Feature Story

Imagination, innovation & inspiration at the Cisco enterprise network engineering hackathon

Solving real-world networking problems one hack-a-thon at a time.
Jun 29, 2019

Guest post by: Anand Oswal, SVP of Engineering, Network Engineering Business 

Innovative ideas for products and services come from many sources. You can have a disruptive idea on a hike, or sitting on the beach, or spit balling ideas among coworkers. In technology centers around the world, the now legendary events known as “hackathons” are fertile ground for generating new ideas in engineering and software development. Hack, as in exploratory and inventive development; “marathon” as in a grueling race against time as talented teams compete to bring winning ideas to reality.  

Cisco's Enterprise Network Engineering (EN) Business sponsors an annual hackathon to generate working prototypes of potential products that solve real-world enterprise networking problems. It’s an exciting event that promotes collaboration within teams of specialists; diversity of skills and backgrounds; and the fun of working on disruptive projects apart from the challenges of day-to-day schedules.  

What do hackathons teach us? What are the benefits?

  • First, is a focus on teamwork and collaboration. In a hackathon, teams consist of individuals with a variety of experiences, coding, UX, and product marketing. In many cases, the individuals in a team have not worked together before, leading to new learning experiences and an opening of the mind to new paths of attacking problems.

  • Second, learning to fail and quickly revaluating the next course of action is critical given the short, intense timeframe.

  • Third, think outside your domain—either disrupt the status quo or get disrupted by another team.  These are just three of the lessons participants learn in intensive hackathon events. All of them are very valuable tools for a successful life in technology and engineering.

Previous EN Hackathons have brought together more than 350 engineers from EN and select local universities (by invitation) to compete over a 30-hour period, breaking only for food and snatches of rest, until the final prototypes are revealed in the grand finale with judging by peers. Ingenious ideas from past events have provided solutions for DNA Assurance, On-Box Threat Defense, and Analytics which have gone on to receive funding to complete development at Cisco. 


This summer, the 5th Annual Enterprise Networking Group Hackathon, branded The Bridge to Innovation, will be held July 18 & 19. Internal U.S. and Canada Cisco teams, consisting of 2-6 members, can register at the Cisco Innovation Hub web site and view the available tracks for the competition. Cisco’s University Relationship Team will reach out to interested students to help them register for the hackathon as space permits. Deadline for registration is July 12.  

The Cisco Enterprise Network Engineering Hackathon epitomizes Cisco’s culture of Imagination, Innovation & Inspiration. As an ardent promoter of our hackathon events, I heartily recommend your participation in this professional and fun event. May the best hacks win.