In Latin Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate all of our students and alums from these communities who have joined ours, through Cisco Networking Academy’s IT skills-to-jobs program. Debbie Gomez is one super-inspired individual who is sharing her passion for technology in her communities. As Founder of Networking Academy’s Women Rock-IT Program, I take great pleasure in sharing the impact of this program with people like Debbie and the onflow impact they have in their communities.

“I’m not looking for a job, I’m looking for a career.”

When “born and bred” Texan, Debbie Gomez, went from being a full-time mother of three children to being a student at Collin County Community College, you could be forgiven for thinking it was an opportunity to slow down a little.  

Apparently, that’s not in Debbie’s DNA—getting involved and helping people is. Even as a school student, Debbie spent summers in Mexico learning Spanish from the local children and teaching them English in return. It shouldn’t be a surprise that when she enrolled in college, she would go all-in. 

IT was Debbie’s first choice 

IT was Debbie’s first choice, because she had seen news stories about the demand for cybersecurity experts. “I’m not looking for a job, I’m looking for a career,” she says. “When I enrolled at Collin College I started as a cybersecurity major, but after taking some NetAcad classes I realized that I’m really fond of the blinking lights—the routers and the switches—so much so that I changed my major to computer networking.” 

Debbie Gomez meets Laura Quintana
Debbie (right) meets Laura Quintana, VP & General Manager Cisco Networking Academy (left)

Meeting more women in IT 

“I attended Women Rock-IT in my first semester, I met a lot of women in the industry, and one thing I really loved is that they get to travel and work. I want to be able to have that opportunity,” she says. 

Another big part of the attraction to networking—and the Academy Program—was the hands-on experience on offer.  

Cybersecurity at Collin 

“Cybersecurity at Collin is more theoretical, and I was looking for more technical,” she says. “When I was able to play around with the switches, how to patch cables, all of that got my attention…and there’s a lot of security involved in computer networking as well, it’s almost like the gatekeeper, so that’s what I really enjoyed.” 

Debbie says she’s not alone in switching from the four-year Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree course at Collin to the two-year Computer Networking Associate’s Degree, and has even petitioned the college to expand the Bachelor’s program to include computer networking. She’s hoping the college makes the change, even though it would happen after she’s already completed her studies. “It would be my legacy,” she says. 

It wouldn’t be her only legacy at Collin. 

Networking with neighbors  

When Debbie first started IT Essentials, she realized a lot of participants had previous experience that she lacked. “Almost everybody that starts in tech has some type of background in technology,” she says.  

“They’d probably built a computer. I had not. I’d never opened a computer before. So, trying to keep up with the pace of the class, and wanting to spend more time on the equipment, I decided I needed something to play around with at home,” she says. She put a notification in her neighborhood app asking whether anyone had any equipment to donate. “I didn’t care if it worked or not, I just needed to break it apart.”  

“I had a huge response, there’s a lot of IT professionals who gave me switches, routers, wireless access points, a lot of stuff,” she says.


Club event with mascot
Debbie as mascot at club promotion to students

Club collaboration at Collin

Patrick Evans, Discipline Lead – Computer Networking Program, Collin County Community College, says the response was probably so big because the Dallas area is a tech hub, housing numerous familiar tech businesses, and even a big Cisco Customer Experience Center on the same road as one of the Collin College campuses. 

Starting in with the equipment in her garage, Debbie invited classmates to come over and collaborate, and, with the encouragement of Professor Evans, eventually formed the Computer Science and Engineering Club.  

The club offers a platform for mentorship and networking and is more popular than Debbie could have imagined. “I’ve never led a club before, we started very small, it was just like five members,” she says. With more than 200 current members, “we’re the biggest club right now in the IT center—we keep growing!” 

Debbie makes the Networking Academy Dream Team 

If continuing to look after her family, studying, running the club, and a couple of internships weren’t enough, Debbie was also part of the Dream Team at Cisco Live in Las Vegas in June 2023.  

The Dream Team consists of five Networking Academy students who are selected from across the Americas, to work alongside Cisco engineers to help set up and maintain the network at the event.  

At Cisco Customer Experience Center, Richardson, Texas (Debbie second from right)

“It was awesome to learn from the network engineers,” she says. “I’m so glad that Professor Evans taught me how to patch cables…it came in handy, because the other Dream Teamers had never done that before. So I ended up showing them how to put an RG45 on a cable!” 

“It was amazing,” she says. “It was one of the best times of my life. It was meeting a lot of people, meeting a lot of Cisco executives, learning from them, helping set up the network…it was very exhausting, but it was totally worth it.” 

Certifications to secure the dream 

As though Debbie weren’t engaged enough, she has also completed the pre-apprenticeship phase of the Cisco CX Apprenticeship Program.  She achieved the required CCNA certification and is currently self-studying for the DevNet certification. DevNet is a requirement to complete during the second part, which is six months full-time paid work as a Technical Consulting Engineer within Cisco’s Customer Experience organization. “My dream career is to work for Cisco,” she says.  

In the meantime, she’s preparing to take CCNP, her final class at Collin College before graduation in the Spring of 2024.  

If the sheer number of activities Debbie has engaged in since returning to study seems overwhelming, she dismisses it breezily: “I’m from Texas,” she says, “go big or go home!” 

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

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Emma Reid

Global Marketing Manager

Cisco Networking Academy