Impact Story: Career Paths Converge at Cisco Live

Impact Story: Career Paths Converge at Cisco Live

Kwame Ohemeng and Zoë Rose come from different backgrounds, but they both earned the chance to showcase their IT skills in a high-stakes environment when they were named to the Cisco Live US Dream Team in 2015.

As a member of the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team, Zoë applied her technical know-how and honed the skills needed to thrive in the IT industry — organization, teamwork, and communication.

Like Kwame, Zoë enjoyed networking and wanted to take her education further — she enrolled in Cisco CCNA courses at a local college and motivated herself to become an expert in the field.

After immigrating to the United States from Ghana, Kwame attended Gwinnett Technical College in Atlanta, Georgia and was recognized as the school’s top Cisco Networking Academy student.

tweet me:
.@CiscoNetAcademy Dream Team had a big impact on alums Zoe & Kwame #CLUS #CLDreamTeam @CiscoCSR
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 6:20am

When Kwame Ohemeng and Zoë Rose wanted to learn more about networking, they watched instructional videos on YouTube. Hundreds of clicks and a handful of Cisco Networking Academy courses later, they found themselves at Cisco Live with the Dream Team, where real-world experience and networking prepared them to succeed in the IT industry.

Kwame’s interest in computers began with a video. Sitting in his home in Ghana in 2010, he struggled to connect two computers wirelessly. “I spent one night reading about computers and watching YouTube videos, and learned I could use a flash drive to solve my problem,” he said.  The next morning, he put his newfound skills to the test, creating a wireless security key on his flash drive to link the computers over his network.

Thousands of miles away, in Winnipeg, Canada, Zoë confronted a different issue. Like Kwame, she turned to the Internet for answers. “I worked at an accounting firm, where I spent my time filing personal taxes,” she said. “I immersed myself in work, found I could make things in the office run smoother through IT management, and decided to learn everything piece-by-piece through YouTube.”

Their interest in and talent for computers eventually led Kwame and Zoë to the Cisco Networking Academy program, and they enrolled in courses to continue building their skills.

Following different paths to success
​Kwame spent six months learning the basics of networking and preparing for an entry-level IT job through the Networking Academy CCNA curriculum. “After I completed the program, I was hired by Ghana television,” he said. “I configured routers and switches, coders, encoders, and learned all about the technology related to television production.”

After two years with Ghana Television, and in 2012, Kwame applied for a Diversity Visa in 2012 so he could move to the United States and continue his education. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2013.

“When I migrated, I needed a job in networking badly,” Kwame remembers. “I had no certifications, but I knew I had the experience to succeed.” He made the decision to continue his Networking Academy studies at Gwinnett Technical College in Atlanta, where he earned his Cisco CCNA certification.

Like Kwame, Zoë took an unconventional path to the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team. Before working at the accounting firm, Zoë wanted to be a botanist, but had to switch career paths for health reasons. “Two years into my studies, I was writing my finals and realized I was deathly allergic to the plants I loved,” she said.

Bored at the accounting firm and ready for a change, Zoë found satisfaction working on her office’s network, performing basic troubleshooting, installing software, and learning as much as she could from SkullSpace, a community of hackers and programmers in Canada.  However, she thought she would have trouble finding a job without certifications or professional experience.

“I was not confident in myself,” she said. “Even though I enjoyed what I was doing, I was worried that I didn’t know what I was doing.” With the determination to leave the accounting firm and find a full-time job in networking, Zoë enrolled in Cisco CCNA courses at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is currently pursuing her CCNA certification.

Their hard work, motivation, and strong people skills were recognized by Cisco — Zoë and Kwame were nominated by their instructors and selected to join the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team at Cisco Live US 2015 in San Diego, California.

Taking the next step to an IT career
At Cisco Live US 2015, the Dream Team worked side-by-side with Cisco engineers to maintain the event’s massive networks and troubleshoot problems for more than 25,000 attendees. Kwame and Zoë were 2 of 10 North American students invited to be a part of the Dream Team, and they spent 12 days applying their skills in a high-stakes environment.  

“I had the opportunity to work with some of the sharpest guys in the world,” Kwame said. “To be able to build such a large network for Cisco Live has been the best experience I’ve ever had as a student.”

With the help of 4 academy instructors, Kwame, Zoë, and the Cisco Network Operating Center (NOC) team installed 1,250 access points throughout the San Diego Convention Center and two adjacent hotels, establishing a network with 99.9% uptime.

“Being a part of the Dream Team teaches you so much more than how to build a network or install a router,” Zoë said. “It taught me organization, teamwork, and the value of good coworkers. It’s just so much fun.”

Rob Neumann, a Senior Technical Advisor at Cisco and head of the NOC at Cisco Live, was impressed with the Dream Team’s skills and technical expertise. “Cisco Live’s partnership with the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team has proven to be extremely successful over the past several years,” he said. “The team's knowledge of networking and of Cisco solutions allows them to provide valuable onsite assistance to quickly troubleshoot and resolve issues that arise during the event.”

Zoë, Kwame, and thousands of other Cisco Networking Academy students have the technical and professional skills to help businesses expand services, improve customer satisfaction, and stand out from the competition.

See more photos here.