, a good meme is a good meme. And uh, yeah, it's this. It was the same song and dance. It just kind of grew Um the Instagram account so the people from LinkedIn that didn't have TikTok could watch my TikToks on Instagram. And eventually it just became this animal where I would create content on TikTok and then cross post to LinkedIn and Instagram just straight copy paste. Back in the fall, I did a 100 day writing challenge straight copy paste. Um, back in the fall, I did a hundred day writing challenge. Um, I, I script all my videos secret, little secret. I know Kevin does too not to expose you, Are you?

Speaker 3:

reading your script. Oh, thanks, jeez, I, I memorize mine, okay. Um, I've had to read scripts and it's really hard to read a script on the screen and record and not have your eyes moving.

Speaker 1:

There's an app for that, andy. I can hook you up later, but I've never noticed either.

Speaker 3:

Neither one of you look like you're reading. So, Alexis, you memorize it. Kevin, whatever you're doing it's wizardry, but you guys never look like you're reading. I need to learn.

Speaker 1:

That's the point. Well, I think they have an ai app for that now too, where it'll actually like track your eyes, yeah, but like it's like freaky staring at you.

Speaker 2:

So it freaks me out, it'll get, it'll get better, it'll get better I like.

Speaker 3:

I like that you told that linkedin person to go to hell. Not so many words. And the reason I poked at that was I've been overly concerned. Maybe it's an age thing, right, I'm not trying to like sound like a funny guy here, but like I've been overly concerned. Maybe it's an age thing, right, I'm not trying to like sound like a funny guy here, but like I've been overly concerned with my public, how I'm perceived in the business world, especially when I went to a vendor, I was very careful with what I said and how I said it and I held back 95% of the thoughts I had because I didn't want to offend somebody or say the wrong thing or have somebody mad or not be seen as the smart guy or. But you, the way you've pulled it off is very it really is like even the memes.

Speaker 3:

I wouldn't have the guts to do that. It'd be like oh it's terrifying, but you're courageous again, like you're just like. Well, this is who I am, this is what I'm going to do, and it's people. The followers prove that people love what?

Speaker 2:

you're putting out I mean, that's the vibe, andy, it's me. I try to represent myself online as close as I can to me in person. If I would say it at lunch, over lunch with a customer, I'll post it online. I don't care, because that's who I am and I think it's who I am Right, and I think it's it's resonated really well. Like I said, I I it's. It's kind of funny.

Speaker 2:

I remember being in an interview I don't remember which one it was, but someone was asking, like, what my greatest strength is and I said I host a great party. I am a great like at my core. I am a great host. I love entertaining, I love hosting, I love making people feel comfortable and bringing people together, introducing people in my life that don't know each other to each other just for fun, because I think if I know great people, like great people should know each other. You know, and that's that's kind of how I operate, right, if you're standing in the corner alone with a drink and you don't know who to talk to, I'm going to go introduce you to someone to make sure you're having a great time and I would say hands down, that's my greatest strength and I feel like I've almost been able to pull that off online. Same thing just disseminating knowledge, bringing people together, helping everyone be better that's I mean, that's the goal. There's enough to go around for everyone.

Speaker 1:

So that's lofty. I host a great party, kevin.

Speaker 2:

Hey, one day, one day, uh, maybe at Cisco live we'll all get together. It'll be speaking to Cisco live.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Speaking of Cisco live you're I heard you're're you're hosting or you're what's it called. You're presenting, hosting. I am doing this thing presenting, presenting a session. Yeah, there you go. So I had, um, I had a session get submitted, I submitted a session. That got accepted. Um, I just changed the title.

Speaker 2:

I think it's it was personal branding and career development for network engineers, and now it it is. I can tell you in one second it is standing out in a virtual world personal branding for technologists, and I'm going to talk all about a little bit about my journey online. But how you can utilize these same technologies social media, like not even traditional social media, if you want to host a blog or a GitHub website full of projects. Basically, how to create a digital portfolio of your work as you're studying for certifications, as you're working on projects, and start to compile that throughout your career. Because I think what we're starting to see is that recruiters are leaning more towards a virtual resume.

