“Your mission is to connect the North”

This is the challenge given to the students competing in the Cisco Social Innovation challenge at the national WISE conference hosted by the University of Toronto chapter.

There are many challenges in providing education and healthcare in the Canadian North, as my colleague Jeff Seifert has discussed, and we asked students to propose innovative technology solutions for them. Think of it like “Dragons Den” for Social Entrepreneurs.


Cisco Dragon judging team (L-R): Deepika Jacob, Tracy Chen, Leila Reyhani, Morgan Alexson, Melanie Miller, Lynn Silkaukas, Jessica Miller, Lisa Hunter, Mike Doering, Yuri Safariants, Trina Alexson, Carol Dennis, Brenda Buck, Samantha Yiu, Liz Cacic, Alice Okundaye, Remi Ferres, Allan Alfonso, Anirudh Iyer

It was an eye-opening experience for the students. Many were surprised by the degree of the geographic, infrastructure, and cultural challenges they faced in coming up with their solution. On the positive side, they were surprised at the type of Cisco technologies that already existed and could be integrated into their solution.

Most of the teams came up with a solution that combined community outreach, a service management organization, and a technical solution. It was a good lesson that a widget doesn’t solve most real-world problems.

The winning team was “WISE +1” – the judges were impressed with their analysis of the situation and their proposal to combine the community, services and a Cisco product deployment into a solution called “Cisco Community Manager.”

Overall the level of the presentations put forth by the teams impressed the judges – it is inspirational to see how great the next generation of engineers and scientists are going to be!

Winning team WISE +1 accepting their award (L-R): Trina Alexson from Cisco with Monina Cepeda, Anna Kotlov, Nico Poblete Valenton and Saaliha Farah Khadim. Not pictured: Tiffany Ongtenco.

Winning team WISE +1 accepting their award (L-R): Trina Alexson from Cisco with Monina Cepeda, Anna Kotlov, Nico Poblete Valenton and Saaliha Farah Khadim. Not pictured: Tiffany Ongtenco.

About Trina Alexson

Trina Alexson is the head of Advanced Services for the Service Provider Segment at Cisco Canada. In her role, she leads engineering teams that work directly with Cisco Service Provider customers to help them plan, build and operate their networks. Trina has over 25 years experience in the information technology industry and has been with Cisco since 1996. Prior to her role in the services organization she led software development teams responsible for high availability features in Cisco’s premier routing platforms. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and an MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. Trina Alexson est la responsable des services avancés offerts au segment des fournisseurs de services chez Cisco Canada. Dans le cadre de ses fonctions, elle dirige les équipes d'ingénierie qui travaillent directement avec les clients prestataires de services afin de les aider à planifier, à créer et à exploiter leurs réseaux. Forte d'une expérience de plus de 25 ans dans le secteur des technologies de l'information, Trina œuvre chez Cisco depuis 1996. Avant d'occuper son poste dans le domaine de l'organisation des services, elle dirigeait les équipes de conception de logiciels responsables des fonctions à disponibilité élevée dans les plateformes de routage de premier ordre de Cisco. Trina détient un baccalauréat en ingénierie de la Memorial University of Newfoundland ainsi qu'un MBA de la Richard Ivey School of Business de la University of Western Ontario.
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