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Love blossoms at Cisco Live conference

In 2008, at the Cisco Live conference, Tia and Luke Stackle found career commonality as networking engineers. But soon after they met, they realized they were a great team -- personally and professionally.

It was 2008, at the Howl at the Moon Saloon. Tia Stackle was out with some coworkers, but getting antsy.

Uninspired by the dueling pianos, Tia wanted to mingle. It was Tuesday night at the weeklong Cisco Live conference, and she wanted to meet people in her industry, kibitz, network.

As she circulated through the bar, she approached tables of presumed attendees, asking, “So, are you guys geeks?” As she stood talking with one group of “panicked” faces, a man from a couple of tables away approached her. “She was hard to miss,” Luke Stackle recalled.  He had noticed her earlier, on the show floor, with a bright yellow shirt. “She seemed technical,” Luke recalled.

“I’m Luke, and I work for God,” he told her. It wasn’t a pick-up line, he insists, but rather the shorthand he had been using all week to explain his role as the IT director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise in Idaho.

“Here was this guy who was engaging and fun,” Tia recalled.

They shared thoughts on Cisco Live and their careers. They talked about the challenges of networking, and compared notes on then-CEO John Chambers and his keynote. Luke noted that he was there to take his free CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) test, the Cisco certification exam. He passed, though he admits he didn’t study much after meeting Tia.

What began as a casual meetup in Orlando, Fla., blossomed into a long-distance friendship. Over the next several months, Luke and Tia talked extensively by phone. But getting together would be challenging, given that Luke lived in Idaho and Tia in West Virginia.

Somehow, the relationship prevailed. As Tia recalled, “Eventually one of my friends said, ‘Have you ever noticed that when you get off the phone with Luke you’re in the best mood?’” After months of talking on the phone, Luke flew to West Virginia and took Tia on a date. In 2010, Tia and Luke wed, with their children in attendance.

For the past five years, Luke has been a collaboration engineer and Tia a product manager for a regional telecom in Ohio. Soon after Cisco Live 2017, the Stackles sat down with Cisco.com to recount their meeting, their role in networking and what keeps them together. “We’re very compatible,” Luke said. “We make a very good team.”

Tia and Luke Stackle at Cisco Live 2017.

Cisco.com: What kinds of challenges have you encountered in your careers?

Luke Stackle: I’m an architecture-level guy. I think about doing things in different ways than others have in the past. Just because 100 people have done it that way, it doesn’t mean that’s the best way. My approach is, “Can we make it more efficient, less expensive, more stable? Can we find the best way to solve the problem?”

In the past year and a half, I was the lead architect on the collaboration system at my company. And through that, I was trying to decide how to build the network in a way that differentiates us from our competition, and architect it in a way that’s a step beyond. We used overlay technologies to drive out some of the complexity, even though we have to make it stable, redundant and resilient. But we don’t want that stability to make it so complex that if it breaks, you can’t troubleshoot it. It needs to be solid but simple.

Tia Stackle: Last year, as product manager, one of my products was MPLS [Multiprotocol Label Switching]. And then SD-WAN [software-defined wide area networking] came out. Everyone said SD-WAN is an MPLS killer. SD-WAN was someone else’s product. To me, I considered it a nonissue. If someone leaves my product for SD-WAN, they are still staying with same company. But I don’t think the demise of MPLS is the end of the world.

You mentioned you took the CCNA exam at this Cisco Live conference. Do you still believe that vendor-specific certifications like the CCNA are valuable?

Luke: I think Cisco has done a good job of making the certifications valued in the industry in terms of the people who have them know the tech. But there is a place for third-party or more generic certifications as well. Cisco’s CCNP route/switch will know Cisco really well and have a general idea of the outside. Some of the generic ones might help them to be a bit more well-rounded.

Tia: I was in cable for 12 years; there was nothing from Cisco that dealt with cable specifically. Cisco covers the networking side of things. So it can indicate to an employer, “She knows how to do routing. She knows how to do switching. But nothing to verify that I know DOCSIS [Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification], for example. I also have certification from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers -- they are cable-specific -- and NCTI, the National Cable Telecom Institute. There is good reason to be balanced in both kinds of certifications; vendor and nonvendor.

Which technology trends  --mobile, artificial intelligence, cloud computing - do you consider most important?

Tia: Smartphones changed my world. You can get the answer to almost any question in the palm of your hand. You can reach your kids at any moment. When I was growing up, I had to be paged with my full name broadcast to the entire mall. It’s freed us to take in so much more information.

Luke: Telepresence has, in a lot of ways, changed the business model. You’ve seen it pressure the consumer market to change, to bring in higher-quality video in Skype and others out there. It enables you to meet with groups across geographical boundaries.

Do you like the latest technology gadgets?

Luke: We have an Android tablet and a Surface Book.

Tia: We aren’t gamers, though. We don’t have a connected smart home. But we have whiteboards. We do get pretty nerdy sometimes. But [whiteboarding] makes for better solutions.

Do you use your whiteboards for work or personal issues?

Luke: It’s for personal and work -- whatever the scenario requires.

Did the qualities that brought you together at Cisco Live continue today?

Tia: We talked so much before we started dating, so we knew we were on the same page when it came to finances, careers or how we see life in general. For the most part, it was a great beginning to have a solid foundation. It’s been a good partnership.

Luke: We talk about work situations, technical troubleshooting. But we talk about other things. Technology is a nice place to center ourselves. It’s less chaotic than the real world.

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Lauren Horwitz

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”