The Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad) is the firm’s flagship CSR project which has been in operation for 20 years. Through this project, Cisco has partnered with government agencies, schools, NGOs, colleges and universities to help prepare Nigerian youths and entrepreneurs for careers in IT.Linda Azah, alumnus of the Cisco Networking Academy and currently a CCIE at Vodacom shares her NetAcad experience and claimed that the academy has the potential to build Nigeria’s next tech millionaires.Excerpts:
What’s your background?
I studied Computer Science at the University of Benin, Edo State. Before my undergraduate program, I did a two-year Diploma in Engineering Programme at Uniben. After my first year in the programme, we were required to complete a three-month internship before resuming for second year. So, I did my internship at an Internet cafe where the Cisco training was conducted. That opportunity opened up the path that I would follow for the rest of my life. Currently, thanks to that training, I am an IP Design Engineer with Vodacom Business Nigeria.
What’ motivated you to NetACads?
Ironically, I did not hear or read about the Cisco program nor did anyone explain it to me. I stumbled on it. While in school, I took a part-time job as a cyber café attendant. One day at work, I was asked to close the doors of the café and setup the room for Cisco-centric classes. I wondered what that was for, but then I just did my job. I sat in during the classes and was hooked. I changed my shift so I could always take part in the courses and the rest, as they say, is history.
At that time, did you have the basic requirements?
To enrol, I had to pay the required fees and I was also required to have some basic computer skills and a truckload of passion to learn about new technologies in-depth. Yes, it was rigorous. The training was extensive and one needs to be able to study late into the night if need be and also practice what is being learnt.
There are certainly no half measures if you really want to be good and get the best out of the Academy.Technology is so important in today’s world. In fact, technology is the gateway to a lot of opportunities and I saw this clearly at the Academy. The course helps you build a solid technology foundation. With that strong base, we can be sure of the mext techpreneurs.
What’s the effect of NetAcad on your career path?
The networking academy didn’t just help me. It basically changed everything. Until the moment I chose to sit-in that class, I was coasting along and just going with the flow, no passion, no fixed plans for my future. After the Academy, I became pretty confident of my career path. So where are you now, with the experience? At that time, I started with CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), but that was just the beginning. Since then, I also became a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor (CCAI), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and completed Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Service Provider (CCIE SP) training.
How would you advise new entrants?
They need to know that the Cisco Networking Academy creates opportunities and therefore should take it seriously. I say this because, you will have options in the future, either to work for yourself as an entrepreneur or elsewhere.