October 28, 2022

Article
10 min

A Day in the Life of Puneet Duggal, CDW’s Resident Cisco Champion

In this blog, Puneet Duggal, CDW Canada’s Cisco Acceleration Lead, leads readers through a typical workday ahead of our recent BTEX West event, which was held Thursday, October 6, 2022 in Vancouver.

Puneet Duggal

Photo of Puneet Duggal

Puneet Duggal has been working with CDW Canada since 2016. Originally hired as an account manager, Puneet became the first networking solution architect at CDW Canada five years ago. Recently, Puneet’s role shifted in May when he was appointed CDW Canada’s Cisco Acceleration Lead.

In this blog, Puneet leads readers through a typical workday ahead of CDW’s recent BTEX West event, which was held Thursday, October 6, 2022 in Vancouver.

9:30 a.m.: Begin the day with study and preparation

A big reason for my relationship with Cisco is I showed up whenever they had a training event. Sometimes there would be multiple training events per week – I became a regular at their downtown office. Eventually I applied to become a Cisco champion globally, because while it’s nice to have a local and regional impact, I’m looking to have a national and global impact, and the types of customers I’m working with need me to have that.

I’ve striven to maintain my commitment to ongoing education as CDW’s Cisco Acceleration Lead, learning whatever I can about the technology we use to help our customers and gaining new certifications as needed. Whether our customers need a small endpoint device, local on-premises infrastructure or a global infrastructure based in the cloud, I’m ready to help – and that starts with a daily review of Cisco’s products and services and how CDW helps deliver them.

10:30 a.m.: Solution development/business transformation meetings

Cisco has a large, mature and comprehensive network of products, stemming from a core technology platform that not only delivers real business intelligence to customers but helps them utilize that intelligence for maximum success – but they can’t deliver it alone. With our industry expertise and decades of experience selling end-to-end offerings that integrate Cisco and other partner solutions, CDW delivered almost $5 billion in sales for Cisco this year, a number we hope to blow out of the water next year. In fact, CDW complements Cisco’s services so perfectly it’s hard to tell where one company ends and the other company begins.

Crucial to that success is regular customer and partner meetings to discuss the development, adoption and implementation of new integrated technology solutions. CDW has roughly 40,000 customers in Canada, and I’ve worked with around 1,000 of them. Whether it’s networking, data centre, security or collaboration, we know what customers are looking for and what to say to get them to consider one of Cisco’s products. Often customers will come to us requesting an assessment of their current situation, such as data centre infrastructure or security practices. And if there’s a gap in the solution CDW is developing for them, Cisco can complement it by adding an additional layer of services.

11:00 a.m.: Provide Cisco with a field trial update

One of the benefits of serving as a Cisco Acceleration Lead is getting to test new equipment that is still under development, and for the past few months that’s taken the form of IoT sensors around my house.

As part of Cisco’s overall strategy to use technology to connect, manage and secure information, the company is testing a line of sensors designed to collect data such as device usage, security and temperature. The sensors around my house let me know which doors are open or closed, whether my refrigerator temperature is too high or too low and how effectively my thermostat is cooling or heating my home.

Today I’m testing the software, which involves a one-on-one session using the graphical user interface alongside a Cisco expert. I get to play around with it a bit and they ask for my initial thoughts – what do I think of the program? Was it what I expected? Did I want anything more? Anything less? Was I confused by anything? They ask where I want to navigate, then walk me through what I should be doing and I give them some more feedback.

I’ve talked about my experiences with customers on LinkedIn and personally think there’s a lot of value in gathering and reviewing this type of data. For example, if you’re a large company that handles food products, it can help keep your food from spoiling. If you have a water leak that’s going to significantly impact your IT infrastructure, you can have your facility staff do something about it before its financial impact grows. If you have a door – think a bank safe – that was open at an unexpected time, you can respond as soon as possible.

12:00 p.m.: Lunch

The days – especially this one – can get busy, but CDW respects work/life balance and makes a point of not scheduling any meetings at noon. I break for lunch.

1:00 p.m.: Feedback sessions to discuss products and solutions messaging

If you’re connected with a team of engineers and you’re worried about your device’s battery life, you will want to put those engineers on mute because they’ll be pinging each other throughout the day. It’s an international community, and there are only about 500 of us who are selected annually to be Cisco champions. This is my third year in the program. It’s great because not only can they get very personal – we have communities where everyone talks about their favourite sports, or where they’re going on vacation – they’re passionate about understanding the technology they’re implementing and really get into the weeds of what makes it tick.

