Linda Azah, an alumni of the Cisco Networking Academy programme, currently a CCIE engineer working at a leading service provider in this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA shares her experience on Cisco Nigeria’s CSR project partnership with government, schools, NGOs, colleges and universities to afford Nigerian youth and entrepreneurs the opportunity to become IT networking professionals giving them the best competitive advantage in the 21st century technology-driven job market.
What drove you to join the Cisco Networking Academy program?
I got admitted to the University of Benin to study a Diploma in Computer Engineering in 2002. After my 1st year, I decided to acquire computer hardware repair skills, which got me a part-time job as lab assistant for the Cisco Networking Academy Centre at Uniben which is where I fell in love with Networking. I joined the program and also trained as an instructor for the Uniben Network Academy.
This was very useful because by the time, I got my admission to study B. Sc in Computer Science at the University of Benin; I had a CCAI qualification and was studying for my CCNA. I got my CCNA in 2007 and CCNP in 2009. What inspired me was the fact the training was hands-on and practical oriented, as such you were developing real world skills for every technology covered. I am now able to use these skills in my current job.
What were the initial requirements to join the Cisco Networking Academy programme?
It was just basic computer skills, a minimum fee, and willingness to learn. It was very intense and it required participants to go that extra mile to master each technology. That meant loads of practice and research. The program helped me appreciate the need for a solid foundation – technology wise. Without it, it would have been more difficult to develop and follow a structured path. Other skills I acquired subsequently were built on my experience during the NetAcad training.
Has the Academy training helped you in your chosen career path?
Yes, it did. I always liked the hardware part of my computer studies, I had serious issues sitting still long enough to master the software or coding aspect of it. From the start, I realized the NetAcad programme dealt with different hardware devices and getting them to do exactly what you wanted them to do, made an enormous difference. It allowed me to take my love of hardware to the next level, being able to deliver different solutions to client abstract needs.
It is very useful to me in my role as an IP Design Engineer. With the NetAcad programme and how it is taught, you develop a love for learning about different technologies and how they interact with each other to deliver a certain outcome. That is very key in designing solutions for different clients at my present place of employment, this is because in networking, there is no one size fits all, there has to be a lot of mixing and matching of different technologies to get the right fit and size for the client depending on their needs.
Would you recommend the Cisco Networking Academy to anyone and why?
Yes, always. The structured way the NetAcad trains students will help them in their future endeavors. It really does not matter what fields of study or type of student, all it needs is a mind wide open and the love of learning innovative technologies to help connect the world. It teaches student technical and entrepreneurial skills required to land good jobs or even better create opportunities for themselves by being self-employed.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to be a consultant and a trainer, I have a dream of setting up a low-cost training and placement center with females as my target audience. I want to show them, they have the ability to be role models in the future and can do remarkable things with the NetAcad programme. After my training I passed the CCNA certification exam, then I had the opportunity to train as an instructor and got my CCAI (Cisco Certified Academy Instructor). The next step was CCNP and I also finally got my CCIE certification on April 29, 2015.