Things I learned in Cisco

Jan 22, 2022

Note: This post was originally written on Jan 22, 2022 but I never posted it. Posting it now keeping the original authoring date, but with commit date of Aug 05, 2022.

After three years at Cisco, I finally decided to explore other opportunities in 2021. 22/01/2022 was my last day in Cisco. It has been an exhilarating journey. Even more so because it was my first such journey. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cisco, both professionally and personally.

Cisco provided me ample chances to work on a variety of problems. I started in a totally independent role exploring various open-source products and developing POCs integrating multiple open-source tools to the Cisco product line. I worked with OPA, ModSecurity, OpenRASP, etc. along with evaluation of Signal Sciences, K2 etc. We also worked on identifying differences between Snort's http module and ModSecurity, apart from developing POCs to identify supply chain attacks by evaluating the build artefacts generated in a CI pipeline.

Later I got a chance to work with a typical product development team when I switched to Snort team where I worked on the FTD integration for Snort, and helped in shipping high-quality code enhancing legacy Cisco firewalls. I also got an opportunity to contribute to some significant components to the very early stage Secure Firewall Cloud Native (SFCN) – Cisco's own cloud-based security solution – where I introduced an important component required for health monitoring in the SFCN clusters. Throughout my tenure at Cisco, I got opportunities to work on both the legacy (Lina ASA - a 20-year-old product) and the latest tools and technologies – Kubernetes, Docker, Terraform, Prometheus etc.

But, work was not the best thing about Cisco. The work was, of course, excellent, but what makes Cisco a dream company for many is its people. The culture that Cisco imbibes is pure gold. I don't know how the rest of the industry operates in this department, simply because of my inexperience. But for a novice like me, Cisco provided an ideal launchpad. I have many regrets about my time at Cisco, more on this later in the post. The people I met and worked with throughout my time in Cisco were exceptional in their work and, at the same time, were quite humble and down to earth in their dealings with me. I have also heard about some bad experiences from people working in Cisco, so I may have been fortunate in this aspect. Exceptions are everywhere, but they should not be the norm. And the toxicity is definitely not the norm in Cisco.

While I learned a lot of things in Cisco, there were a lot of opportunities that I didn't utilize while in Cisco. There used to be many hackathons, patentothons, cultural, literary, technical clubs, and sporting facilities in Cisco. Many of my friends were part of these activities, and some even led the organizing teams of these event. I never tried to contribute to any of these events. I had some personal and professional reasons behind this lack of enthusiasm. One of my colleagues criticized me privately for this on my last day - "Yash, I wish you had shown more involvement during the team building activities." I have been an introvert throughout my life, and changing one's personality is not easy. But this is something I will actively try to avoid repeating.

Now, you may ask, if everything was so rosy about Cisco, why did you leave, Yash?

Well, the reasons are many folded -

  1. I am only 25. It is not a time to settle for me.
  2. I was trying to break away from the traditional network security domain. I have been interested in distributed systems and cloud security. Still, my current team was not an ideal place for this. Switching to some other team inside Cisco was an option. But I decided to explore the industry from another perspective by changing the company.
  3. Few more reasons that are not as important to mention here.

Anyway, Cisco will always have a special place in my heart for introducing me to the corporate world.

It is farewell for now. Au Revoir, Cisco!