Speaker 2:

Right, and as a technologist, it's not just enough to say that you did something. People want to see what you did, and so, yeah, being able to you know, even if you can I know, as an engineer, you can't always tell people exactly what you did. Sometimes things are classified or they need to be anonymized, but if you wrap up a big project and you can hop on record a five-minute video talking about what you did, it comes across so much cleaner than a bullet point on a resume. So I'm going to be talking about some strategies on how to do that, just as you go through your career or you're studying, for stuff to help build over time.

Speaker 3:

I think it's a brilliant idea. When I was a cable guy, sitting in my truck studying for the CCNA and labbing, I started a blog because I don't know if somebody told me I don't know if it was a career seminar, whatever it was but you need to start working on your brand, your perception out there and that. So everything I labbed I would blog about. And then when I was in interviews as a cable guy with a CCNA with zero production experience, I'm like but I have production gear in my home lab and my rack and I made my own cables for and I have all these protocols.

Speaker 3:

Right and I made it. Would you like to log in and look now? But they, they, they took my first job in production. The passion is the word to use. He's like I could see that you had a passion for this because you're writing and creating content around it.

Speaker 2:

I mean, you know, this was years ago and I don't even know if people are blogging anymore, but exactly, yeah, I look back at it right when I need stuff.

Speaker 3:

I'm like how did I do the thing, the mvpn or whatever. So it's just a brilliant thing and I don't know if enough people lean into it. And you're a master at it. How do I get into that class?

Speaker 2:

come this is it full?

Speaker 1:

is it full? Do you think it does it? Does it like focus on early career, mid-career, or do you think it applies to everyone? Who you know can can get into this and start making content and recording everything they're doing?

Speaker 2:

yeah, it applies to everyone. So the way I'm writing it is for people at all stages in your career. It's interesting, I've had, I mean, all sorts of people. The thing is, everyone has their own goal and you can use these technologies, whether it's podcasting, blogging, writing, linkedin, twitter, youtube, pinterest right, all of them. You can use them. However, pinterest right, all of them. You can use them however you want, right, there's no. If you wanted to create a Pinterest board of your network diagrams, you could do it. Like, I guarantee you there's someone out there who's going to want to look at it, and the technology is so versatile.

Speaker 2:

I've had people reach out to me who are trying to get into leadership positions and maybe they're not a leader today. Well, I want to brand myself as a leader. How do I do that? Or I want to get promoted, or I want to work on this technology. How do I do that? It's almost like Andy, you were saying you've been very careful about how you are perceived. You tell people how to perceive you every day. So if you want to be a leader, start showing up as a leader every day until people remember it, and that's the thing. Like, when I started posting, it was all memes, now it's all technology videos. But when people think about me, they think about my videos, because every single day you see my face and I'm talking about the same thing a hundred times. How?

Speaker 3:

much time are you putting in, just like hours of your personal time, every day? Right, I mean, it's a ton unless you've produced video content and edited and what it's, it can be a huge time investment right it's a lot.

Speaker 2:

Um, the past two weeks I've really slacked off, especially with the move and there's oh, we know I wasn't good to say that my backlog is really sparse right now. But typically if you can spend a day or a couple days batch recording things, you can kind of start to spread it out, but it's usually an hour, maybe two, maybe more, depending on the day.

Speaker 1:

I feel like that's a lot for the average person. We kind of have a goal.

Speaker 2:

Think about it, and I'll talk about this in my Cisco live session too. You don't need the. We live in a bubble, kevin. You and I live in this bubble where we're trying to be content creators, and so we need to push out something every day or multiple times a week. If you're just trying to create a digital portfolio, you can create something once a week, once every other week. If you take one hour a week to create a piece of content whether it's a video, a blog, an article just one hour a week, at the end of the year you'll have 52 pieces of content, which is more than enough to have a virtual portfolio of anything. So even if you're picking I mean, we work in technology, we learn new stuff every single day, or we should if you can take one new thing you learned every week for a whole year and just make it a public note, more than enough to have a portfolio.

