Cisco Networking Academy Students Shine at NBA All-Star 2015

Cisco Networking Academy Students Shine at NBA All-Star 2015

by Austin Belisle

The Barclays Center, home of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, where Cisco Networking Academy students had the chance to work side-by-side with industry professionals

Cisco Networking Academy students worked behind the scenes to secure and monitor wireless networks in venues all around New York City

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Beyond the #MarchMadness MVPs @CiscoNetAcad students shine at @NBA All-Star 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 3:55pm

CAMPAIGN: Cisco Impact Area | Education


At last month’s National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game, some of the world’s best basketball players showcased their skills, dribbling the ball through their legs and leaping high into the air on a night full of exciting sports action. Above the hardwood floor and behind the arena’s closed doors, some of the event’s “most valuable players” were busy showing off their own skills to the NBA’s IT team, monitoring a massive network to make sure fans didn’t miss any of the excitement below.

As part of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team, 30 Networking Academy students worked side-by-side with professional network engineers during NBA All-Star 2015, setting up wireless access points and providing network troubleshooting at the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, and other venues in New York City.

Andrew Torres and Deborah Huyler, two of the Dream Team members, blogged about their trip while working behind-the-scenes during the NBA All-Star festivities.

“The things I observed and learned from this experience have opened my eyes to a whole new side of the networking world,” Andrew said.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gives Cisco Networking Academy students the chance to work under pressure in hands-on situations, network with industry professionals, and display their skills for potential employers.

Each year, more than 160,000 students in the United States and Canada enroll in Cisco Networking Academy courses, where they develop the IT know-how and problem-solving skills they’ll need in the workforce. But, many lack the real-world experience of applying those skills in a working environment. The Dream Team gives them that experience, which helps them stand out with employers.

In one week, the 30 Dream Team members worked a combined 1,168 hours – almost 40 hours per student. For some students, the trip was their first opportunity to interact with networking professionals.

“There were so many learning opportunities, from deploying miles of cable to connecting the different networks together,” Deborah said, reflecting on the lessons she learned from the NBA’s IT team.

Cisco launched the Dream Team in 2011 to give top students the chance to work at the annual Cisco Live customer conference. Since its inception, the Dream Team has expanded to other Cisco events and organizations, including this year’s NBA All-Star 2015 activities.

“The students all showed an eagerness to learn and contribute regardless of what they were working on,” a representative from the NBA said. “We were pleased with their base knowledge of networking and were able to give them some real networking responsibilities as opposed to just having an extra set of hands.”

Karen Woodard, a Cisco Networking Academy instructor, joined the Dream Team students in New York City last month. While there, she introduced them to a member of the NBA’s IT team who had also taken Cisco Networking Academy courses. “Dan Stralka is a brilliant guy on the core networking team for NBA IT,” she said. “I think it was insightful and inspirational for the students to meet him and learn that he was once a Networking Academy student like them.”

Two of Karen’s students, Adam Setteducato and Desmond Crandall, impressed engineers from Safari Telecom, who even asked the students to submit their resumes before heading home. “The students had an amazing experience,” she said. “These are life-long memories,” memories that could possibly turn into real jobs in the networking field.

All of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team members left New York with the real-world experience and inspiration that may someday turn their networking dreams into realities. Deborah Huyler, one of the Dream Team students, believes she’s ready to succeed in the industry.

“Cisco Networking Academy gave me the skills to put me in a live environment and thrive,” she said. “Now that I’ve worked at NBA All-Star, I’ve proven that I can do it.”