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Innovation Is a Family Affair at Cisco Norway
BY MADELÉN AHLGREEN ARNESEN AND NICOLE BRIGHT
WITH HELEN GALL
3 MINUTE READ · 5 MINUTE LISTEN
For Asbjørn and Bjørn Are Therkelsen, every day is Bring Your Parents to Work Day. The Oslo, Norway-based dynamic father-and-son duo share a passion for problem-solving at Cisco.
“We are quite used to working together. It's easy... We know each other so well, so it works,” said Asbjørn.
You might have heard of the AI-powered meeting zones, part of the new Cinematic meetings experience from Webex.
It’s part of Cisco’s collaboration solutions for hybrid work, bringing the most inclusive experiences to our customers. Announced at Enterprise Connect this past March, meeting zones is now available to Cisco customers and partners this quarter.
And on the team behind this new technology? You guessed it: Asbjørn and Bjørn Are.
Asbjørn embarked on his career at Tandberg — acquired by Cisco in 2010 — in 1990 as a software engineer, shortly after graduating from his university. Fast forward to 2022: Bjørn Are joined him at Cisco Norway as a software engineer from the same university.
In fact, the entire Therkelsen family attended the same university, including their mom.
“My mom is always jealous because we get so much time together. And we just say, “Yeah, you just need to join Cisco,” joked Bjørn Are.
The two shared a common goal: To collaborate on a patent application.
When Bjørn Are started working at Cisco, the two wasted no time in identifying a problem worth addressing: In glass-walled rooms, people outside unintentionally appeared on-screen as part of the meeting.
“So, the idea started on how to solve the problem with the glass wall, but then it evolved to the meeting zones for open spaces,” explained Asbjørn. “We saw that this is possible to use in different ways. It was a lot more than just fixing that problem, and it became more like a concept.”
To bring their proposed solution to life, the two collaborated with colleague Rune Øistein Aas, who confirmed the idea could potentially work.
This validation encouraged the duo to pursue their ideas at an innovation-centric event called Demo Day, sponsored by the Cisco Collaboration Devices team.
“Demo Day is usually one of the last days before Christmas, where we come up with new ideas,” shared Asbjørn. “That's part of the culture.”
Asbjørn and Bjørn Are are both part of the Devices Technology Group at Cisco. The team is encouraged to explore new ideas during the annual Demo Day, a day devoted to getting inspired by Cisco colleagues from around the globe. “I am so fortunate that I'm allowed to work on ideas during the year,” says Asbjørn. Since presenting at Demo Day, their work on meeting zones has made waves.
Meeting zones was launched in March 2023, featured in the keynote at Enterprise Connect, on stage at Cisco Live, and demoed with customers around the world. It’s part of what differentiates Cisco’s videoconferencing experience.
“I got this message the day after Enterprise Connect. Someone told me their customer had decided to buy Cisco Board Pro devices for open spaces because they had seen the demo,” shares Asbjørn. For this father-and-son duo, their commitment is evident in the enthusiasm they put into their work.
Asbjørn and Bjørn Are’s journey exemplifies the power of dreaming up the impossible — and what’s within all of us to achieve.
Through the power of shared goals, dedication, and teamwork, we can solve the industry’s toughest challenges. And some of us are lucky enough to get to do it with family.
Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.