Cisco Incubator Program – How to build a router

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been really busy with work (I’ll talk about this in another post 🙂 ), university stuff and I didn’t manage to find the time to write here, even if I have some pending articles to review and share soon.



If you’re following my journey, you already know I’m now part of the Cisco Incubator Program.  The program started few weeks ago with some interesting webinars about technical and non-technical topics. If you’re willing to learn new things and improve your skills thanks to the help of Cisco engineers, you can attend these webinars too, since they are public.

You can follow all the program updates and incoming/recorded sessions inside the Cisco Engineer Incubator page on Facebook.

There you can already find the following records:


Seminars are the key part of this program.

Basically, once a month, you’re invited to the nearest Cisco office to attend a full-day (6 hours + 1 hour lunch) seminar with Cisco engineers. Being a project running on several European countries, every office will be connected to Krakow (the main office) via Telepresence, where engineers will deliver the seminar.

Last thursday I attended the first one and now I’ll tell you how cool it’s been 🙂

How to build a router

Since I live in Catania, the nearest Cisco office is the one in Rome. So I need to take a flight every time to reach it. Because of this, I decided to attend this first seminar via WebEx from home, to save on flight expenses. Anyway, I’ve already booked the tickets for December and January seminars 🙂

The seminar was held by Wojciech Róg, a Customer Support Engineer working at Cisco TAC and the extended title was: How to build a router: the main principles or router architecture.

Anyway, the actual seminar was preceded by an introduction from Kamila Wegrzyn, our Project Manager for this program. She started introducing us all the people behind the program and their function inside it. Then she explained all the project benefits and expectation. I can only say that after her talk I was even more excited to start 🙂

After this part, Wojciech introduced himself and asked every one of us (around 20+ people from all over the Europe) to introduce ourself to the rest of the group. It was nice to see some familiar faces from the Assessment Centre day.

Then, we went technical!

The seminars was divided in 3 main parts:

  • The beginning
  • The middle
  • The future

The beginning

This part was designed to review the key concepts of how IOS works and its architecture. Why is it designed in this way? What are the benefit? What is missing?

This broadly covered both hardware and software aspects. It was really interesting to understand how things work inside the box.

During this phase Wojciech asked a lot of questions and gave us mini assignments, like “Ok, during the next 5 minutes you have to think about how we can improve our product and present it“. I think this was really useful to both involve us and make us think.

The middle

This part was designed to explain how Cisco improved IOS, switching from some paradigms to others and how it culminated developing IOS-XE and ASR1000.

This time we went really deep into the ASR1000 architecture: internal components communication, control plan/data plane separation,  modular designs etc.

We then focused on 3 key components: RP, ESP and SIP. We digged deep into both hardware and sofware sides.

The future

This last part was about Cisco vision for future applications.

But first, Wojciech asked again how we could move to the future and present it to the group.

He then exposed us to the Cisco vision and to the Cisco ISR 4000. Again, we went deep on this 🙂 Here he explaned how the router treats an incoming packet, letting ut understand all the internal communications when such event occour.

I got really interested about the FIA (Feature Invocation Array): basically, when a packet is dropped, it happend at a certain point into the packet processing. The FIA is an array containing the sequence of all the features that a packet needs to be processed by in order to be delivered out of the router. This mean that if the packet is dropped, we can know exactly at what point it has been discarded if we know how the FIA looks like.


The seminars has been awesome. Topics were interesting and Wojciech  managed to present them in the clearest way possible. Also, the way he involved us has been great in order to keep us active (you’ll feel tired after several hours, but you’re keeped engaged).

Next seminar will be on December 17th with the title “Introduction to Cisco Collaboration through Voice and Video”, and I can’t wait to attend it at Cisco office in Rome 🙂


Cisco Incubator Program Assessment Centre: Passed!

In my last post I told you about my experience at the Assessment Centre for the Cisco Incubator Program.

