Feature Story

What's on your desk, Andy Payne?

by Stephanie Chan

What's on your desk, Andy Payne?

The Senior Director of Emerge tells us his favorite coffee cup and why he keeps a skateboard at his desk.

The things on a person's desk can say a lot about them. What's On Your Desk is The Network's Q&A series that interviews Cisco's innovators and explores their favorite work objects.

Stephanie: Who are you and what do you do?

Andy: I'm Andy Payne, Senior Director of Cisco Emerge. We create new experiments and concepts that change the way people work. Our mission is to advance the future of work, specifically how teams work together.

Stephanie: What is the Emerge team working on right now?

Andy: We've got several interesting projects we're working on. One is Cisco Spark in VR, and it's all about taking the way teams collaborate in Spark and exposing that in virtual reality. This gives people new opportunities to collaborate around things like 3D models, objects, spaces.

See also: Cisco Emerge

Another project we have is called TeamTV. This came about from asking ourselves, what would it look like for a team to have its own TV channel? It's a powerful thing for teams that brings them closer together.

Stephanie: Where is your desk located?

Andy: My desk is in the Cisco SF Meraki building. It's a great space but it can be a little distracting because it's an open office plan. You'll find that I've scooted into a little corner so that I can maximize my focus. My team rearranges our space every three to six months because we don't want to get too set in the way we have things. The way a space is laid out and designed affects the way we work and affects the way we use things.

Stephanie: Is there anything special you require for your desk?

Andy: I do have a standing desk and I mostly keep it at standing height. I mostly keep my skateboard under my desk as a nice cheap balance board. Some team members have the 18-dollar version, some have the 400-dollar boutique startup boards made of titanium and natural grain woods, but I thought my skateboard was a nice replacement for that. 

Stephanie: So what's on your desk?


  1. Macbook Pro

    I have one of the newer Macbook Pros—it's essential to getting my work done. I do have the Emerge sticker on the back and I had to customize it: I put devil's horns on it. If you look up "troublemaker" in the Cisco directory of skills, you'll find me, because I'm constantly trying to get people to think differently, and throw wrenches into how we think about orthodoxies.

    Coffee & Heath Ceramics

    I've got to mention coffee because it's usually the first thing I'm reaching for. Normally I'll do drip, but sometimes I'll do French Press, and in the afternoon

    I'll make a cappuccino with my Heath cup and saucer. Here at the office we're usually using Front coffee or Blue Bottle.

    Pencil Caddy

    I keep a bunch of pens and pencils, rulers, screwdrivers, a hex wrench, and that's all stored in a metal pencil caddy that I welded and plasma cut myself at the Crucible in Oakland. It's a crafts and makers space that we hosted a team event at. I favor taking the team to events where we can make something because it matches well with the creative work that we do.


    I have to keep a pair of noise cancelling headphones— these are the Bose QC35s, they are wireless and noise cancelling. I've found I made the sacrifice to travel with them even though they're cumbersome as opposed to the earbuds.


    There's one book I've fallen in love with called Metamagical Themas— it's a compilation of scientific American columns by Douglas Hofstadter. He explores all sorts of parallels in the fields of arts and science and lateral thinking. He looks at how patterns pervade different fields in music, philosophy, and programming languages.

    I also have the NASA graphics standards manual from 1975. I'm always fascinated by people's approaches to design. It's amazing how much effort NASA spent harmonizing their design choice in print and graphics and signage for an organization whose job it is to explore outer space. Why spend all your time on this? Because it's particularly important to communicate what you're doing.


    I always keep a stack of Emerge stickers for people who come by. It's a space helmet, with the glare on the helmet as an "E" for Emerge. We took the "E" from a portion of the Cisco logo and turned it on its side at an angle—we think of this as turning the heart of the Cisco bridge on its head.


    My air plant requires very minimal water and no dirt. I'll keep a little bit of green to remind me of the organic when I can because I'm mostly surrounded by all this technology.

    Plexiglas Pyramid

    The Plexiglas pyramid is a variation of a Peppers Ghost, which is a lens-like device that got popular hundreds of years ago when they would need a ghostly apparition in plays. Mine is a low-tech version of what they used to create the Tupac Shakur image at Coachella. I built this one in a pyramid shape and used it with iPhones to play specialized visuals. We were playing with using that for new ways to display video calls.

    360 Camera

    I have a Ricoh Theta 360 camera that I take to our offsites and send films to show our team back at the office.

    Electronic Components

    I have a couple Raspberry Pi units with some attachments on them—one is a capacitive touch for touch interfaces. Another is an LED ray for different light displays, I also have an Arduino-based project using Bluetooth and 9 Degrees of Freedom Sensors to create different controllers that you can move around and allow you to control software or things. I also have a Lighthouse developer kit, which is made for creating controllers for VR, and it has an array of sensors you can mount on an object and then track in 3D space.


    One sketchbook is for my art related projects—when I take the Muni I sketch, and there's an equal mix of fantasy related things and things that I actually see. My other notebook is full of little doodles and drawings for new ideas. I'm a big fan of drawing and getting things down visually because I'm heavily visually oriented.

    Card Deck

    I have a deck of Oblique Strategies. I'll randomly draw one and see what it says about a problem I'm working on. We also played a group game where we would draw them and use them on our projects.

    Muse Headband

    I have a Muse Headband that is a Multi-channel EEG headset that monitors your brainwaves. I've been trying to do more mindfulness training—it changes the way you work and the way you think about things. This headset gives me feedback on how I'm doing; it plays sounds of the beach or birds. I find it helps me re-center.

Learn more about the Emerge Team here