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  • Writer's pictureZoë Rose

Cisco Live EMEA and Tech Field Day extra embodies "Better Together"

As the title suggests, I spent last week as an attendee of Cisco Live EMEA and as a delegate of Tech Field Day extra. As someone who has been a part of the Cisco Live conference scene since 2015, and regular with the Tech Field Day conferences, you might ask what is so special about this time round? This year, I wasn't just a attendee/delegate, I joined as a single mum whilst on maternity leave.

Again, how is that special? As parents well know - organising anything around children is quite the adventure. Organising it around a toddler and newborn as a single parent took patience, dedication, and a little bit of magic! 

You may also ask, why take the time to attend a massive conference with two littles during maternity leave? For those of you who aren't aware, I co-host a podcast with Chris GrundemannThe Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast. A common theme we hear across each episode is how vital community is to our guest's careers. 

Part of my personal career journey was hugely impacted by Cisco Live San Diego 2015. This was my first time at Cisco Live, and I joined as a Dream Team member. Ten of joined the Cisco Network Operations Team in San Diego, to set up the massive conference network. During this conference, I also made a huge community of industry experts, and the following year joined the Cisco Insider Champions programme. 

Having found myself as a single mum of two middle of last year, and currently on maternity leave, I didn't think I would have the opportunity to speak with or join my fabulous community this year. However, Tom Hollingsworth reached out and asked if I would be interested in joining Tech Field Day extra. It might not seem like a big thing, but whilst maternity leave is vital - there have been situations where I question if I'm choosing something that could impact my career, and it honestly can be a bit lonely. 

Whilst Cisco Live US does not allow for minors to attend their conference, due to local laws with serving of alcohol on the premises, Cisco Live EMEA appears to be slightly more flexible. Both my littles joined me for Sunday, badge pickup and early access to the World of Solutions as a part of the Cisco Insider Champion programme. Toddler was clear that she found it 'so cool' and I feel a bit like I won a mum ribbon that day. 

Both littles again joined the Cisco Insider Champions networking evening Monday. Where toddler had a brilliant time, and made friends with everyone. Newborn might not be speaking yet, but they did share smiles. I had a lovely time speaking with my colleagues, and my toddler could be found dancing with Amilee San Juan most of the evening. 

Whilst Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in work-mode, and made use of a child minder - so #MumSec could focus on the presentations and nerdy discussions. I did benefit from a private room where I could pump throughout the day, and they provided a fridge for the breastmilk. For any parent who's had to travel whilst breastfeeding, you know how difficult that can be to organise. Thankfully, I had to do absolutely nothing, Tech Field Day, organised it all for me. 

Thursday, I was back with just my newborn in tow, whilst we said our last hellos and goodbyes to the community for this year's event. Making use of the Mother's Room, which is available at the RAI conference centre. 

Whilst you may have read this far, and still question where the magic I mentioned was. As a single mum, I have lost a lot of sleep the last few months. I have had to organise and plan for not only delivery of my baby but also minding for my toddler whilst I was in labour. I have needed to organise the regular day to day adventures that come with kids, and continue building a safe loving home. It can be exhausting. This Cisco Live EMEA I simply hired a minder, who was brilliant, and the teams at Cisco and Gestalt IT took care of the rest. The community also were extremely kind and patient with two littles running around. 

This year, the UN discussed the call to "Invest in women: Accelerate progress” for International Women's Day, in order to meet the goal of gender equality in 2030. From one woman's perspective, Cisco Live EMEA and Tech Field Day extra has played a huge part of including me within the community, in a way that supported my needs even when they were great. 

Inclusion is possible. It looks different for different people and different situations, but with the support a care from the community and organisations, we proved it is possible. Thank you. 


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