“Follow your passion. You will shine when you truly love what you are doing.”
“Finish something, whether it is a degree or a certification. Nobody can ever take that away from you.”
“Be prepared and keep learning. When an opportunity comes you’ll be ready.”
This was just some of the advice and knowledge several hundred college students received from Cisco professionals during the first-ever Student Network Day at the Cisco Live customer education event in San Francisco today.
The event was designed to help students from the San Francisco Bay Area learn about technology trends and career options, and how technology skills can differentiate them no matter what career they choose. Some of the students take courses through Cisco Networking Academy, which trains people to design, build, maintain, and secure computer networks in partnership with community colleges, universities, and other organizations.
A highlight of the day was a candid panel discussion with four women who have built successful careers in the technology sector. Karen Morris, director of Cisco’s University Connection program, said college students have an advantage in today’s workforce because they “already think like application engineers. You have a lot to add to any company.”
Shradda Chaplot, a Cisco program manager and self-proclaimed “greengineer,” told students that mentoring is important and invited the women in the room – the “marshmallows in the box of Lucky Charms” — to be strong role models for others.
Karen and Shradda’s panel was just one part of Student Network Day. Over lunch, students participated in a mock professional networking activity and shared their tips for building an arsenal of contacts. Some of their suggestions had even Cisco staff members making notes, such as:
- After a presentation, follow the speakers on LinkedIn
- Put thought into your personal brand and how you identify yourself to others
- Always be ready to make a personal connection, whether at a business function or a rock-climbing trip
Attendees also heard from Cisco executives who talked about current developments in technology. For example, Brad Belding, a senior manager for IT mobility services, explained that the number of devices connected to the Internet has grown from 1000 in 1984 to over 12 billion today (with 50 billion expected by 2020). The increased connections create huge opportunity for students. In fact, Brad said, many of the most in-demand jobs today didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
Ellen Song took time to attend Student Network Day even though her graduation ceremony from San Jose State University was the next day.
“I’ve been thinking about what sector I want to work in, and I wanted to find out more about technology,” said Ellen, a business administration major. “I learned a lot from the speakers that I didn’t know before, and I am excited to see what’s next for me.”
Muhammad Afzal, who just graduated from Consumnes River College in Sacramento with three associate’s degrees in computer science, physics, and math, said he signed up for the event because “amazing people doing amazing things inspires me.”
Muhammad was particularly inspired by the day’s keynote address from Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, which provides a free online library of videos, interactive challenges, and assessments to help students around the world learn at their own pace. Khan explained how what began as tutoring some of his young relatives through YouTube videos attracted support from the Gates Foundation and has grown into a global online classroom serving 10 million students per month.
“As a student, it is inspiring to see people who started in the same place we did and hear their stories,” Muhammad said.
Develop the technology skills that can prepare you for the workforce of the future through Cisco Networking Academy.