Speaker 1:

That's a good point.

Speaker 3:

It doesn't have to be a heavy lift Like given some of the stuff I've seen you do, kev like a very high level explanation of like a VLAN, and I'm like that's brilliant, right. I'm sitting around like, oh, what kind of content can I create? And you're over here explaining a VLAN like brilliantly great. And you're over here explaining a VLAN like brilliantly. And I'm like, ah, damn.

Speaker 2:

Kev stole another, you know good idea, the other. The other thing to think about is creating content. If you, this is a proven thing. It's called the prodigy effect or prodigy, I don't know how to say it Um, if you learn something with the intention of teaching it back to someone else, you'll actually learn it better, right? Your brain, like you, put it in a different part of your brain because you're learning it with the intention of recalling it.

Speaker 2:

So what I found is, going through these little one or two minute videos, I remember things better because now I'm learning the topic, I'm doing research with the intention of remembering it, I'm scripting it out in my own words, I'm recording it and then I'm watching the topic. I'm doing research with the intention of remembering it, I'm scripting it out in my own words, I'm recording it and then I'm watching myself present. So I know in my brain how I would say it if there's things I want to improve, because one of the only ways to become a better presenter is to watch videos of yourself presenting. Like I said, when I first started, I had all of these weird tics. I moved my hands too much and I didn't like the way I squinted or like there was all these crazy things that you notice about yourself when you're watching yourself back on video, but you get better by doing it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I've also found like doing the research, like you said, I can explain what a VLAN is Like. If you're a network engineer, you know what a V a vlan is. But to say like I'm going to make a two minute video or a one minute video on it, I want to make sure everything I say is absolutely correct. So I will go back and do more research to verify everything that I think I know I actually know and I will inevitably learn something new from doing that. Um, it makes me a better you know, a better engineer, a better networking person.

Speaker 2:

So it's just another style of learning I think.

Speaker 3:

Think that's really good advice too to just start. You know, I've historically like analysis, paralysis and they over plan and I, like you, just have to put out content. We interviewed Keith Barker, who's like one of the best CBT nuggets instructors right, we all love Keith, he's amazing. And when I was talking to him he's like oh yeah, my first I don't know 10, 20, 50 videos, they were hot garbage. So, but my first I don't know 10, 20, 50 videos, they were hot garbage. But you have to start. If you're going to be a beginner, you have to begin and you will get better over time, and that just really helped me. Like it unlocked something in me like, oh OK, like I can put out stuff that isn't perfect because I'm a beginner.

Speaker 2:

Realistically. Think about it like this we live in this almost attention economy, right, you have. If you look at the retention graph on any video, you have less than a second, you make that decision. If you're scrolling through TikTok, through YouTube, you make that decision in less than a second or two. That's not even enough to get a word out, okay, and your content, realistically, is 15 seconds of someone's day. It's not that deep, no one cares that much. Yes, when you start posting.

Speaker 3:

So you're spending two hours a day of your personal time for 15 seconds of someone's attention every day.

Speaker 2:

Hey Andy, but I'm on this podcast, aren't I?

Speaker 3:

No, no, totally Well right, I'm asking that question for a reason, right Like it's, because the short, the short form I've I have like a brain hang up about, because you're talking to a guy who's been doing long form for years and I really struggle with the short form and one of the reasons is how do I get somebody's attention quickly? How can I explain something technical in 60 seconds so I can cross post to YouTube shorts Cause, why the hell not? And if I get a second of somebody's time, I mean God, how do I compete with that?

Speaker 2:

Think about what we just talked about. It's not. I mean, yes, it's for the audience, but it's also for you, so that you understand it and you learn it, especially when you're first. I mean, when I first started again, I started with zero followers on any platform. When I first started posting, it wasn't for the audience or it wasn't for the likes, it was because, hey, I made this meme and I think it's kind of funny.

