I remember the excitement and passion I had when I was first exposed to Cisco and Cisco networking curriculum early in my career. Today, many years later, I am no longer actively configuring devices. However, the foundation that was built still serves me well every day as I focus on the intersection of Cisco’s technologies and our customers’ business imperatives.

In fact, according to Gartner, by 2022, 75% of businesses will prioritize networking as the key driver for their digital initiatives.  Ensuring that we’re supporting the development of a global workforce ready to embrace this intersection is paramount to the success of businesses around the world.

Since its inception in 1997, the Cisco Networking Academy has reached 6.9 million students at 9,600 academies in more than 170 countries. Ultimately, the goal is to connect NetAcad graduates with career opportunities through the Talent Bridge program. I shared a small glimpse of the program last December and, since then, many people have been eager to explore it even more.

The Talent Bridge program has connected over 1,200 students to career opportunities with Cisco partners around the globe. To gain some insight into our students’ experience, I spoke with Jesse Riddle and Zohreh Neel, two of our successful NetAcad graduates who have landed great jobs as a result of the Talent Bridge program. Jesse is currently working as a Network Support Engineer on Cisco’s Meraki team. And Zohreh is a Junior Network Support Technician for Straight Up Technologies, which deploys networks for complex major events such as NBA games.

How did you learn about NetAcad and decide to attend?

Zohreh: I became a member of NetAcad in college in preparation for the CCNA exam. I was amazed by how the NetAcad platform helped students in becoming independent learners and preparing for Cisco exams.

Jesse: My school in Australia used the NetAcad heavily in their curriculum, so it was thanks to them I attended NetAcad.  


What was the most valuable aspect of your experience at NetAcad?

Zohreh: I really appreciated the comprehensive online training modules that included lessons, quizzes, hand-on labs, and much more. More importantly, becoming a member of the Cisco Dream Team gave me the opportunity of getting real-world experience. The Dream Team gave me a chance to work behind the scenes setting up and troubleshooting real networks.

Jesse: The NetRiders competition, which is hosted by NetAcad every year, was the most valuable aspect of my experience. It gave me even more motivation to challenge myself.


How has NetAcad prepared you for your current position?

Zohreh: As a member of NetAcad, I have access to resources like online courses, virtual network training software like Packet Tracer, and customized labs.

Jesse: The broad range of technical knowledge required for my position is something I learned thanks to NetAcad.


How did NetAcad Talent Bridge help you connect with your current position?

Zohreh: One of my professors nominated me for the Dream Team, and I landed an opportunity to assist Straight Up Technologies in the field. With this opportunity I was able to demonstrate my enthusiasm and technical capability, which helped me stand out and secure a permanent position. This would not have been possible through a regular job interview process.

Jesse: The NetRiders competition provided an incredible network of great people, and I made sure to gather as much insight and information as possible. The Talent Bridge team then connected me with a recruiter, which opened the door to my current role.


Do you feel prepared for future positions on your current career path?

Zohreh: Yes. Initially, I gained theoretical knowledge through NetAcad and some virtual training. And now with the field work that I’m doing, I feel prepared to take on more challenging engineering tasks. I am working alongside operation teams, network technicians, and engineers, and also get technical feedback from the CTO, which helps me stay on the right track.

Jesse: Absolutely. I apply the networking knowledge I learned in NetAcad every day in my position as a network support engineer and see this being important to me for years to come.


What were the most important lessons you took away from NetAcad?

Zohreh: That in order to be successful, it is important to be part of a social network and support community like NetAcademy. On top of training, students share experiences, get updates and news about the networking field, and gain invaluable experiences such as meeting people in the industry, making connections, and opening doors.

Jesse: I’ve heightened my career goals and increased my aptitude in confronting new challenges, and I owe a lot of that to NetAcad and the NetRiders competition.


Big thanks to Zohreh and Jesse for the firsthand perspective of the student experience at the Cisco Networking Academy. They are just two of many NetAcad graduates who have shared their stories. Read similar success stories from NetAcad students.

The new online NetAcad Talent Bridge Matching Engine, launching next month, will enable Cisco partners to recruit qualified Networking Academy talent from around the world. The real-time resource will allow recruiters to designate candidate requirements and rapidly receive contact information for all matching candidates. NetAcad’s exciting new tool will increase the available opportunities for Cisco’s partners and students

Get involved in The Cisco Networking Academy by exploring the links below.

For Employees: Start Promoting Your NetAcad Skills

  • If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, join and setup your profile. (Read this blog post for tips.)
  • Include “Cisco Networking Academy” in your education AND add any Cisco Certifications or NetAcad courses you have completed to your profile.
  • Join the Cisco Networking Academy Group on LinkedIn. 

For Cisco Partners: Start Finding Great Talent