Now I’m happy and excited to inform you that I passed and I’m officially a partecipant of the program! 😀

I already said how well the Assessment Centre was organized and how interesting the experience has been, but now I want to highlight the one thing I’m most impressed by so far:

Cisco management seemed to really take care of us as candidates during the AC and now as official partecipants. The most important example of this is that the Incubator Program manager is taking the time to call every single candidate to deliver personalized feedback about how they performed during the Assessment Centre!

This is awesome by itself, but you realize the word “awesome” is not enough when you know the actual number of call he his doing: 120+!!!

That’s really impressive! There will be 66 total partecipant in this program, but he is taking the time to call even those who didn’t make it to let them know what they need to improve. Again, that’s impressive!

Going back to the program, it’s composed as follows:

  • Webinars: conducted every Wednesday and topics include Professional Development, R&S, Data Center, Collaboration, Mobility and Security.
  • Seminars: conducted once a month at Cisco office via Telepresence and topics include Professional Development, R&S, Data Center, Collaboration, and Security.
  • Cisco Academy: CCNA or CCNP courses, based on partecipant’s level.
  • English language mentoring: those partecipants who need to improve their English can also benefit and improve their language skills thanks to the 1:1 technical conversations with native speakers.

The program looks as challenging as interesting and I can’t wait to start (seminars and webinars’ topic descriptions couldn’t be more interesting).

I’m quite lucky to be part of it and my Project:Me10 project will benefit from this a lot 🙂

If you’re interested in the program you should indeed “Like” the Cisco Engineer Incubator page on Facebook 😉

Cisco Incubator Program – Assessment Centre

As I mentioned in my previous post, a couple of weeks ago I passed a phone interview for the Cisco Engineer Incubator Program.

It is a special educational program designed by Cisco engineers and Cisco Networking Academy to support employment of talented students and graduates. Specifically to support those who are interested in networking technologies and starting a career in IT.

You will benefit from free CCNP course at your local Cisco Networking Academy. There will also be advanced technology and soft skills seminars and webinars delivered by Cisco experts during our regular virtual and live office visits as well as meetings with the Krakow Global Support Center team.

So, selected students would receive free CCNP course, free CCNP exam vouchers, technical webinars and technical (and non-technical) workshop once a month a Cisco office.

Something to be defined SUPER COOL! 😀

Few day later, I was contacted back and informed that I was selected for the recruiting process’ last stage: the Assessment Centre.


My Assessment Centre started at 12:30 p.m. and finished at 16:00 p.m. and it was organized into 4 sessions:

  • Technical questionnarie, 30 minutes.
  • Group role-play, 1 hour.
  • Managers interview, 1 hour.
  • Technical presentation and interview, 1 hour.

Everything was remotely managed by Cisco Kraków team and the whole assessment was delivered using Telepresence, which is awesome.



It was composed of about 10 multiple-choice questions and the difficult leval was CCNA-like. This was indeed the easiest part of the day and I completed it without problems.


This was the session that I was scared the most at first. I was completely wrong anyway, since there was nothing to be scared 🙂

I was connected with other 3 different Cisco offices where other candidates were based and with Cisco Kraków team who delivered the interview.

Our assessors gave us a task and our goal was to work as a team and find and present the solution for the given problem. I really enjoyed this section also thanks to my fellow candidates who were awesome and collaborative. At the end I think we made a nice work (at least from a team work point of view, which was the main goal I suppose).


During this stage I was connected to 2 other managers, one from HR and one from Cisco Advanced Services.

Summary: I don’t think I could have a better experience, seriously!!!

They have seemed to be really interested during the interview, both on my profile and on trying to make me have the best experience possible from the interview itself.

Questions ranged from my CV, to previous experiences, to future perspectives and general interestes. They have challenged me on and on but it was fine since questions were interesting and they were kind.

After the interview I was a little bit sad because I’d have liked it to last even longer 🙂


Let’s say that not everything can go well all the time.

Summary: I don’t think I could have a worst experience, seriously!!!

