“I Found My Passion:” How One CX Engineer Is Making a Difference


July 30, 2019 - 9 Comments

Aseel Othman passed her CCNA at age 12. She earned her CCNP at 15. And by 18 she became the youngest female CCIE in the world, passing the notoriously difficult exam on her first attempt 

I remember the first time I connected two devices together. When they pinged, it was really an extraordinary thing for me. And this is when I knew that I wanted my career to be in networking. I found my passion.

After university she pursued her engineering dream, relocating from Jordan to Poland to become a Network Consulting Engineer within Cisco CX, putting her expertise to work for Cisco customers. She’s also a tireless ambassador for women in technology, visiting schools across the region to help girls find their own career paths. 

Aseel at the Cisco CX Center in Krakow, Poland

Whether you’re an aspiring engineer yourself, or a CIO keen to nurture your employee’s talent, Aseel’s story shines a light on the curiosity and social purpose driving the next generation of engineers — and the kinds of environments they need to make the most of their talent.

The power of passion

At the heart of Aseel’s journey is one word: passion. Hers has burned brighter with every skill she’s learned, every certificate she’s cleared, every challenge she’s overcome. She understands that passion is the key to any successful career.

“After I got my CCIE I became a Cisco Academy Ambassador,” she explains. I started going to schools and universities in Jordan, where I share with them my story, try to inspire them and motivate them. I know it’s cheesy, but I always used to tell them to find their passion and pursue it.” 

That early passion needs careful nurturing if it’s to develop. Aseel’s father encouraged her interest in networking, but many girls don’t have that support.

For me it’s really important to get other girls into the STEM field. I found my passion when I was 12 years old but there are girls out there who are still wondering what they want to do. 

Discover more about how Cisco is helping girls develop STEM skills.

Aseel talks to a group at a Girls Power Tech event

Results matter, not appearances

Even as a CCIE, Aseel experienced first-hand how hard it is to be a female engineer.  

“Before joining Cisco, I worked as a pre-sales engineer. Nobody expected a girl to go to meet customers or work in the data center. They thought girls belonged at a desk. But I did not like that idea at all. And I remember that I gave my manager a big headache about it!” 

To me, what matters is for the work to be delivered. I had to prove that a girl can be an engineer, and over the long run it's how you gain the trust of the customer.

Naturally, Aseel looked for a culture that valued results, not stereotypes.

Part of the reason I wanted to join Cisco is that many of the executive managers are women, including the most senior leaders in CX finance, HR, sales and marketing,” she says. It shows me that Cisco believes that women are capable of doing anything. At Cisco they don’t care about your gender, your sexuality, whether you have tattoos, whether you have piercings or whatever. They care about what you have in your head.

Aseel poses for a selfie with Gerri Elliott, one of Cisco’s executive leadership team and a role model for women in tech and business

The right culture delivers the right results

It was a goal for me to work at Cisco ever since I was 12 years old, because of the environment they have for their employees and the work they deliver for their customers. 

For Aseel, it was important that the culture was authentic. “I remember I used to check #lovewhereyouwork and #wearecisco on social media and I could see how the Cisco employees actually enjoyed working there. 

Learn more about life at Cisco. 

And when she graduated and made the leap to Cisco? “Moving from Jordan to Krakow was a huge step, obviously,” she says. I was leaving my family, my friends, my work and everything back home, and moving to a whole new journey, but I knew that I was doing the right thing because I was achieving my goal.” 

Aseel joined Cisco as a Network Consulting Engineer, in the SD-WAN teamAs an NCE, she’s responsible for designing, testing and implementing SD-WAN solutions for customers — putting her on the cutting edge of real-world networking. The approach to getting the job done struck her instantly. I immediately noticed that people within Cisco CX and the rest of Cisco are Working hand in hand together as one team to deliver the right solution for the customer.“For example, you could have a Webex call with a customer or a partner and you would have a TAC engineer, product managers from Cisco engineering, and Network Consulting Engineers like me, we’re all working to help the customer. There are no siloes here. 

See behind the scenes of the CX Center in Cisco Krakow, where Aseel works.

Customers are part of the team

To Aseel, Cisco has a responsibility to make customers and partners successful — and that’s not just about delivering designs and implementations, but knowledge and skills, too.

For any IT leader struggling to overcome an industry-wide skills shortage, Aseel holds a ray of hope.

“Of course we have our training services and events like Cisco Live, where we have technical sessions dedicated to new technologies,” she saysBut I have calls with customers every day who are struggling to understand a new technology. I believe it’s my job not only to do their configuration or their implementation, but to bring them along with me. 

This is part of CX: we're trying to equip the customer to be successful. I'm not just doing my task, I'm keeping my customer with me through every step.

Discover our new training and certifications, covering all the knowledge a modern engineer needs.

Continuously learning, continuously innovating

Aseel’s passion for learning is as strong as ever, and she believes that it’s vital for engineers to keep developing their skills as technology evolves. As well as frequent training, the right culture and team practices are key. 

“All of the engineers here are eager to learn more about new technologies, such as automation. We have knowledge transfer sessions where we gather every week to share problems and new ideas. When internally we’re working in sync together, I believe our customers can really see it.” 

But guided learning is only half of the story. Good engineers need to explore and innovate.

When I came here, I noticed that the engineers are given the space to be innovative. Cisco encourages us to explore and come up with new ideas, especially with all the innovation challenges.” 

Innovation on your mind? Check out the MACRO podcast from Cisco’s innovation team. 

Whenever I come in to work there are emails, seminars, events that we’re invited to, to make sure we’re not only focused on the work we’re doing, but on innovation within our teams. And if I came up with a new idea and went to my manager? Ah! I think my manager would be over the clouds! 

Aseel Othman has come a long way since making her first network connection aged 12. And one thing is clear: the journey’s not over yet. 

 


In Cisco CX, more than 27,000 passionate experts just like Aseel are working every day to help customers turn technology into business value. Check out our customer stories to see what we can do for you.

 



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9 Comments

  1. Wow, I'm sure I'm not the only one impressed with your amazing achievements and passion! Kudos!

  2. After reading Aseel's story I find myself without the words to express how I feel or what I think. Awestruck is the only word that came to me.
    Congratulations on your incredible accomplishments Ms. Othman! You have overcome so many obstacles in the pursuit of your passion. Hang in there young Lady and all the very best in your future endeavors. The world is a better, brighter place because of people like you!

  3. Keep it up

  4. Truly inspirational!

  5. I'm Proud of you Aseel, keep it up

  6. cool

  7. Inspiring, thanks for sharing your story, Aseel!

  8. Way to go, Aseel! Thanks for posting our cohort photo on front page, gonna call everyone and tell them I am famous XD

  9. Aseel is truly an inspiration!!!