Speaker 1:

You know it was yeah, then it was hey, I'm going to post this video and I'm going to learn this better.

Speaker 2:

You have to have other reasons outside of the. You know the little dopamine hits to do it.

Speaker 3:

And I don't know how the algorithm works, but to your point, you get a second and you might grab them. But then I mean, you started with one and now you're where you're at and Kevin the same. So over time, you know, it's how I found you, alexis, online, oh my God, like wow, that's really good and smart. And then you come up again somehow. Right, the algorithm does the thing. And the next thing I know I'm seeing you every day, right, so it goes well. But I never would want to. But it goes from a second to like. So, yeah, I, I guess it's compound.

Speaker 2:

I guess that's just how?

Speaker 3:

yeah, right it's. It's like compounding, it's a compounded interest. You're not going to leave se life, are you? You said something about pivoting I don't know. I don't know, it's a big if um well, you have to look for a job because you're moving right. So that's kind of what is pushing you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I'm like I said, I'm currently a solutions engineer in the DMV area, so I support customers out of the DC, virginia Maryland cluster. Technically, I need to be living in region to do that, because we should be visiting our customers and we should be on site, and I would love to be on site. Living in North Carolina, it's not really feasible for me to drive six hours back and forth all of the time, and so I'm looking for either a role that's completely remote that'll let me move down there, or a position that's has its territory in the Charlotte region. I'm also, you know, the deeper I get into all of the social media stuff.

Speaker 2:

I do think there's a big gap in the industry for more technical content, whether that's produced by vendors, partners, third parties, you know, independent creators like us. I think that there's a big need for independent creators like us. I think that there's a big need for I don't want to call it technical marketing, but just a layer in between the white papers and hour long YouTube videos and the simple, secure, single pane of glass. There should be some content that is a more technical level, some content that is a more technical level, that's easier to consume, that's more entertaining um and, you know, educational for people to learn from um, and I'm trying to figure out if there is a position somewhere in the industry where I could do that more full-time um, instead of on nights and weekends.

Speaker 3:

there's a huge. We will see. It's not really entertaining. Most of it's not entertaining, right? Anything that's quasi-technical, like I tried, I know, but we should be able to figure it out.

Speaker 2:

right, andy, we're engineers, we can do it.

Speaker 3:

It's so hard to make, like I did. You know the most technical piece I did. It was like a nine-minute video on like NetFlow, because I love NetFlow. It saved my bacon a million times in production and so I built a lab and I showed the lab and I got BGP peering up and showing the NetFlow logs and all this stuff. I sent traffic across. But oh my God, it was so much work and it took me a month and like I don't know if it's entertaining Like you can see NetFlow work, but like who the hell?

Speaker 2:

wants to listen to a guy talk for Right.

Speaker 3:

Well. I mean if anybody can figure it out you guys can, but there's definitely a need there. I mean it would be great to have again circle back to like Keith. I mean one of the reasons I love Keith Barker is because he's engaging and he's energetic and there's a story and it's engaging. No-transcript.

Speaker 2:

That's how I felt when I was taking my CCNP too.

Speaker 1:

My first videos on TikTok were you know me at a console and they did terribly. I would set up a port channel or something on a console and they were completely boring. I had like 200 views and it took me like four hours to make the video. And so Alexis and I actually had a conversation about how to make networking cool again, because it's one of those things where you can't really show the cool side of it. When you first create two nodes and they're talking together and you have static routing configured like that and they actually work, it's exciting for you, but nobody else. It looks extremely boring. So how do we take that feeling that you get from doing that and share it and have other people who are watching it also experience that?

Speaker 2:

And it's been very, very difficult share it and have other people who are watching it also experience that, and it's been very, very difficult. I remember there was one time I took my CCMP and passed first, and then my boyfriend Michael. He was originally at IBM and he decided to come over to Cisco. After I came to Cisco he was like your job looks so much cooler than mine. I want to do that. And I was like hell yeah, you do.

