MarkBarrasso_BlogAs a freshman in college, I was young and clueless. I was busy partying, and staying up late. I always got A’s in high school, and severely underestimated the work-load of Boston University Engineering.

I found myself without a passion.

Then sophomore year hit me like a ton of bricks. And, to make matters worse, one of my best friends since middle school, Patrick, passed away. I was devastated. As a result, I did terrible in school and failed a couple of courses.

Then, I decided to take a year off from college, and I set out to change.

  • I broke down personal barriers, tried new things, and found myself working towards a new purpose — fully engaged in a lifestyle that kept me learning, happy and motivated.
  • I went to San Francisco, California and attended Make School as an iOS developer. I travelled around the Bay Area, learned countless computer science techniques, cyber security, industry experience, startups, networking, presenting, and how to code.
  • I fell in love with coding, it enabled me to make anything I wanted, any game, and any business endeavor – coding offered endless possibilities. It was fun and I was good at it.

Suddenly, everything clicked. It was then that I knew I could apply my technological passion to shape my career in engineering.

After that year, I came back to BU and combined my newly acquired CS knowledge with my computer engineering/entrepreneurial skill set.

I achieved my highest semester GPA ever, won two hackathons, and started a company from my senior design project. I also won the Top Hacker Award in BU and was invited to Cisco Live! in San Diego where I attended the DevNet Hackathon.

My experience at the DevNet Hackathon was extraordinary. Not only did I connect with intelligent people, I also had direct access to Cisco technologies that made creating a full-stack IoT application in 24 hours look easy.

Our project leveraged CMS, IAAS, Cisco Zeus and IOx to build a mobile and web platform for users to view the cleanest restaurants nearby. Non-compliance to hand washing is a major issue that leads to the spread of infections and Sanitize was created to solve this problem. This app uses a combination of BLE beacons, Arduino vibration sensors, and CMX location tracking to increase hand washing compliance rates among employees.

Then we won grand prize at hackathon for $10k!

After that week at Princeton, I was formally offered a job at Cisco.

I knew Cisco would be the one place where I could finally unlock my full potential. It’s is weird because before I went to California, I thought that I didn’t want to work at a large company. I thought it would be boring, and that there would be too many restrictions. Stuck in an office surrounded by four walls. My creativity would be suppressed.

However, this was not the case with Cisco, and no matter where I was, I felt that the employees shared similar visions and passions to myself.

Everyone I met, they were intelligent and driven individuals who loved their job, because it gave them that freedom to thrive.

Cisco’s culture encourages its employees to break down those four office walls and get out there to build real solutions that help people and make a footprint on the world.

Ultimately, I want to pioneer my vision, bring my ideas to life, and create value for others on a global scale. Combining this drive to succeed with my passion for technology and digitizing the world — What better place to get it done than at Cisco?

Are you looking to find your passion or maybe even on your way to a career at Cisco?  Here’s some advice I’d offer:

  • Ask yourself: What drives you? What is your end goal in life, and how are you going to work at it to get there? What is going to be your contribution to society and the world?
  • You don’t have to work 24/7. You just have to be productive with the time you have. Cisco encourages a work/life balance for their employees because they know with rest comes even more innovation.
  • Manage your time and set a habit tracker. I coded every day for a year; constantly trying to push my streak.
  • Set deadlines so that you feel like you have something to lose if you don’t do it in time. Set goals on Trello!!!!! Trello is love. Trello is life.
  • Start building problems that you actually encounter; chances are that others have the same problem as you. Solve real problems. Get things done.
  • Do what makes you happy, even if you have to grind to get yourself there. Be healthy, get plenty of sleep, eat right, and workout.
  • Travel places and always be open to try something new. Aspire to create value for others and more importantly, invest in yourself.
  • Just go out and try to teach yourself how to build your ideas. Start googling everything you don’t know how to do, you’ll find a way. That’s the beauty of software/hardware — usually if you can dream it, you can build it.
  • Learn how to code. This will help you to see your dreams become a reality.


Mark Barrasso

Software Engineer

University Engineering Program