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MARCH 2007

Cisco Inspires Students at Groundhog Job Shadow Day

By Liza Young

Information Technology (IT) as a growing and lucrative field was the predominant message at the recent Groundhog Job Shadow Day at Cisco Systems where approximately 4,000 students from schools across the country had the opportunity to interact directly with Cisco employees. Volunteering their time to lead students through workshops, tours and roundtable discussions, using the innovative Tele-Presence Centers, developed by Cisco to allow 3-D virtual reality teleconferencing across states and countries, employees interact with students. Insight and advice from moguls in the field who have quickly risen up the path of IT success was presented to kickoff the event at Cisco systems in NY. Gene Longo, senior manager of Cisco Networking Academy Field Operations, underscored the ubiquitous nature of technology, across the worlds of banking, travel, government, retail and entertainment, and the current high demand for professionals in the field. “There has been a resurgence in IT: as technology gets more robust we need more advanced employees and they are hard to find.” stated Longo.  The tools necessary to succeed in IT go beyond advanced technical skills. Longo, agreeing with other successful executives in the field, highlighted the importance of “soft skills;” that is, manner of speech, dress, and asking questions. Internships, paid or unpaid, and thoroughly researching a company before an interview, will be instrumental towards employment in the field. Stacy Volkent, who is director of advanced technology in the Black Box company attributed her success in IT to persistence. When directly out of college, she repeatedly called the human resources department of a potential employer to find out the status of her application, and once hired was told that it was this perseverance that helped her get the job.

Guest speaker Louis McElwain, creator and CEO of Bluewater company, and formerly a vice president at Cisco shared his success story with students. Using his entrepreneurial spirit, he left Cisco after 12 years of service to develop the now very lucrative Bluewater company, which works on network integration. Starting out with three employees, now up to 40 and over 100 customers, McElwain emphasized the value of soft skills and ability to work well as a team. Quoting Richard J. Puerzer regarding the importance of hard work and perseverance, he stated, “Luck is a residue of design.” Additional points for getting ahead include: having a positive attitude, honesty, ethics, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

Cisco Academy Programs currently provide the opportunity for high school students to receive IT training, where students as early as sophomore and junior year can learn the Cisco sponsored curriculum—courses are aligned with state standards—working on skills such as building and troubleshooting networks. Cisco has invested $200 million towards providing free online curriculum access to Cisco Academy Programs and lab equipment at a reduced cost. Cisco is additionally dedicated to recruiting women to the field —an underrepresented group in IT—by hosting annual recruitment events.

David Kotfila, Cisco Networking Academy Director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, discussed the opportunities available through the institute’s programs, where in the last five years 300 Cisco Certified Network Associates (CCNAs), 125 CCNPs, and 5 CCIEs were obtained. The programs are very rigorous, with CCNA training condensed into a half a semester, and CCNP into a semester and a half. Ten Rensselaer students are now working at Cisco’s Technical Assistance Center. Recently, the institute launched a summer program for the CCIE training. Rensselaer is currently recruiting students, including those from high school. Kotfila indicated the highly intense nature of the program—euphemistically named “The Summer of Love”—where initially students may need up to 40 hours to complete 8 hour labs, but for those with the dedication, drive, and talent, the experience will be intellectually and financially rewarding.

Regarding the Groundhog Job Shadow Day, John Rullan, Director, Cisco Academy Programs, described the event as “an opportunity for students to make a connection between what they are learning in the classroom and how it applies in the real world, and where to go from there.” Students and teachers at the event found the experience informative and enlightening. “This was a great opportunity to interact with the Cisco family. You guys have so much information to share,” stated teacher Daniel Gee, Oakland Tech High School. Student Carissa L. Gutierrez, senior at Pioneer High School, described the event as an inspirational example of what a corporation can ideally be: “Through today’s event, I learned that Cisco is not just another business that works towards creating the next big thing (like the iPod). Instead, in a world where corporations no longer hold morals or values, Cisco serves as an example that a corporation still can. There is a purpose for innovation in technology and it goes hand in hand with creating a healthier world.”#



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