Cisco’s advocacy community, Cisco Insider Advocates, brings our customers together and provides a way for them to make powerful connections, expand their professional and personal networks, and learn from top experts in their field. One of our goals with our advocacy community is to deepen our relationships with our customers. Our Q&A series allows us to shine a spotlight on some of our most passionate customer advocates as we learn more about their stories and backgrounds.
Today, we have one of the friendliest faces in the community joining us for a chat. I’m excited to welcome Damian Erni from Swisscom.
Welcome, Damian! Let’s kick things off by talking about what you wanted to be when you were 16 years old?
That’s an interesting question. In Switzerland, you usually start your apprenticeship or your study when you turn 16. At that time, I was very interested in mechanical engineering or building construction.
An apprenticeship is a very hands-on way to combine education and career. Speaking of careers, where did you start yours? And what professional decision or opportunity helped lead you to your current role?
That’s a long story. I started my professional career in the printing and advertising business as a typesetter and graphic designer. During all those years, I always maintained and supported the IT infrastructure of the companies I was working for. It was kind of a hobby on top of my regular job, which was great fun with a lot of learning. In 1999, during a visit to an IT fair, I met someone from Cisco, who was recruiting for a networking boot camp. I signed up for that opportunity and soon started my IT career as a project engineer, building large MPLS networks globally.
Wow! You and Cisco have had a connection for quite some time. How has partnering with Cisco helped you in your career and your current role?
It all began with the fact that Cisco made it possible for me to start my career in IT, many years ago. I’m still thankful for that opportunity. Today, many years later, I continue to be connected to Cisco as an advocate and ambassador of Cisco Insider Advocacy programs, which are fantastic. For the daily business, I can count on the local Cisco team here in Switzerland.
What’s been your biggest challenge in your company recently, and how did you overcome it?
My job is always evolving and that’s what makes it great. Of course, there are lots of challenges in this fast-turning industry, but one of the bigger challenges we face is the shortage of skilled IT workers. At Swisscom, we have several programs to attract young talent, including our “junior program,” which exposes participants to career opportunities in a range of fields. For example, those in the program for system engineers can become certified engineers for Cisco, Dell, or Microsoft with specializations in areas like data center engineering or network engineering.
Let’s move on to our customer advocacy community! How would you describe Cisco Insider Advocates to those who aren’t familiar with it?
The Cisco Insider Advocates community is a group of people that are enthusiastic about what they do. They all have an intrinsic motivation to learn and explore technology and are passionate about Cisco. I met some of them at Cisco Live, and it felt as if we had known each other for a long time. We all had a great time during the event and are still in contact since then.
You’re one of our community “Rockstars,” Damian. What made you want to join, and how has being part of this community impacted you both professionally and personally?
I joined about four years ago when I was at the local Cisco office for an event. They promoted Cisco Insider Advocates, and I was curious and signed-up. At that time, I didn’t know what to expect. During my time in the community, I got more and more involved in different activities, from being part of a challenge to participation at a panel discussion at Cisco Live. I think for both, the personal and professional side, I get more visibility for my work, and I can count on the support and knowledge of a huge and highly skilled community.
Cisco Live 2024 is just a few months away! We would love to know more about your experience at Cisco Live 2023 Amsterdam this past February. If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be? How did it compare to previous Cisco Live conferences you’ve attended?
Inspiring would be the best word to summarize my experience. If I compare it to other Cisco Live events, my favorite is still the one in Barcelona in 2019. But every Cisco Live has its own highlights, which I don’t want to miss.
During the conference, you spoke at one of our customer panel sessions. How was your experience, and what did you discuss on the panel?
It was a great experience, getting out of my comfort zone and being in the spotlight. We were a group of five advocates. We spoke about the intersection of customer experience and customer advocacy and how we see that happening in practice through the Cisco Customer Experience and customer advocacy programs and initiatives.
You also had a chance to meet for the first time or reconnect with peers from the Cisco Insider Advocates community, as well as some of my colleagues from Cisco’s Global Customer Marketing team! How did you enjoy that reconnection?
As I mentioned earlier, it felt like we’ve known each other for a long time although we’d never met in person. The day we met felt like seeing old friends. You feel that they all share the same passion. We had great fun. I’m looking forward to seeing them all again in 2024 in Amsterdam.
We can’t wait to host you again, Damian! We’re almost at the end of the interview and we’d love to finish with three things you can’t live without?
- My family and friends
- Having a job where I can learn something new every day
- A sense of humor
Great list! It’s been a pleasure and thank you again for joining us, Damian!
Read more advocate interviews
You might enjoy this interview with Jyrki Halonen.
For our customers who have already joined our Cisco Insider Advocates community, say hello to Damian if you haven’t met yet. And if you’re a Cisco customer but aren’t a community member, consider joining. You’ll be able to:
- Connect with peers in a gamified, online community
- Have an opportunity to meet with Cisco’s executives
- Share your feedback, questions, and best practices
- Get access to ‘insider’ content and resources
- Grow your professional and personal brand
- Amplify your company’s success story with Cisco technology
Ready to get started?
Head over to the Cisco Insider Advocates Community and say hello!
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