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!