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IT Rocks: Inspiring a Future Generation and Filling Your Talent Pipeline

December 22, 2009
at 12:00 pm PST

When Cisco Gold partner Red River moved its headquarters to Claremont, a small rural mill town in New Hampshire, it immediately began exploring ways to give back to the community while also scouting talent for the growing company.

After finding out about Cisco’s IT Rocks program, which raises awareness among high school and college-age students in the US and Canada about careers in IT, Red River determined that it wanted to put on an IT Rocks event to let local students know that IT isn’t just for nerds with pocket protectors, but can be a cool and rewarding job.

“[River Valley Community College] approached us, saying, ‘we’re doing an event for area students, it would be valuable to provide industry perspective,’” said Red River Account Executive Gary Smith. “That’s when Jeff and I decided we were going to do the event together.”

To create their own IT Rocks event, Red River’s Smith, along with Cisco Channel Account Manager Jeff Winters, customized slides and tailored content they got from Cisco’s IT Rocks Event Toolkit. They also worked to create a one-hour presentation they would make at River Valley Community College’s Discovery Day, a symposium that offers career advice to students.

To publicize the event, rather than sending out tweets or posting to Facebook, Red River took out an ad in the community newspaper to spread the word. 

Event Day

Upwards of 60 high school students attended the IT Rocks event, most of whom were from the surrounding area and interested in internships. (See newspaper article, below, of students at the event.)

“The event was an overwhelming success,” said Henry Collier, Program Director for Computer Technology at River Valley Community College (RVCC). Collier believes this was among the largest event enrollments that RVCC has had in its Computer Tech program. Since the event, Collier visited three of the schools that sent students to IT Rocks and many of the students indicated an interest in an IT career.

Red River’s message during their presentation was clear: students looking for work in IT would see Red River as an option. But the event also served to help students understand a broad range of IT career options and education options at RVCC.

“Students were excited that an actual job of a hacker exists,” said Cisco’s Winters. “That’s what their message was that day — Facebook, Google, an iPod – it takes all kinds of people to come up with this stuff; all behind-the-scenes.”

One student, according to Smith, said he was inspired by the IT Rocks event and that he wanted to pursue an IT career. The student reported back to Smith that he applied and was admitted to a three-year IT program at New England Technical College.

IT Rocks not only helps to increase the IT talent pool, but provides young students an important industry perspective and a way to gain an understanding of the ever-changing IT field.

“Having a relationship where a local business like Red River and an international business like Cisco come in and promote the field to potential students is important,” said RVCC’s Collier. “Students see real people doing the real job.”  

Steps to Creating Your Own IT Rocks Event

Interested in putting on your own IT Rocks event? Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Target a School

The most important step in creating your own IT Rocks event is connecting with a school near you. As a volunteer, you can reach out to any school of your choice. Since Cisco is trying to reach young people who might have an initial interest in IT, consider reaching out to a school participating in the Cisco Networking Academy.

To engage with a local Network Academy school please send an email to IT Rocks and ask for a Networking Academy contact in your area. If you are engaging with a non-Network Academy school, you may begin your engagement by reaching out to these various school contacts: principal, counselor, head of IT/computer department, career center, school district. You can also research the school website to uncover instructors teaching technology classes. Once you identify a school, contact the school via phone, and follow up with an email to invite them to participate. If you need help, IT Rocks can help find you a classroom of eager and interested students.

Step 2: Register Your Event

After the school commits to a date and time, please register your event (see details below). When registering, request an IT Rocks Event Toolkit. The kit provides all the material needed to conduct a presentation. The kit includes a presenters guide, agenda, interactive survey, presentation material including a video, and a thank you letter. You will also be able to order student giveaways as an incentive.

To register an IT Rocks event please send an email to IT Rocks. When registering your IT Rocks school event, please provide the following:

• Cisco volunteer name and contact information (if there is a participating Cisco volunteer involved)

• Name of partner volunteer (if there is a participating partner involved)

• School event date (allow 10 business days for shipment of student giveaways)

• School address

• Number of students attending and number of student giveaways that are needed

• Address to ship student giveaways

Step 3: Familiarize Yourself with the Presentation Material

Run through the presentation material before your event. The Presenter’s Guide walks you through the PowerPoint slides, the class handouts, and the introduction video.

Step 4: Confirm Logistics

One week prior to your event, confirm with your school contact. The presentation package includes PowerPoint slides and a video; therefore, you may want to bring your own LCD projector and a set of speakers or confirm that the school has the proper equipment.

Step 5: Have Fun on Event Day

Double check your supplies for the event. Be sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare. Find the space and set up. Be sure your equipment is working properly. Relax and have fun.

Step 6. Get and Give Feedback

Use the feedback document to gather input from students. In addition, use the same form to provide us with your impression of the initiative, materials, and process, so that we can continue to make improvements.

We want to hear from you! Have you held an IT Rocks event or engaged with students in your area? Share your success stories and lessons learned below.

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2 Comments.


  1. I.T. Rocks always, I am too an IT engg (still in college), cisco is doing great in providing info and awaking interest in students to join this amazing field, hope cisco will continue doing these type of works in future too.I agree with you that I.T. field is full of cool and macho personalties butAnyway, the newspaper image here is showing some nerds with pocket- protectors. LoL

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  2. I have a tech savy son who just finished 10th grade and is looking for opportunities to intern (knows php, Java,c++,web page design,game programmin). Is IT Rocks program soemthing that Cisco sets at high schools, or is it a day where students come and visit Cisco? If it is something that is set at a school, since I can talk with the principal or Business Alliance at Wakefield High. If it is soemthing that is set at Cisco, please let me know the date it is held at RTP.

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