Remember when you were in school and looked forward to graduating because you thought learning ended there? Me, too. I thought that earning my degree was the final step of my learning journey. But now that I’ve graduated and have a job, I’m waking up. I’ve realized that the real learning actually begins in the workplace. What’s more, is that there is no end—especially if you work in tech. But, that’s a good thing. The fastest way to close the window on tech career opportunities is to stop learning. However, if you continue to have a learner’s mindset at every turn and face your challenges head-on, that life-changing opportunity can find you when you least expect it. I know, because that’s what happened to me.

The power of learning landed me in my current role at Cisco on the infrastructure automation team. Here’s the story of how I grew to view learning as a lifestyle, and how adopting a lifelong learning mindset can take you beyond what you ever thought possible.

How my tech learning journey began 

When my learning journey at Cisco began in the summer of 2021, I thought I would only be there for three months. I was a graduate technical intern working towards my master’s degree in business analytics, and I was so excited to apply my skills from college. But it wasn’t long before I realized I was nowhere close to the finish line of my learning journey.

I was entering Cisco as a summer intern on the infrastructure automation team, and I knew nothing about infrastructure.

My first project was to help choose a centralized log management solution. I was responsible for evaluating, implementing, and testing research Graylog, Elastic Stack, and Splunk; log management solution tools that help with real-time analysis of data. Honestly, I knew absolutely nothing about any of this at the time, so you can imagine how it felt when I was tasked with researching log analytics solutions. 

Just when I thought my learning was over

Suddenly, I was faced with learning again. While I felt a bit overwhelmed by this big responsibility, I stayed positive. It was clear that I would be constantly learning. Only this time, I was getting paid for it. The idea of learning felt similar to working on a college project again, but now I had the chance to work with great teammates who were always willing to help. (In my experience at least, that’s kind of the opposite of what happens with projects in college.) So, I dove in.

The infrastructure automation team handles tasks like deploying virtual machines (VMs) and automating everything through code. Hearing all of these new words and terms made me nervous at first. But I grew used to them more and more each day, as I spent more time with the technology, practicing it, reading about it, and talking to teammates about it. Because I knew nothing about the technologies they used at first, I was scared of this great wall of knowledge that was in front of me. But what I learned was that the wall wasn’t scary at all. In fact, this wall had many doors that my teammates were willing and eager to help me open. With the help of Google and networking with coworkers as I conducted my research, I soon realized the unknown wasn’t as daunting as I thought. 

Breaking through the knowledge barrier

I researched everything I could about these log management tools and their usefulness, from their cost to their features and effectiveness. In the end, we ended up choosing Elastic Stack. In addition to its extensive feature set, reporting, and analytics capabilities, it was relatively simple to set up. And compared to the other tools I evaluated at the time, Elastic Stack’s dashboards were more user-friendly, with sophisticated, clear, intuitive settings.

At the end of my term, I presented our findings to upper management. And not only was Elastic Stack approved for our team, but Cisco extended my internship until I graduated in June 2022! 

So, I kept on learning and implementing technology through my projects, immersed in the Cisco business culture. As I built my knowledge, soon enough, I was working at the same level as the other team members. I could feel my confidence growing constantly, and I basked in the sense of accomplishment.

That’s what learning does, and yet, only a fraction of the potential it holds. After all, my journey was (and still is) far from over.

From learning intern to a valued team member

As graduation loomed closer, Cisco offered me a full-time role with the team I had just spent the last year interning with. That’s right—the team that nurtured me from the very beginning of my journey at Cisco. The team that gave me a safe place to learn, grow, and challenge myself to step beyond my comfort zone. Being a member of that team had such an impact on what made my learning journey so rewarding.

Looking back, I never could have imagined I’d learn so much from an internship. Today, all my tickets are for Elastic Stack. I’m still implementing what I learned during that internship in my current role. I’m still learning.

One of the biggest lessons I learned during my intern journey is that learning never stops. If you remember at the beginning of my story, I thought my learning was finished when I was just starting my internship. Thankfully, I figured it out.

Learning as a lifestyle

Every time there was an improvement or update to technology, I became even more confident. Then I discovered that learning is really a constant—especially in technology. It comes in increments throughout life. Learning is how we can overcome challenges, mobilize through changes, and break down the barriers that stand between us and our potential. I went from thinking I would be interning for only three months, to contributing to the team full-time!

When you can embrace change and break down the wall of knowledge in tech, you become unstoppable. That’s why learning must be a constant if you’re in tech. Everything is always changing. When you make learning a way of life, you’ll more easily embrace the change that’s thrown at you. Change is the one thing you can’t avoid. That’s how it will always be. Instead of being scared of change, accept it and embrace it, because there’s really no other choice. 

You hold the key to the power of learning

I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice from my learning journey. We’ve established that if you want to thrive in tech, a field that is always changing, continuous learning is necessary. However, never forget the power of your variable. You have control of yourself. We have the power to choose what, when, where, and how we will learn. As long as learning is a part of your lifestyle, and you continue to evolve to overcome new challenges, trust me: the possibilities are endless.  

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear about your learning journey. What has your experience been like so far? Please share your stories and comments below so we can continue to learn from each other!

Discover how you can become a more effective learner in “5 Steps to Virtual Learning Success” by Jason Belk, Lead Tech Advocate. Read now

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Akhila Pamukuntla

Software Engineer

Learning and Certifications