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Cisco Intern: From Homeless to Helping Others


Tia Pope loves being a Cisco IT Engineering Intern, not only for the opportunity it gives her, but for the opportunity she has to share her story with young girls just like her to help excite them about technical fields. And boy, does she have a story!

Tia was raised in a single-parent family with seven siblings where they moved around a lot and were even homeless for a time.  Often, her education was secondary to ensuring her younger siblings were taken care of after school which left her with very limited time to complete her own homework. There were very few encouraging figures in Tia’s life as a child and frequently she was left to learn by trial and error, yet she was determined not to let her circumstances define her and continued to persevere.

Tia excelled in IB and AP level programs that were, unbeknownst to her, putting her on the right track for a higher education.  After graduation she thought she would simply join her siblings working on an assembly line – that’s where she was wrong.  A high school guidance counselor called her into his office one day and showed her a list of colleges that wanted to give her scholarships and enable her to continue her education due to her incredible GPA and time on the track team.  Prior to this moment, Tia wasn’t even aware of colleges beyond the technical school in her local community.

“I knew I wasn’t any of those things that others said I was – I wasn’t stupid, or lazy, or irresponsible.  So even though they discouraged me with those words, I didn’t want to believe them.  I had a dream and I knew not to ever give up on that dream,” Tia asserted.

Tia was living in a laundry room at the time she decided to attend the University of South Carolina for Civil Engineering, and took that acceptance letter to refuel her passion and ignite the direction of her future.  She was going to do something with her life!

Even in college, as the seemingly lone-female in predominantly male courses, Tia was given grief with a professor who even proclaimed that he “didn’t have to teach her” as she was already behind her classmates.  Again, Tia accepted the challenge and walked away with the second highest grade in the class.  On the verge of dropping out due to lack of support and guidance, however, Tia was then encouraged by her Dean to change her major to IT after she had helped to fix his computer one day, not even realizing who he was.  She took his advice and later, upon graduation, received 27 job offers in the midst of a tech boom.

Tia took the role that perhaps was not the shiniest, however it was where she knew she would learn and grow the most within the industry.  She became a Process Control Engineer and though she had no academic or professional background in this position, she was promoted four times in two years and became a Lead Engineer and managed multi-billion dollar, continuous improvement projects.  This lead to even more doors opening for Tia as she wanted to expand her knowledge even further.  She applied for grad school at Georgia Tech and is now working on her masters in computer science, which landed her an internship with Cisco.

What drew Tia to wanting an internship with Cisco was seemingly simple, of course, she loved Cisco’s products, but beyond that she loved the culture and dedication in giving back to our community, “I haven’t met another company that compares, yet,” says Tia. “There are a lot of cool tech companies that computer science students can choose.  I’m interested in security and networking, so that makes Cisco a prime candidate.  But this is the place to be!  Culture is what makes you want to stay with a company and build your entire career.”

Tia also loves that she’s been able to go to several schools and talk to young children about Cisco and what we do here.  It’s brought back memories of where she has been, and continued her passion into where she is going. She says many of the children aren’t quite sure about the tech industry but when they finally learn a little more about it and can understand how they can make an impact it truly opens their eyes.  Tia loves teaching the community about tech, but also how to gain further knowledge and opportunities in connecting and applying that knowledge.

She began a Google community called Nerdy Bones just for this very reason. What started as a way for women in tech to connect has now become a group with over 100 members that was recently designated as an official Georgia Tech campus organization that inspires both men and women to chase their dreams in the tech industry.

As Tia finishes her internship here at Cisco and heads back to complete her masters at Georgia Tech she is looking towards the future, and while she hopes to return to Cisco someday as an employee, she knows she will take forth the skills and attributes she has learned here.  She will continue to give back to her community, and empower and encourage women in computing and technology and the passions they possess.  Her advice to future interns?  “Don’t give up.  There is nothing that you cannot do, and you are capable of learning it all.  It is not impossible to learn.  Search out opportunities to grow – don’t just ask for help, go out there and find your own answers.”

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4 Reasons to Intern In College

Cisco Interns

Cisco Interns compete to build a remote-control fish.

The graduate job market is incredibly competitive these days and a qualification just isn’t enough to secure a position. If you think about it, every graduate applicant will have a degree and when you’re competing with hundreds or even thousands of graduates for a limited number of jobs, it is important that you stand out from the crowd.

One of the best ways to make yourself more marketable and to increase your chances of securing a full-time position upon graduation is to gain experience working in an organization while studying at university – an internship!

Here are 4 reasons to Intern while at University.

  1. Gain Industry Knowledge

For many students, university can be quite theoretical and an internship is a great way to be able to learn by being hands-on and apply what has been learnt in class to the real world. You’ll gain first-hand industry experience from professionals you’re working with and develop the skills required to work in the industry.

