E131 - Joe Clarke at Cisco

Antonio Costa
Joe Clarke

By Antonio Costa & Joe Clarke

On today’s episode of the Route to Networking podcast, we are joined by our host Antonio Costa and special guest, Joe Clarke, a distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems. During this episode, Joe takes us on a journey over his 25-year career at Cisco. Joe also shares how his love for technology has been his driving force and how you should always have the courage to seek out the experiences that excite you.

The Journey

Joe’s story began at the University of Miami, where he was enrolled to study biochemistry, but kept finding himself in the computer lab of his dorm playing with the machines. When he broke the software on the computer one day, instead of calling a technician, he decided to figure out how to fix it.

Adamant that computers were a hobby and that his real career was in biochemistry, he fought off the urge to switch but soon his grades began to drop, driven by the hours he was losing in the computer lab. Excited by the exponentially expanding capabilities of the internet by sophomore year his passion took over and he switched to computer science.

Finding Cisco

Joe’s first step into Cisco came at a career fair in his junior year. He shared his work from the university lab and how he had set up his dad’s office with ISDN and old-style Ethernet. Impressed with his skills, he was asked to come to the information session regarding a job, which he slept through.

Luckily a few months later they reached out again and asked him to come to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) to interview. Once he saw the lab, he knew he wanted to work there. With no formal education, no theory, and no networking classes he was hired into the technical assistance centre.

Distinguished engineer

11 years later, Joe was recognised for his commitment to the Cisco community, earning distinguished engineer status. Now Joe works across many areas of Cisco including the Learning and Certifications group, working towards the development of new certifications, but still gets his hands dirty building out Cisco Live networks and contributing to the IETF.

Biggest challenges?

Joe shares how his biggest challenges, especially early in his career were just trying to figure out what to do next to get to where he wanted to be. He learned that no one would take charge of your career and drive it in the right direction except you. Every once and a while, things will just fall in your lap, but you shouldn’t expect this. You should always figure out how to drive your own destiny.

Food for thought

Joe also shares his thoughts about AI, that the more it becomes available the more people expect it to be there, without any real understanding of how it works. Then we lose the ability to check it, not being able to spot hallucinations.

He champions that if we use our innovative human brain to understand the fundamentals then we can gain a deeper understanding instead of chasing the next big thing. 

Tune in on 20/07/2023 to hear the full episode!