I won’t go into details this time, but during this interview I felt really bad about how the assessor approached me and his general behaviour. I felt humiliated at some point and I’d have wanted to stop the interview. He asked me very few technical questions and asked tons of unrelated (and useless, in my humble opinion) ones.

Again, I don’t think I could have a worst experience.


My general experience is more than positive. The whole day was well organized and I really enjoyed most of the AC.

At Cisco Rome (where I was located) everyone was kind and helpful. I spent some time with some Cisco guys before and after my interview and they gave me interesting and useful advice. The environment was awesome too. So, in summary, I’m really happy 🙂 I’ve started dreaming about being at a Cisco office since the very first moment I entered in an Academy and now finally I did it.

Now let’s wait next week for AC’s results!

Project:Me10 – 40% Completed

Time rus fast and 4 months are already passed since I started this journey. I believe it’s important to stop for a moment and analyze how I’ve done so far in order to plan the remaing 6 months ahead.


I’ve already passed two certifications:

  • JNCIA: the entry point to the Juniper’s world.
  • BCVRE: a certification from Brocade focused on its virtual solution.


As I said in my previous update, I was going to focus on some Linux and Network Automation skills. During the past two months I’ve started using tools and technologies like Ansible, Jinja2, SQLite3 and I’ve done a eavy usage of GNS3 and VirtualBox to set up a working virtual environment. I’ve also completed the Linux Command Line course on Code Academy.

I’ve posted two little projects about those topics:

Moreover, I’m currently working on other projects, both personal and collaborating with other awesome peers.


This is something I’m really proud of, because I feel like I’m doing something useful for other “networking dreamers” like me 🙂

I’ve performed 4 interviews to ex-interns so far:


Few week ago I applied to the Cisco Engineer Incubator Program

It is a special educational program designed by Cisco engineers and Cisco Networking Academy to support employment of talented students and graduates. Specifically to support those who are interested in networking technologies and starting a career in IT.

You will benefit from free CCNP course at your local Cisco Networking Academy. There will also be advanced technology and soft skills seminars and webinars delivered by Cisco experts during our regular virtual and live office visits as well as meetings with the Krakow Global Support Center team.

This is something really interesting to me and so I decided to give it a try.

Yesterday I passed the phone interview and within the next few days I should be noticed whether I’m selected to attend the assessment center, which is the last step into the selection process. Fingers crossed 🙂


I’m receiving lot of support and positive feedbacks from everyone. More and more people and young guys seem to be interested in this project and this makes me really happy. My blog visits are also increasing rapidly, starting from a total of 146 views in June to almost 600 during these first 10 days of October.

Moreover, many experienced professional reached out offering tips and help, which is something I’d never thought could happen. Probably this is the most important goal reached so far 🙂


CERTS: As stated into the Project:Me10’s Manifesto, the next major milestone is represented by the JNCIS-ENT certification. Today I’m starting my studies and I’m going to complete them within November.

PROJECT:THEM: I’m working on two more interviews to be posted soon and I’m sure you’ll find them so interesting 🙂

AUTOMATION: I’m going to keep studying and practicing NetOps skills with Vagrant, Cumulus VX and TextFSM being on top of my wish list.

NETWORKING SKILLS: Among JNCIS-ENT, I’m going to going deep on some topics I feel I’m not that confortable like before.

So, back to work 🙂


Project:Them02 – Matija Mrkoci

Here we are again with the second interview of the Project:Them serie. This time our guest is Matija Mrkoci, a young engineer from Croatia who is interning at Cisco. Being the No.1 player in networking industry, Cisco represents the dream work for many students who entered this world thanks to the Cisco Networking Academy (including myself 😛 ).

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did while doing it 🙂

Gabriele: Let’s start simple introducing yourself: Who are you? Where are you from? How old are you?

Matija: Hello, my name is Matija Mrkoci, Bachelor of Engineering in computing from Croatia. Maybe you didn’t hear for my country (great and mighty kingdom ^^), but I bet you watched Game of Thrones? 🙂 If you did, then you saw Croatia on TV because King’s Landing is in fact Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia.