Speaker 2:

I'll refer you. So we we got him to and then he had to take his and I remember one night we're sitting on the couch and he was labbing. We have some old Cisco gear in the closet. He spun up this router and he's sitting there at the computer. I mean two, three hours in and finally he looks over and he's like I did it. Yeah, the light's green. And I was like what'd you do? He's like it's working. Look, it's green instead of Amber.

Speaker 1:

I'm like that's the feeling I'm so happy for you and share it for everybody. Like it it's. The networking is so cool. I just don't know how to share that yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's my favorite part of talking to people in networking is usually in their, in their path and their story. There's that moment when they they light up, when they fell in love with it, like, oh my God. So when I was a cable guy, installing modems and routers and cable boxes and stuff in businesses you just put stuff on and it yeah, it connects to a network somehow, but I don't know. But then I kind of got bored and not challenged and I'm like how is this happening? How are you getting on the internet? How does your cable box know? And when I started studying networking, I'm like oh my God they walk you through.

Speaker 3:

There was a thing like what does your PC do in the first minute that it boots up? And my head was just exploding Like a switch or a router, like how does any of this work? When you start to look at it, you're like this is freaking magic, this is amazing. Like people figured this out, right. That that's the passion part of it, that's the excitement. I think that could, if we could translate that to content, because that's amazing when you see the miracle of it. Like the matrix is working.

Speaker 2:

Whoa, when I talk to people um people, you know my mom's friends. They're like what do you do? I'm like you know, you know your router, your router at home that gives you wifi yeah. Yeah, they're like yeah, and I'm like, okay, I sell that to businesses where, instead of needing four people on the network, they need 4,000 people on the network. And they're like, oh, and I'm like, it's the internet, I sell the internet. And they're like, okay, cool, and then we move on yeah. So anyways.

Speaker 1:

Are we just extra nerds? Is that why we get so excited? Or is it just like I would think anyone would be excited about it?

Speaker 2:

I think that. I think that there's also a level of um. The network gets taken for granted. I've talked about this a bit on LinkedIn, but I'm guilty of it too, Right, I mean, I didn't. I didn't plan to be an IT, I planned to be an aerospace. Why Planes are cool, Planes look cool, you fly around and there's different kinds and they're I mean, planes are cool. And so I picked a very obvious major of aerospace engineering because planes are very obviously cool. And I ended up pivoting into tech because I wanted to be in sales, quite frankly, and that seemed like the easiest path to get there. I got laughed out of a couple rooms at Boeing. I was like, hey.

Speaker 2:

I want to be a sales player, I want to sell planes. And they were like, haha, you need like 50 years of experience and two master's degrees. And I was like, okay, I'm just going to switch industries. That sounds much easier. But I didn't really appreciate the internet until I was studying for my CCNA. I mean, I was one of the iPad kids. I grew up with a cell phone and Instagram and I think I got my first phone when I was 12. And it just worked right. I could text my friends. I had Snapchat. There was Twitter in high school, like it was cool, and I think we're seeing that to an even greater extent. You know, you have kids that come out of the womb with their iPad. They don't care how the Wi-Fi works, they just want to use their iPad and that's how most of society functions. Like no one thinks about it.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting, like you, you chose networking just because that's where you got the job in tech, and then you had to, like, fall in love with networking as you, as you learned about it. And that's interesting to me because most of us, you know, we we got deeper in the networking because we loved it, not because, hey, I have a job here now. Now I should probably learn this thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean that's exactly how it wasn't, and I mean everything there's. I have friends that work at all levels of aerospace. I mean, I've got friends that work in healthcare. I've got friends that work in finance. Every industry has its thing, like my, my, one of my best friends I don't think she'll ever hear this podcast she took over her parents' pool plastering company. Plastering company she, her and her brother took over their parents' company. It's like a multi-million dollar company down in South Florida and they plaster hundreds of pools a year. They don't excavate, they don't build the pool, they don't install the pool. They come in with plaster and do the finish and it looks beautiful. I know so much about the pool plastering industry that I never never would have known, and it has its own quirks.

