On Sunday night, some of the NBA’s best players competed in the 2015 NBA-All Star Game, putting on a show full of slam dunks and no-look passes. Behind the scenes, Cisco Networking Academy students worked side-by-side with the NBA’s IT team, monitoring the arena’s networks and telephones to make sure fans didn’t miss out on the exciting on-court action. The final night of festivities was the culmination of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 30 Networking Academy students, who spent a week in New York City as part of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team.
Last week, we followed Deborah Huyler and Andrew Torres, two of the 30 Dream Team members, as they set up wireless access points and provided network troubleshooting at the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, and other venues in New York City. Deborah and Andrew, like the rest of their peers, were nominated by their Networking Academy instructors to become part of the Dream Team. Cisco launched the Dream Team in 2011 to give top students the chance to work at the annual Cisco Live customer conference. Since its inception, the Dream Team has expanded to other Cisco events and organizations, including this year’s NBA All-Star 2015 activities.
For some of the students, the trip was their first opportunity to work with engineers and networking professionals. They have the technical knowledge and communication skills that industry employers demand, but many lack the real-world experience of applying those skills in real-life situations. The Dream Team gives them that opportunity, motivating them to take their education to the next level and pursue careers in the growing Internet technology (IT) field.
Andrew, for example, had never installed Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones before working in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “The things I observed and learned from this experience have opened my eyes to a whole new side of the networking world,” he said. Andrew is continuing his education at State University New York (SUNY) Adirondack, where he’s pursuing his Cisco CCNA certification.
Deborah, who has spent years working as a help desk administrator, now has the inspiration to pursue a career in networking. “Cisco Networking Academy gave me the skills to put me in a live environment and thrive,” she said. “Now that I’ve worked at NBA All-Star, I’ve proven that I can do it.” Deborah is back home in Fishkill, New York, taking Networking Academy courses at Westchester Community College.
Karen Woodard, a Cisco Networking Academy instructor, joined the Dream Team students in New York City last week. While there, she introduced them to a member of the NBA’s IT team who had also taken Cisco Networking Academy courses. “Dan Stralka is a brilliant guy on the core networking team for NBA IT,” she said. “I think it was insightful and inspirational for the students to meet him and learn that he was once a Networking Academy student like them.”
Two of Karen’s students, Adam Setteducato and Desmond Crandall, impressed engineers from Safari Telecom, who even asked the students to submit their resumes before heading home. “The students had an amazing experience,” she said. “These are life-long memories,” memories that could possibly turn into real jobs in the networking field.
The Dream Team experience gives Cisco Networking Academy students an opportunity to work under pressure, network with industry professionals, and showcase their skills for potential employers. Deborah, Andrew, and the rest of the members left New York with the real-world experience that may someday turn their networking dreams into realities.