The Cisco Learning Network has become an industry-wide portal where IT students and professionals around the globe learn, share knowledge and find job opportunities. Cisco VP Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn says that the network is helping her company grow faster, particularly in new emerging markets.

Five years ago, Learning@Cisco, the educational services division of Cisco Systems, built a social network platform it called the Cisco Learning Network to help teach and train people who wanted to learn how to become certified by Cisco. But since then it has grown to become a portal for the entire IT industry with over 2 million users who share information on everything from Cisco certification to job searches. It has allowed Cisco to differentiate its brand, create loyal customers, mine for marketing insights and influence the market.

In a new Q&A, Cisco Vice President and General Manager Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn discusses the evolution of the Cisco Learning Network with MIT Sloan Management Review Social Business contributing editor, Robert Berkman. She reveals the origin of the network, how Cisco has attracted so many users and how its popularity in the industry has enhanced the company as a whole.

What is Learning@Cisco and what motivated its creation?

Learning@Cisco is a services division. We educate, train, and recruit customers and partners into the technical community. What that means is we spend an awful lot of our time and energy looking at the talent that needs to be in the industry in order to fuel the industry. We also help customers and partners to be successful with our technology and our products. We also help mentor career engineering people that touch the network.

Our audience is everyone from students in high school who are just interested in technology all the way through deep technology experts who are out there in the market, interested in continuing to advance their careers and learn more.

This puts us in a position of creating the next generation of Cisco customers. We add about 150,000 to 200,000 new customers to Cisco every year through our social mechanisms and recruiting efforts. It is also a great way to help us collect feedback from our customers on how we're doing, and it helps us help them to help each other.

How did it start?

We started building this about five years ago.