There are those rare people you meet for the first time that you instantly know will touch your life. Olivia Braga is unequivocally one of those people.
Raised in what she describes as a very poor, violent neighborhood in Brazil, Olivia was one of one of six children to parents who earned a living by collecting cardboard and sweeping streets. “My parents didn’t have dreams. Their only priority was survival,” she says. “For me surviving is not enough. Their life was a life I rejected.”
In her youth, Olivia knew she wanted more for her life and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve her dreams. As a teenager, she knew the schools in her neighborhood couldn’t provide her with the education she needed, so she enrolled in technology courses at the Bradesco Foundation, a Cisco Networking Academy. Enrolling was easy but getting there was not. It took her three hours each way – without a car – using public transportation and walking.
“I was sure it was going to be important for my life in the future,” says Olivia. And she was right. Her coursework at the Bradesco Foundation led her straight to her dream of working in technology. Today, Olivia has a promising 25-year career as an IT instructor, with 15 years as a Cisco Networking Academy instructor. Additionally, she is a doctoral student in electrical engineering at the University of São Paulo. She has also bought a house – a dream out of reach for many people in her old neighborhood. Olivia Braga recently shared her own story in this video:
Although Olivia is passionate about technology and all it offers – first and foremost she loves teaching her students. She is deeply committed to education, teaching, and empowering students in every way possible with career opportunities.
“When I learn that a student got a job or has a new skill, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. One of the great pleasures of my job is when a student tells me that they are happy and fulfilled in their career,” she says.
And as a gifted and compassionate instructor, she not only engages their minds, but touches their hearts – propelling them forward.
“Olivia welcomed me like a son from the start,” says Eduardo Solares Gaspar, Cisco Networking Academy alumnus. “I was just another foreigner. I could have easily become a beggar, because I was alone in Brazil without family, with no one.”
Eduardo moved to Brazil from Angola, Africa. The son of a peasant woman, he wanted more for his life, but knew his hometown of Luanda, Angola with all its poverty and social and political unrest couldn’t make his dreams of a career in tech and being able to support his family a reality.
“From the start, Professor Olivia showed me how to move forward – all the way until the end. Networking Academy was so important to my success,” he says.
Eduardo completed all of his coursework, becoming the best student in his class, which made it possible for him to secure a of IT infrastructure assistant role at a leading university in São Paulo. When the pandemic hit, the university had to close, but the skills he gained at Networking Academy made it possible for him to get another role as a general logistical and administrative coordinator at an enterprise consulting agency.
Gabriel Braga, another talented student, also credits Olivia with his success in IT. After only entering the field and enrolling in Networking Academy a little over a year ago, he has hired and already received a promotion to a network analyst II, working in the quality assurance department at a telecommunications company.
He remembers being interested in computers as early as 7-years-old but knew working in the industry would be complicated and take some time. Like Olivia, he came from humble beginnings, growing up in a poor, working class neighborhood in east São Paulo, part of Brazil’s richest city.
Hard work comes naturally to him. Gabriel credits his work ethic back to his youth when he helped his father collect recycles for money. “I believe work is better than leisure,” he says.
Robson Souza came to Networking Academy later in life but came to IT naturally. After earning his degree in logistics, where he worked on quality of service and planning, he left to help his sister run a cosmetic distribution company. After the business was unable to grow in the market, he looked for other options.
“After this failure, I entered the technology area. At first, it was just not to be unemployed and to support my family,” says Robson. “Today, I love technology and everything it can offer us.”
Robson met Olivia at Professionalizing NetAcad Lives, a Networking Academy she founded for women and other underserved populations and where she teaches Networking Academy courses. Nervous about the prospect of starting a new career, he was soon put at ease. “She radiates kindness and attention. From the moment I met Olivia and she introduced me to the world of Networking Academy – I saw that I may have a prosperous future,” he says.
For over six years Robson has been working in the IT industry as an IT support analyst and enjoying his life with his wife and 5-year-old daughter in São Paulo.
Inspired by Olivia Braga’s story? Visit netacad.com to learn more about the career pathways at Cisco Networking Academy.