Next week, 30 of the top Cisco Networking Academy students from the New York City Area will work side-by-side with engineers to set up massive networks at this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

As part of a Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team, they’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain hands-on experience and showcase their technical knowledge in front of potential employers.

Starting this Monday, we’ll follow Deborah Huyler and Andrew Torres, two of the Dream Team students, as they set up wireless access points, provide network troubleshooting, and soak in the sights and sounds of NBA All-Star 2015 throughout the week. They’ll be sharing their stories from Madison Square Garden the Barclays Center, and other event venues through journal entries, photo slideshows, and videos!

The Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team visited the NBA offices earlier this week
The Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team visited the NBA offices earlier this week

Deborah and Andrew were 2 of 30 students nominated by their Networking Academy instructors to become a part of the Dream Team, which Cisco launched in 2011 to give top students the chance to work at the annual Cisco Live customer conference. Since then, the program has expanded to other Cisco events and organizations — The NBA has used Dream Teams at 5 different events, including the 2014 All-Star Game.

Karen Woodard, Andrew’s Networking Academy instructor, started working with the Dream Team at Cisco Live in 2012. “It’s amazing to see how the Dream Team program has expanded from Cisco Live,” she said. “This expansion has afforded Networking Academy students so many opportunities.”

Andrew is a Networking Academy student and military veteran from State University of New York Adirondack in Moreau. During his time in the Marine Corps, Andrew was responsible for a massive network, providing help desk support for more than 500 users and 140 different computers. In addition to pursuing his Cisco CCNA certification, Andrew has inspired other military veterans by raising more than $30,000 for an on-campus veteran’s memorial.

Andrew and other Dream Team members listen as engineers explain the Cisco technology behind the NBA’s Replay Center

Deborah Huyler, a single mother and Networking Academy student at Westchester Community College in Fishkill, New York, says she is ready to begin a career in networking after working for years as a help desk administrator. “My kids have watched me go to work, go to classes in the evenings, study hard on the weekends, and build my own home networking lab,” she said. Joining the NBA’s IT team at NBA All-Star 2015 will “show them that hard work and determination pay off.”

Earlier this week, Deborah and Andrew visited the NBA’s offices in New Jersey, where they took a tour of the facility and met the IT staff they’ll be working with next week. Deborah, Andrew, and the rest of the students learned how the NBA uses Cisco technologies to transmit information and data throughout the building from some of the company’s top engineers.

First, they met technicians in the NBA’s “Replay Center,” which receives video from arenas all around the country and sends it back to the referees for review in less than 3 seconds.  Then, the Dream Team got a behind-the-scenes look at the NBA’s “library,” which stores every play, highlight, and basketball game in a digital format for easy access.

Deborah and the other Cisco Networking Academy students were asked to talk about their excitement before working NBA All Star 2015
Deborah and the other Cisco Networking Academy students were asked to talk about their excitement before working NBA All Star 2015

When the tour was over, Andrew and Deborah couldn’t help but marvel at the opportunity in front of them. “Had I not been involved with Networking Academy, I don’t think I would have ever been able to take part in something like this,” Andrew said. “The day was simply awesome,” Deborah said. “Who would have thought that studying in the Networking Academy would bring me to the NBA?”

Andrew and Deborah will start their journey toward networking careers as members of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team next week. Congratulations on the accomplishment!

Follow the #NetAcadNBA hashtag on Twitter for updates and read more on Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility’s Facebook.

Read Deborah’s blog from Day 1 at NBA All-Star 2015.


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco