How Cisco Networking Academy Bridges the Tech Talent Divide
Hiring the right talent has always been a challenge for organizations, but it’s even harder to find IT workers with the right combination of skills. This has led many technology companies, like Apple, Google, and IBM, to consider workers without a traditional college degree as long as they can demonstrate they have the necessary skills.
John Grindley, Director of Strategy & Special Projects at Straight Up Technologies, knew the pains of hiring all too well. He oversees hiring talent for the company’s event networking deployments throughout the world, like the Olympics and the US Open golf tournament, requiring him to find talent not only with diverse skill sets but in diverse locations.
“Many people say they would like to work in the temporary network event environment, but then realize they might not like it in the same way as a typical permanent network or that it’s not a fit for them or our company,” Grindley says. “This led to turnover and opportunity loss and costs for everyone involved.”
To remedy this, he turned to Cisco Networking Academy and its Talent Bridge program.
Addressing the IT skills gap takes a holistic approach and for over 20 years Cisco has been doing its part through the Cisco Networking Academy, a free IT education program for learning institutions. Part of Cisco’s commitment to make a positive impact on the world, Networking Academy has trained over 10.8 million students worldwide since inception in 1997 and reaches students in 180 countries in 25 languages.
A key part of the Networking Academy curriculum is giving students the skills and resources they need to get jobs, and Talent Bridge does just that – connecting over 280 employers in 170 countries to current and former Networking Academy students and helping over 20,000 students find jobs.
Reimagining talent recruitment
Grindley worked with the Talent Bridge team to create an auditioning process, funneling the potential engineers through Talent Bridge programs like Dream Team – which provides hands-on experience as part of a tech team at large-scale events.
“Our hiring challenges were significant before we joined Talent Bridge,” says John. “The process has not only allowed us to vet potential employees but has created a pipeline of qualified talent.”
Straight Up Technologies has successfully used this auditioning process for three years. As a result, they have hired 75 Networking Academy students and alumni, and given hundreds of students’ valuable professional experience at their events around the globe. In fact, 80 percent of their entry-level engineers have come from the Networking Academy through the Talent Bridge program.
For Networking Academy students, the experience of participating in Talent Bridge can not only be career changing – but life changing as well. Just ask Yuri Vidal. Yuri was a student at Federal University of Rio de Janiero in Brazil when he started taking Networking Academy courses. “In my last two years at university, I went to the Networking Academy, because I didn’t think the university offered me enough networking skills. That’s where I fell in love with the networking world,” says Yuri.
Yuri was encouraged by his instructors to take CCNA training and to participate in the Dream Team at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics. He was accepted to the Dream Team and that’s where he met the Straight Up Technologies team in charge of networking for the event. “The two words that best describe my experience on the Dream Team are fun and productive,” says Yuri. “It was my first actual hands-on contact with a lot of high-end gear, such as MX400 telepresence units, Cisco Meraki cameras, and client-analytics WiFi APs. These are all high-end devices that not many engineers in Brazil would have the opportunity to use.”
John Grindley was so impressed by Yuri that he hired him as a contractor. “Yuri stood out to us. He worked very hard for us during the Olympics. Afterwards we brought him on as a contractor for two and half years and then we helped him emigrate from Brazil to the United Kingdom to become our UK lead engineer,” says Grindley.
Yuri’s enthusiasm and confidence are contagious. When asked ‘what advice would you give to Networking Academy students who are studying networking’ he said, “First of all, don’t be afraid of the gear you’re working with. We’re very well-prepared and studied – so just be confident that you know. Most of the problems you’ll be able to solve or you can find the answers.”
Although Yuri’s experience is less common, his experience being hired after participating in the Dream Team isn’t. Ninety five percent of Dream Team students either find a new career or are promoted as a result of their participation, making it a natural talent pipeline for companies and a critical resource for Networking Academy students.
Find out more about Cisco Networking Academy Talent Bridge.