Speaker 2:

There's a there's their own people, their own systems, their own conferences. I mean, it's just like tech, but it's pool plastering, um, but I never, you never, know, right, until you get into it, um.

Speaker 1:

I've never thought about how, you know, pools are plastered.

Speaker 2:

No, you know you just you just get in the pool and go swimming.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, don't get me started about the problems I'm having with my pool.

Speaker 1:

You triggered, andy, just an example.

Speaker 2:

Just an example though. But yeah, like the different types of concrete or stones or finishes that you can use and the types of problems that you'll have working with contractors and I don't know, there's all these little niche things I never would have thought about. I'm sure it's the same if you're in like the culinary industry, or if you're in restaurant ownership, or you're in like finance. Right, every industry has its thing, you know. They're just different, and it's all kind of aspects of life that we take for granted and don't appreciate just because we don't work on it every day.

Speaker 3:

I think we're nerds.

Speaker 2:

Michael Cox in the chat said you know, we are nerds.

Speaker 3:

My wife could care less about how the Internet works, just get on it. And my wife's the same way. She doesn't want to know about it. If it breaks. She's like here make this better. And like you said earlier, the network is just supposed to work. It's if it's working. You don't think about it, right?

Speaker 3:

And unless you're like us, so you know, like I used to say, I'm like the internet plumber, or, like you know, I build roads, right Like, if the roads are working and you're driving on them, you're not thinking about it, it's not a problem. If you hit a pothole, you're are abstracting the network away, and I understand why. It almost seems to me like the business you know the people signing those POs to vendors they don't want look at cloud as an example right Like, just get my stuff working somewhere so I don't have to do all this CapEx. I don't want to buy all your iron, I don't want your licenses, I don't want, like, just make the network go away so I can make money, you know, selling the services that my applications provide. So it's, it's just something I've seen in the decade I've been in the space is, I don't know. Just there seems to be a push for like I don't want to think about the network, I don't want to know what's there, just make it, you know.

Speaker 2:

So how do we make it go away.

Speaker 3:

Honestly any of that stuff yeah, uh.

Speaker 3:

So you know how do we make it cool? I don't know. I mean, I guess they'll always be nerds like us. There's always going to be curious people. There's always going to be people who want to know how stuff work and and are working on the network. So maybe the content's for them, right. Maybe that content that you're talking about it's. I don't know if we're going to pull a ton of people into networking that aren't into it, right. But if you can create some compelling content around it that's entertaining, it'll definitely, you know, introduce just peeling, peeling a couple layers of the onion back Right.

Speaker 1:

Hey, have you ever been curious about how this works? Let's talk about it. Yeah, I get a ton of comments on my videos about like hey, I'm been doing electrical engineering for the last five years and I'm burnt out. How do I get into networking, or you. Or how hard is it to get networking? A bunch of questions about how to get entry level. Do you find the same thing, alexis, that your content is aimed a little differently, because you're more detailed about the vendor than general networking.

Speaker 2:

It depends. I've definitely gotten those. I get a lot of, especially when I post videos around my career journey. I've done a couple of those. I get a lot of college kids that are like, hey, I feel the same way about my major, how do I do what you do? That sounds cooler. I also get a lot of people who are trying to pivot from other types of sales careers, whether it's solar or car sales or pharmaceutical sales, people who are in other types of sales that want to get into tech sales usually.

