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Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team


November 11, 2015 - 4 Comments

Each year more than 160,000 students enroll in the Cisco Networking Academy in North America alone. As a former academy instructor myself, and now a freelance technical trainer, I’m extremely interested in mentoring and learning opportunities that become available for up and coming network engineers, and this year something ‘new’ caught my attention. I was out in San Diego this summer at Cisco Live 2015, and while engaged in the social media aspect of the event, I noticed a new hash tag #CLDreamTeam. What was this? The Dream Team? Never heard of it. So I started to dig, and what I’ve learned is fascinating!

What started as a vision, has now become the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team, but before I get into that, let’s talk briefly about the history of the program. The year was 2010, the place was Las Vegas, Nevada. Cisco Live was getting ready to launch, and a group of roughly 10 people from around the world – Cisco Networking Academy Students, instructors, and Cisco employees came together and…for the first time ever, did something really amazing, and really different. Cisco calls it ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ which I think is a fantastic way to look at it – they’re looking at it as their responsibility as a leader in the industry to nurture, mentor, and expose the next generation of engineering talent to real world efforts, and that’s precisely what they’ve accomplished with the Dream Team.

“It’s like a bootcamp for life” as put by one of the program coordinators, and I think that’s a really exciting way to look at it. For a few days leading up to, and a few days following Cisco’s annual networking event ‘Cisco Live’, the Dream Team participants work hand in hand with Cisco IT staff to build out a massive infrastructure and prepare it for tens of thousands of conference attendees. And they’re not just sitting behind a whiteboard, either; students are getting real-world experience at the logistics and execution of network design, installation, and support – at a hyper-accelerated pace. As a bonus, they get to attend event-related sessions, and see things from the attendee perspective as well.

I had an opportunity to interview a few of the students who participated and were hyper-engaged this year. When asked about the pace of the event and some of the exciting activities they got to participate in as part of the Dream Team, Networking Academy student Zoë Rose said “I was very excited! I was up at 1:30am duct taping an AP to a pole on Sunday before the conference started,” and also remarked “I met really amazing people.”  Networking academy student and dream team participant Jason Lachowsky compared the networking experiences he had as part of the dream team as ‘The real world isn’t exactly like Packet Tracer or VIRL’ and remarked how impressed he was with all of the “Cisco CCIE’s getting their hands dirty with us” and just how much a teamwork effort the entire week was.

Cisco Live isn’t the only event where Cisco is leveraging the Dream Team. Recently, Cisco partnered with the NBA to engage the Dream Team as part of the NBA All Star Game. Cisco hopes to expand on the success of these engagements and make the Dream Team program available to more entities that could utilize the unique value this group brings to the table, as well as creating more mentoring and real-world experience opportunities for the students participating.

Keep your eyes peeled for a future post – we are hoping to set up a #CiscoChampion Radio episode featuring the topic of the Cisco Networking Academy dream team. More on that as it gets finalized! My hat goes off to Cisco and the Networking Academy program for creating such a fantastic learning opportunity for the students; job well done!

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4 Comments

  1. I must say I am really encouraged at your discussions infact I feel am part of you although I also was a Cisco Networking Academy student in 2014 I took my exam on IT Essentials and did very well. Please house I really love this career help guide me on what I can do next cos I want to also share my experience/ Testimony in the field. I am from Nigeria. Thank you

  2. The Dream Team was an amazing opportunity. I was a member in 2012 and that honor helped me secure a job with Cisco TAC where I've been for just over three years. I even had the privilege of going back to Cisco Live this year as a Cisco employee and meet some of the new Dream Team members. My manager and I grabbed some resumes, interviewed three individuals while at the event, and hired one for our TAC team. The individuals that coordinate the Dream Team, and Cisco provide students with an opportunity that cannot be duplicated by any other employer in this field.

  3. Thanks for the great spotlight, Josh! We are so proud of the Dream Team program as a way to develop our Networking Academy students for real tech jobs! We have nearly 150 alumni of various Dream Teams across the globe. They are excellent role models and demonstrate the amazing talent coming out of our Networking Academies. Many of these students have since been hired by Cisco and our partners!! Looking forward to continuing to evolve the program...

  4. Thanks, Josh. I appreciated the information and your wonderful enthusiasm. I immediately shared your article across my social networks. Looking forward to more articles from you, my friend.