Feature Story

Cisco Innovators: Tim Szigeti

by Ashley Cirone

tim hero

PC's were just becoming popular when CCIE Tim Szigeti started in tech. Now, he pushes the boundaries of innovation.

When Tim Szigeti, a principal engineer in Cisco's Enterprise Architecture team, sets his mind to something, he drives himself to the highest standards, whether it's his professional or personal passions.

Szigeti came to Cisco straight out of university, and found a love for technology long before that.

"Growing up when computers were just getting popularized in the consumer market, and then in the 90s with the explosion of the internet, that was the most exciting area to pursue," said Szigeti.

Szigeti, a 15-year CCIE, says there are four main components to his role as a networking architect:

  1. Figure out a solution to meet customer needs.

    Write it down, and publish the design for the new solution.

    Evangelize and share the solution with customers, partners and our field,

    Learn and re-engineer. Szigeti and his team are always looking to find the gaps and limits of current technologies, and then they go back to engineering to make improvements.

Some people may not see writing as a key responsibility for engineers, but Szigeti and his team have published three Cisco Press books and are currently working on a fourth, on Cisco's Digital Network Architecture (DNA).

However, he is most passionate about evangelizing, or telling the story to customers. Szigeti gets the chance to do so on Cisco's biggest stage, Cisco Live.

He travels the world sharing these stories at Cisco Live customer events. His speaking skills are so well regarded that he has earned the right to be inducted into Cisco's Distinguished Speaker Hall of Fame Elite.

"It's really cool because that represents the top 1% of Cisco speakers, and we have over 1000 of them worldwide." Szigeti said, "That's a really high honor, and I'm really proud of that."

Not one to stay complacent, Szigeti is always working to find a new way to meet customer needs.

"For innovation to be valuable, it has to solve a customer problem.""For innovation to be valuable, it has to solve a customer problem," Szigeti said. "Otherwise, it's just technology for the sake of technology. So, instead of just thinking of new and different ways that we can connect our little pieces of LEGO together, we really want to get close to our customers and figure out what it is they're struggling with and then provide them with technology solutions to those business problems."

Szigeti and his team innovate every day and their work has led to solutions such as EasyQoS and "Fastlane for iOS" through Cisco's partnership with Apple. The Enterprise Architecture team itself is what inspires Szigeti to continue innovating.

"We're driving cutting-edge solutions and that's my main source of inspiration," Szigeti said, "working with these amazing people and learning all the time."

His team's continuous innovation and collaboration earned them the Pioneer Award in 2011 for their work on the Medianet solution.

"It's the most prestigious award in engineering, so being a part of the team that was recognized within all of the Cisco community, that was really big," Szigeti said.

Szigeti, the father of two young children, admits that outside of work he has little time for hobbies, but he does manage to find some time for a personal passion: performance driving. He has received training from professional drivers from BMW, Porsche and Ferrari, and has set recorded lap-times in the top 2% of more than 100,000 drivers.

"I'm very, very pleased and proud of that as well," Szigeti said. "This is my biggest hobby outside of work and family."

Szigeti knows firsthand how the world of technology has changed drastically since he came onboard in 1998. However, he says it's been fascinating to see the roles that Cisco and the Internet have played.

"It's amazing to see all the changes we actually said we would be making have actually happened because of the proliferation of everything Internet-related," he said.

"Our company motto of changing the way we live, work, play, and learn—it's not just a tagline."