Planning My Next Path – US Army Vet’s Road to Cisco

May 9, 2017 - 13 Comments

We should all be looking ahead in life, chasing our next goal. Sometimes the path is straight, and sometimes, it throws us a lot of curves.

For example, I was born and raised a Kansas boy. If it’s Kansas sports (Jayhawks, Chiefs, Royals) I’m a fan. I made a plan to join the United States Army, and in February 2008 I enlisted, and became part of the 25th Infantry Division (“Tropic Lightning”). In less than a year I was deployed to Iraq. My role in the military, even then, was called “forward observer.” This meant that I would go on patrols or to observation points, find targets, and call in action on those targets. I received a qualification to also work with the Air Force on air strikes.

Mike during his deployment

Now the curve in the path comes.

During my deployment to Iraq, the vehicle I was in was struck by an IED.  The force of the blast from the 100 pounds of homemade explosive rattled the walls at our base 5 miles away. I received a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that developed into a seizure disorder, which was not formally diagnosed until about a year later. Daily headaches (some days are worse than others) significant memory loss and the aforementioned seizure disorder are the long-term results of my injuries.

In 2012, I received a medical discharge from the Army, and started working on building back my memory just to retain knowledge. After a year of hard work, I was on to my next goal and I was given the okay to enroll in college. My path at this point took me back home to Kansas, where I enrolled with Kansas Wesleyan University.

I started by studying business. One semester in, I knew it wasn’t for me. “Maybe my path would be as a teacher,” I thought, and switched to Secondary Education with an emphasis in History, because I loved studying WWII history. Still not the right path.

That’s when the road opened up, and I found my passion. I started studying Computer Science and Computer Information Systems as dual majors. I studied Python, C++, HTML and others, including courses in networking, which were through Cisco’s Net Academy program. I graduated in December of 2016!

Thanks to my work through Cisco’s Net Academy, I was contacted shortly before graduation and asked to interview. This is where my path ticked up in the cool factor. I never applied for a position at Cisco, but of course I said YES! My first interview was via Webex, and then I was flown to San Jose’s headquarters for Cisco Day. I had an offer in-hand the next week. My professor told me he would flunk me if I didn’t take the job (half-kidding, I’m sure) and I was ecstatic.

Mike and his team at Cisco

I’m a new Cisconian, a Customer Support Engineer, as of January of 2017. In March, I cleared another hurdle and passed my CCNA R&S.  Testing for me since my injury has been tough.  I know the information, but when it comes to testing I draw blanks, but I did it. It feels great to now say, I’ve got my CCNA.

My path at Cisco is wide open. It’s a great place to work, and I’m certainly impressed by their commitment to recruiting military vets like me. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll head back to school as a lecturer!

But for now, I’m planning out my next goal. I know now I can make it happen. How about you?

Looking for your own path to Cisco? Visit Cisco Careers to see the many options and apply!


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  1. Great story, thank you for sharing.

  2. Dear. Mike,Iam anderstand you 100/100,with my regard.

  3. Great story! Keep up the great work and congrats on graduating/landing a job!

  4. Keep on inspiring , keep up the good work !

  5. So Inspirational Mike……Roadies Salute to you.

  6. Your story is inspiring. Keep up the great work and thank you so much for your service!

  7. Love your story. Congratulations! And thank you for your service.

  8. What a wonderfully inspiring story, Mike. Thanks so much for sharing! It’s always great to hear about how things turn out when our lives go “off script” from what we plan.
    Thank you for your service!!!

  9. Great stuff, Mike.

    Always great to see folks overcome challenges and adversity!

    “…it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.”

    Thank you for your server and I hope to see involved with our VETS functions.

    • ***Thanks for your SERVICE (sorry… as someone in TAC, server just rolls off the fingers!)

  10. Great to hear you are pushing past your injuries, and focusing on your future. From a fellow veteran who understands the struggle you are definitely not alone and feel free to reach out to me anytime. This goes for any other veterans reading this. Congrats on your successes. I know you will continue to surpass expectations.


  11. Awesome story, Mike! Thank you for your service and for sharing your story. Congratulations on all that you’ve accomplished thus far and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

  12. Great inspiring story, Mike! I appreciate you sharing your challenges, overcoming some and continuing to work on others.
    Thank you for your service and “Welcome Home” (from this Vietnam Vet’s daughter).