I am 23 years old. Currently I’m working as Customer Support Engineer for Cisco Systems in Poland.

G: What did you study?

M: I studied engineering in computing at Polytechnic of Zagreb where I took mostly networking classes. Also I did CCNA R&S academy during my last year of studies.

G: Based on your LinkedIn profile, you’ve also worked during your studies. How did you manage this?

M: I started working as a Customer Support Agent during my last year of studies for one ISP in Croatia. I can tell you right now if you are working a lot during studies you will not have so much time to actually study. My situation was unique because I was almost done with university and I was actually doing only bachelor thesis (which ended up lasting almost two years). At the end I ended up working two and a half years there. After I finished my study I worked there for three more months and then decided I had enough but after  only one week of vacation I got on offer from Croatian post bank and moved there.

G: Tell me about your experience at Cisco. How did you apply?

M: Like I mentioned before I was working in Croatian post bank for almost one year when all of the sudden I got a message on linkedin about job position in Cisco I might be interested in. Of course  I applied and there I was, doing assessment, and got offered a job position as Customer Support Engineer, something you can’t refuse. Its one of the biggest and best companies in the world.

G: What is your role? Can you describe a typical day at job?)

M: I joined Cisco on internship position so for the first 4 months all interns and I were doing a lot of trainings. So I can’t really tell you about day to day job at this point. But from September I will be working as CSE (Customer Support Engineer) in CMS (Cloud and Managed Services) in CaaS (Collaboration as a Service) team. So as you can see Cisco loves abbreviations. My day-to-day job will include solving customer issues through some ticketing tool that customers use to report problems.

G: Anything about interviews you can share without breaking any NDA?

M: Cisco has the most intensive assessments I have ever done, and I done more than 10 job interviews. It lasts for entire working day. From 8 to 16 with one break for lunch. It’s a series of tests that will really put you up to the pressure and you will for sure show them everything you have to offer. It’s really challenging and I enjoyed it a lot.

G: What do you like the most about Cisco and your job as an intern?

M: Cisco gives you opportunity to learn as much as you want. There is no limit. There is so much CCIE engineers here that you can reach out, also there is people who literally invented MPLS… So its endless opportunities to learn and to pursue certification.

G: Lots of big companies are moving to Polonia (another example is Google). What are your impression about this?

M: I guess Polish government supports big companies so it’s a lot easier for them to move here. Also I think that the standard here is a lot lower than in some other countries in Europe so it’s also easier from that perspective, it’s not so expensive.

G: Can you share with us any advice for someone who want to start a career in network engineering?

M: My advice? Don’t let your dreams be dreams (Shia Labeouf style). But really, you can do whatever you set your mind to. Work hard but also play hard and you will get where you want to be.

G: What do you think about certifications? Did Cisco invested into your preparation?

M: During my 4 months in Cisco they invested a lot in our certifications. Basically there is no limit in what certifications you can do as long as they align with technologies you will be working with, because there is no really point in doing voice certifications if you will work in data center. I did my CCNA R&S after 2 months here and I have scheduled exams for CCNA DC in upcoming weeks. Certifications are important, especially CCIE and that should be some kind of high goal for every engineer working in networking.

G: What is your plan for the future?

M: High level plan is to do CCIE, because that is what is really valuable. Since I will be working with collaboration, after I do my CCNA DC next step is CCNA Collaboration then CCNP Collaboration and then CCIE Collaboration.

G: You’ve been so kind Matija, many thanks for your time 🙂

M: It’s been a pleasure. One last thing: everyone who is interested in joining Cisco like I did, can use this link. Here you can search for positions Cisco is looking for, so if you are interested in Krakow, just search Krakow + CSE or NCE and there you go. They are constanty looking for new people, especially in Krakow because its growing very very strong now.

From the following video it seems like Cisco is doing a great job in Poland. Let’s take eyes wide open for new opening! 😉

“Work hard but also play hard and you will get where you want to be.”