Speaker 2:

And it's it's so hard right, because I I mean, I really feel like I got the golden ticket with Cisco going into that postgraduate program and it was. It really was an accelerator and I wouldn't be where I am today without it. But it's hard when people ask me because I feel like I got in the fast lane. But if you don't have a technical background or how do I be a sales engineer? I want to be a sales engineer. Like you, I sell cars. Well, you kind of need to be an engineer first or you need some level of technical knowledge. You can go into normal sales, but sales engineering is a little more niche and it's it's really hard to like it breaks my heart Cause, like I don't want to tell people no, but you do need to be an engineer.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and then that um that Cisco course that's only available for graduates like recent grads, like I can't go into it now and be like yeah pay me to get my CCMP.

Speaker 2:

That sounds great, I'll do that for a year and then I'll become sales.

Speaker 1:

That's perfect.

Speaker 2:

They're opening. I think they're expanding the program a bit to people within the first five years of their career At least they did now. But, kevin, at this point you wouldn't need it. Man, and again, if anyone is listening to this and they've ever been curious about about being a solutions engineer at any vendor, not just cisco, if you have 10, 15 years experience and you can talk to people, that's all you need you. There's no secret sales tactic or closing tactic or way to structure a presentation like there's no secret.

Speaker 2:

There's no secret, it's just I imagine it like friendly, tell me this pen no be be friendly be friendly, be helpful, show up and when you don't know, say you don't know, and just share your love of technology with your customers.

Speaker 1:

That's, that's all it is how technical is the the interview for that position? It depends it's, it's all right know.

Speaker 2:

Well, because the thing is, there's so many different layers of solutions engineering you can go into, right. I'm currently a generalist, so I cover every single Cisco technology route switch, wireless, data center, security, cloud thousand eyes like all of it. And so my interview was do you know route switch wireless? Okay, cool, can you talk a little bit about security, like just a little bit. But if you're going to be a solutions engineer who specializes in security, right, you might need to be very deep in firewalls, very deep in ice, very deep in like umbrella or DNS protection or how would you structure a security architecture, right? It'd be much more technical. I mean, those are the people that I go to for help and you can be an architecture specialist. So it really just depends on the position.

Speaker 3:

I'm amazed how much you have to know, like when you just said there's like 15 products.

Speaker 2:

I'm like oh my God bit. It's a little bit everything.

Speaker 3:

Alexis, I could talk to you forever, but we're over an hour here and we should probably wrap. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It was amazing. I wish you luck in your move. I hope that none of your stuff gets broken on the way I hope so too.

Speaker 2:

I hope so too, i'm'm sure, if something can go wrong at will. But knock on wood.

Speaker 3:

Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, kevin. Always great to see you. If you love this show, we have a bunch of cool stuff that you can hop in and check out. Aj created one of those link trees, so if you go to the art of net engine link tree, there's all kinds of cool links in there. You can go to our website, artofnetworkengineeringcom. Make sure to check out the Cables to Clouds podcast. Those guys are rocking. They just celebrated a year. They're kicking butt in all things cloud, network-centric, cloud conversations. We have some new stuff up in the merch store. You can join the. It's All About the Journey Discord server. We have a few thousand people in there that are picking each other up. It's a great community studying together, patting each other on the back when they win, picking each other up when they fail and just all that kind of good stuff. So you can check the in the show notes. There'll be a link in there so yeah, that is the show.

Speaker 3:

Thanks so much, alexis. Kevin, great to see you and we'll see you next time on the Art of Network Engineering podcast. Hey everyone, this is Andy. If you like what you heard today, then please subscribe to our podcast and your favorite podcatcher. Click that bell icon to get notified of all of our future episodes. Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We are at Art of Net Eng, that's Art of N-E-T-E-N-G. You can also find us on the web at artofnetworkengineeringcom, where we post all of our show notes, blog articles and general networking nerdery. You can also see our pretty faces on our YouTube channel named the Art of Network Engineering. Thanks for listening. Outro Music.

Art of Network Engineering Podcast Interview
Career Pivot to Tech Sales
Virtual SE Role Interactions
Technical Sales Engineer Career Advice
Professional Networking and Memes on LinkedIn
Personal Branding for Technologists
Technical Content Creation in the Industry
Transitioning to Networking Careers

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