  1. Career Exploration

Internships can provide you with the opportunity to sample your chosen career field early in your studies. This will allow you to observe the workplace and decide if a particular career matches expectations. Even if the internship experience was not what you expected, at the very least you will know that a particular field isn’t for you and you can try something else.

  1. Develop Interpersonal Skills

Internships will not only help you to develop the skills needed to work in a particular industry but will also provide interpersonal skills that are generally required to work effectively with others including:

  • Communication (Verbal, Written and Presentation)
  • Listening Skills
  • Negotiation
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  1. Make Professional Contacts

Most internships will enable to you work closely and develop professional working relationships with many people within the organization. Building your professional network is important and can potentially lead to referrals and recommendations that might land you a full-time position in the organization.  At the very least you could receive a great reference. References and referees will be invaluable when you are looking for a full-time job.


Don’t just leave an internship until your final year of study; the more internships you complete, the fuller your résumé will become and the more attractive you will look to future employers!

Be sure to check out all of Cisco’s University Programs.


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Connected Learning for Higher Education at #EDU14

Visit us at EDUCAUSE 2014. We’ll be in booth 1121 and ready to share the latest in Connected Learning for Higher Education.

Edu14 Join us for demonstrations and presentations by education technology experts covering a range of topics, including:

New! Campus Media Experience Come see the Dorm Room of the Future! Whether in a dorm room or on the go via a mobile device, smart and connected systems use student preference location, presence, environmental, and personalized information to deliver a better experience and improved access to services and information. This makes easy for students to:

  • Access Services, entertainment, and academic content
  • Collaborate with Friends, Faculty and Family
  • Call / Video with Campus police and Emergency Notifications
  • Advertising

New! CyberSecurity with SourceFire The 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report indicated 88% of financially motivated incidents with Web App Attacks are not detected by organizations own internal processes and security measures. See how Cisco answers Security through the tight integration of SourceFire and Identity Services Engine (ISE) to be more effective, less cumbersome, and more tightly integrated across the infrastructure; while at the same time improving the end user experience. Other Things to Explore:

  • Collaboration, featuring the new MX Series, which turns any classroom or conference  room into a video collaboration hub
  • Lecture Capture/Transform/Share
  • Mobility & Wireless and BYOD Solutions
  • Data Center & Unified Compute System
  • Cloud Computing

Don’t Miss These Customer Presentations:

Collaboration at San Jose State: Enabling an Unbounded University Tuesday, 09/30/14, 11:40AM – 12:30PM in Meeting Room W308C/D. This session is listed online at:

Wireless at Georgia Tech: Enabling a High-Density Classroom Experience Wednesday, 10/01/14, 1:30PM – 2:20PM in Meeting Room W205A. This session is listed online at:

Data Center Refresh: Best Practices at the University of Northern Colorado Wednesday, 10/01/14, 4:30PM – 5:20PM in Meeting Room W310A/B. This session is listed online at:

Cisco will also have a private meeting room on the show floor where you can meet with subject matter experts for 1:1 briefings. Contact your Cisco account manager for more information, or email

Follow @CiscoHigherEdu for live updates during the event, and we look forward to seeing you at Educause 2014!

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Portland State University rolls out 802.11n and 5760 Series Controller

Portland State University is Oregon’s largest and most diverse public university encompassing 50 city blocks, eight schools, 226 degree programs, 29,000 students, including 1,700 international students from 91 countries, and 126,000 alumni. For the second year in a row, the US News & World Report has named Portland State University a top 10 “up-and-coming” national university in its Best College rankings, released online Sept. 10.

In 2010 Portland was one of the first schools to adopt the Cisco CleanAir capable Access Points 3502 to address the frequent sources of interferences found in a typical school environment. In this blog, I will describe how the students adopt technology to learn as well as share some details about our conversation with Tamarack Birch-Wheeles, the manager of Network Team in charge of the WLAN deployment with the 5760 Series Wireless LAN Controller.

psu Read More »

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#HigherEdThursdays: Current Trends and Challenges in Higher Education

We are all seeing colleges and universities across the nation experiencing a massive disruption in how they deliver quality learning experiences to their students.  Those that continue down the path of status quo will miss this shift and become obsolete at best and out of business at best.  In his New York Times article, “Innovation Imperative: Change Everything,” Clayton Christensen says, “Like steam, online education is a disruptive innovation — one that introduces more convenient and affordable products or services that over time transform sectors.”

Changing delivery and business models have become part of the competitive landscape, but they also offer new sources of revenue and expense control for colleges and universities. Education delivery is changing in multiple ways, with increased cross registration in online courses, a growing focus on competency based models, new hybrid and online models, flipped learning, and moves to unbundling educational services, potentially increasing mobility across institutions. The rapid rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has also accelerated the pace of change in online delivery models over the last two years. Over the next several years, navigating this landscape will have economic impacts, both positive and negative. It will also force institutions to become more nimble in their strategic positioning. (Moody’s: 2014 Outlook US Higher Education). Read More »

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