I was selected as a Cisco Champion for the year 2014. Becoming a Cisco Champion is a privilege for Cisco enthusiasts and experts who are passionate about sharing, teaching, and discussing (Cisco) network technologies. In this blog post, I want to tell you about the road I took from my first CCNA classes (Cisco Network Academy) to becoming a Cisco Champion.

My networking career started ten years ago with Cisco Network Academy. In those days, Cisco Network Academy was a pretty new learning ‘center’ but it had enough information to help you start your career in the networking field. At my university, we used Network Academy modules during the semester. We had 2 or 3 chapter exams every week! To gain more understanding about the theories, we were required to attend labs. During my university years I needed to study for the Network Academy exams every day. Not just every day, but really every day! That was not a problem though, because network technology is just awesome!

The first years after graduation are the most important for every networking guy/girl. You learn a lot of new technologies and even more important, learn how to work with customers. Make your customers and colleagues proud and show them you can do more than just unpack boxes!

But that still does not make you a Cisco Champion. To get people to nominate you as a champion, you will have to do more. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of Cisco products and everyone, inside and outside your company needs to know what your job is. Be THE network guy they go to if they have troubles. Finally, getting things done should be your motto. When you get this far, do not hesitate to talk about new products or technologies, read books, whitepapers and configuration guides. Write (public) blogs on the internet. In short, make sure people know where to find you.

On a random day the activities of a Cisco Champion should not surprise you: checking the (technology) news, reading about new stuff, checking favorite blogs, trying to understand the new products or technologies and testing them out (use Cisco Learning network or PEC). All the information you will consume during these study sessions are very useful when you’re talking with customers or prospects or when you are creating or building a brand new networking design.

One of the benefits of being a Cisco Champion is the opportunity to attend meetings about various topics. A couple of these meetings were about the Cisco Network Academy and the Cisco Learning Center. It’s great to see that the Cisco Network Academy has become the perfect start for every beginning networking student. Ten years ago, the Network Academy portal was just a portal with presentation slides that included only theory, an exam module to take your exams and Packet Tracer. In those days I started to use Packet Tracer as a simulation tool for testing out router and switch configurations but unfortunately it did not always work as expected. Now, ten years later, I had the opportunity to test the current version of Packet Tracer. I was hoping for a much more stable version. After some firsts tests I knew Packet Tracer had become more than just a stable version from the one I used ten years ago!

Packet tracer has evolved to a true simulator for Cisco routers and switches, with a lot more fascinating options:

  • The instructor can create Activities (tasks) for the students. For instance, he can set up a basic network and assign the student to complete the network. The instructor can use ‘real time’ grading: after completing a small task, the student can see their grade in real time.
  • One of my favorite options: multitasking or “get it working together”! Multiple Packet Tracers can connect to each other. Two groups of students create their part of the network on their own PC and they can connect both networks to each other by linking or connecting them in Packet Tracer. The simulated IP packets will travel over a real IP network to the Packet Tracer application of the other student!

This is one of my favorite options because this simulates a real live networking scenario. Connecting your network to networks of other parties (customers, suppliers, providers etc.) is a daily task for every networking engineer. It’s almost never possible to do your configuration on their network. This option in Packet Tracer simulates this: both students configure their network, but can’t configure the other students’ network. Getting in touch with each other and talking about the connection between the two networks is needed.

If you have passed all your Network Academy courses and (of course) are still enthusiastic about Network technology, Cisco is offering Cisco Learning Network. A premium subscription is available for everyone for a very (very!) small fee. You get access to training videos and hands-on virtual labs. This Learning Network is available for everyone, whether you’re studying for a CCNP or higher certification. If the content is not available today, it will become available soon. A premium subscription is highly recommended for every networking engineer in the field!

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Rob Rademakers

Network Infrastructure Consultant