The great unifier for all of us champions is that we love telling stories. What solutions did we build for our customers? Who did we design them for? What was our reason for going in a certain direction from a learning and development perspective?

Cisco has two storytelling platforms that champions can contribute to. One is a blog. The other is a podcast. If you have a story that’s really worth telling, sometimes it gets elevated to a blog on Cisco.com, or sent out in the monthly newsletter for all champions to read. The podcast can be fun too – you jump on a call with the podcast team and try to discuss the solution you’ve developed, its use cases, how it integrates with other platforms, where you’re going with it and how best to utilize it. I’m not recording or finalizing anything today, but they’re both great vehicles for reaching customers.

2:30 p.m.: Messaging development for BTEX West

CDW Canada’s Business Technology Expo (BTEX) is one of our marquee events for the year and, from my perspective, one of our best opportunities to engage customers with a mix of partner conversations, product demonstrations and technical seminars. Normally part of my job involves meeting customers in the field, sometimes at a golf course or restaurant, but usually in their office and going through a whiteboarding session with them. But during BTEX the setting is taken care of, so my focus is on the seminars my Cisco collaborators and I will be presenting together.

This year I’m part of two seminars. One is on IoT security, the other is on the smart office. How can your company use technology to make sure its return to office plans are as safe, secure and productive as they can possibly be? For example, you can use a desk booking platform to let you know which floors and desks are occupied. So if someone is planning to book a desk, they can see that floors eight, nine and 10 are busy, but floor seven is available. Or the meeting rooms in floors seven, eight and 10 are booked but you can meet and collaborate with colleagues on floor nine after 2 p.m. And then you can set up a guest Wi-Fi connection for attendees who are waiting in the lobby until then.

4:00 p.m.: Taking part in BTEX panel

For the IoT panel at BTEX, I am prepared to talk about Cisco’s strategy, approach and offerings from an IoT perspective. For the most part, it’s a general IoT conversation around use cases, such as how to start, avoiding excessive costs, security, high performance and ease of management – so the idea isn’t so much to talk about Cisco, but to focus on the problems we can solve and the value that we bring to customers.

You want to have that top of mind while you prepare for the panel. I never like to just mention a product and say “Us too.” So I take note of the moderator’s question and listen to what other panelists just said, to see where I can add value and how we can help – sometimes without even mentioning Cisco at all.

4:30 p.m.: Meeting with Cisco executives for briefings, roadmap and feedback

Sometimes Cisco will time a product launch before a major conference. They’ve invested in or acquired a company, or they’ve been building a solution in house behind the scenes. Before the conference they’ll jump on a call with us to make sure their executive is ready to do a keynote about their newest solutions – how they’re going to go from monitoring your infrastructure to extracting true business intelligence from the data being collected by the software powering the various parts of your business.

For BTEX, the goal is to demonstrate the value of analytics, and its executives want to make sure partners and customers will be able to understand what they’re saying. Is something missing? Do we need a better example? The plan is to walk the audience through an example in which a customer has moved their data from on-premises to the cloud and is paying for more storage than they need. A daily alert, with the right analytics platform in place, can update the company on their daily cloud consumption, saving significant infrastructure costs in the long run.

Nearly as important as the technology’s demonstration is the roadmap. What is Cisco’s end goal with its offering? What does it want customers to take away from its presentation? What do we think customers are likely to say? What other solutions have they considered, and how does Cisco measure up? There are no wrong or sugar-coated answers – maybe our solution doesn’t appear secure enough. Maybe customers are seeing partners, Gartner, IDC or the media highlighting something else that seems to better fit their needs. Sometimes Cisco’s solutions are simply missing a capability.

 

6:00 p.m.: Dinner with the Cisco team

We have people we work with who are dedicated to us or support us as a main partner. We get together and talk about our relationship, upcoming projects and initiatives and enjoy each other’s company. I’m a pretty big foodie, so the biggest topic of discussion is where are we going for dinner? We ended up at a Nepalese restaurant.

Tomorrow I will meet with them again. But tonight, it’s time to sleep.

About the Author

Puneet Duggal is the Cisco Acceleration Lead at CDW Canada. He serves as a technical advisor to the Director of Solutions and partner management organizations to help create additional Cisco capabilities.