We are proud of all of our students, past and present, at Cisco Networking Academy— wherever they are on their learning and career journeys. This blog was written by Shenal, a Networking Academy alum from Sri Lanka. Shenal’s story exemplifies the best of what our program and partnerships offer to empower all people with career possibilities.

Having lived through a civil war, government turmoil and now the biggest financial crisis to face Sri Lanka, Shenal has overcome these challenges to earn multiple qualifications and earn a job at the country’s biggest cybersecurity company. Shenal, thank you for sharing your story with us to become a part of our story of creating an inclusive future for all.

Shenal of Sri Lanka, who went onto become the national winner of Cisco Networking Academy competition

I heard and witnessed the Sri Lankan civil war every day. As a middle-class family we relied on public transport, and terrorist attacks on public transport were frequent.

Just going out it felt as though each day could be your last. I remember my mother praying for my two sisters and I to return from school. I didn’t have much hope for the future because I didn’t even know whether I would survive the war.

When the war finally ended a new light entered our lives. But then government instability and the increasing cost of living hit our family harder. My father’s salary supported the entire family, and things got increasingly difficult as the country’s financial situation worsened. My parents made sacrifices to do their best to provide a better life for us.

Being the only son added to my sense of responsibility for my family’s well-being. I’ve always felt that working hard and achieving my goals was the greatest way to prepare for the future. Being a graduate of a reputable university and studying abroad were some of the things I wished for, as most the boys did at my age.

But I had to set them all aside since my parents also had to save money for my sisters. I tried my best to get selected to a government university so I could continue my studies for free, but my results were not good enough.

I searched the internet and contacted professionals and academics to figure out how to begin my networking journey. I received various recommendations and almost everyone advised me to do Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching. So I enrolled at the Cisco Networking Academy at the University of Moratuwa, which is one of the best in Sri Lanka.

And that was the turning point of my life

From the beginning, both theoretical and practical lessons allowed me to build a solid foundation and greatly increased my networking knowledge and skills. Practical lab sessions benefitted me in gaining hands-on experience even before entering the industry.

While studying for my CCNA, I had the opportunity to participate in the challenging and demanding Cisco NetAcad Riders (formerly Cisco NetRiders) competition organized by Cisco. In the competition, I represented the Cisco Networking Academy at the University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka and won third place in the Asia Pacific and Japan region and also became the national winner, which was the greatest achievement of my life. I was amazed to realize how much I had developed with Cisco.

Passion grows stronger

My passion for networking grew even stronger, and I decided to continue my studies. I studied CCNA Security and Cyber Ops and also moved deeper into routing and switching by doing my Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) qualification.

The educational, and hands-on experience enhanced my knowledge to keep me ahead in the industry and brought me the opportunity to work as a network security engineer in one of the biggest cybersecurity companies in Sri Lanka.

After overcoming all these challenges, we are now facing the biggest financial crisis in the country. I strongly believe that I would not be able to get into a good position in my career if I had done a three- or four-year degree. The boost I got from Cisco by following the CCNA and CCNP courses helped me to face the crisis and be prepared. Happily, now I am able to fully support myself and my family and bring relief to my father.

Looking back on my journey, I wouldn’t have made this without the CCNA Routing and Switching and I am so grateful to Cisco Networking Academy.

The adventure is not over, and the road ahead might be even more difficult, but I always feel I can get there. Cisco Certified Internet Expert, I’m on my way!

Explore more inspiring success stories at netacad.com/careers/success-stories.

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Marcella O'Shea

Regional Manager - APJ

Corporate Affairs