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A Toast to Inventors: Cisco’s 10th Annual Patent Awards Ceremony


At Cisco, the fabric of innovation is stitched — and often celebrated — by our innovators. A clear example occurred earlier this year when our RTP campus hosted its 10th Patent Awards Ceremony.

This most-recent quarterly event was a special one for Arun Arunachalam, Omar Santos, and Mei Zhang, each of whom not only had an opportunity to celebrate their patents with other inventors but also got to share their success stories of collaboration and success.

During the 10 patent award ceremonies, a total of 342 patent plaques were awarded to 150 employees, people who are laser-focused on solving some of the industry’s toughest challenges.

Hosting celebrations like these are a reflection of the culture of innovation on our RTP campus — and all across the globe at Cisco.

An Inspiring Evening

Carlos Pignataro, Distinguished Engineer and Cisco RTP Innovation Sponsor, hosted and kicked off the event. He crossed the 100 issued patent milestone for Cisco — a significant achievement.

After sharing an overview of innovation at Cisco RTP, Carlos welcomed special guest Ruba Borno, VP/GM of CX Managed Services. With her usual charm and contagious energy. Ruba thanked everyone for their inventive mindsets that are critical to Cisco and the future of tech.

The room reflected a talented community dedicated to furthering technological advancements across the world, from drones to security, IoT, collaboration, and 5G mobility. It all requires complex innovation.


It All Begins with One Problem

Arun, a principal engineer, expressed that his lifelong dream has come true. His first patent addressed an all-too-common problem: Inconsistent quality of experience while using Webex on the go.

While taking meetings in the car after dropping his kids to school, Arun realized that particular roads contributed to poor quality meetings, while other routes did not affect his media quality.

His solution? Quality-based routing, literally. Using cloud collaboration technologies and telemetry on video and audio flows, he devised an invention to proactively alert users where on their route they could expect their experience to suffer and the quality to decline.

This would help drivers to choose alternative routes that offered better media quality.

Net-net: Arun shared how mentorship, an openness to collaborate, and a focus on real-world problems assisted him along his journey.


What does it take to get a patent?

It helps to have a mentor who has had a patent granted. Another step is joining a supportive community. At Cisco, getting a patent involves teamwork and collaboration.

Also, patience is truly a virtue. It can take two to four years to get a patent. Omar noted that his patent for “Automated Security Enclave Generation” took a total of three and a half years.

Omar is a principal engineer in our Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT). His innovation identifies risk profiles of network-based applications and services and leveraging self-organizing maps and machine learning, parameters with similar characteristics are identified.

These profiles are then used by security architects to place systems into appropriate security enclaves.

Despite the lengthy process, success is not guaranteed. Of the hundreds of patents that get submitted each year at Cisco, many don’t make it. However, failure can be a person’s best opportunity to learn.

Success Stems from a Culture of Innovation

From left to right: Carlos Pignataro, Ruba Borno, and Mei Zhang.

The final speaker was Mei, a senior technical leader. Four years ago, she received a phone call from a Distinguished Marketing Engineer that would change her life. A Cisco customer needed her engineering team’s help immediately with a network bandwidth utilization issue.

Mei and her team set off diligently that same day to work on a solution. After 10 weeks, her team had implemented a new method of synchronizing MAC addresses among switch routers. They pioneered a whole new way to solve the traffic flooding issue for their customer.

Through brainstorming, research, and dedication, Mei used her team’s playground for innovation and commitment to customer success to make a difference in the lives of many people. She credited their success to Cisco’s culture of innovation and the encouragement of her managers and team.

Mei closed with a lesson for the attentive audience in front of her. “Regardless of age and gender, as long as one has the courage to face challenges and a passion for problem-solving, innovation will come naturally,” she shared with a smile.


A Sense of Pride

At the RTP patent award ceremony, inventors experience an overwhelming sense of pride when their patent is successful. More than 2,000 customer-focused engineers have filed over 3,000 patents within our RTP campus alone. All told, RTP Cisco employees have been awarded some 1,500 patents, and 30 active employees have 10 or more issued patents each.

The message is simple: Innovation is a collaborative effort. No one has a lock on innovation, and there’s a wealth of support for those who go the distance.

With such a vibrant, determined community, there’s little doubt that some of the world’s most challenging problems can be solved.

Plot twist: There are many Cisco innovation and patenting events and celebrations around the world, so you may have a role to play.

Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.

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