Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR Impact Program: Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team

Providing hands-on opportunities for students and value for businesses

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Advancing professional development and impact with Dream Team

Each year, more than 1 million students the across the globe are enrolled in Cisco Networking Academy courses. In partnership with learning institutions including high schools, universities and community colleges, students cultivate their skills in technology and problem solving in preparation for careers in IT.

As part of the Networking Academy Talent Bridge skills-to-jobs program, Cisco offers NetAcad students opportunities to demonstrate the skills they are learning by connecting them with short-term hands-on projects as part of Dream Team. Launched in 2011, Dream Team takes students’ skill development to the next level, entrenching them behind-the-scenes at major conferences and customer events where they help set-up, support and troubleshoot wireless networks while gaining invaluable learning & mentoring experiences.

Students and alumni are nominated to the Dream Team by their NetAcad instructors and required to submit essay responses as well as a short video. Selection criteria include demonstrated technical and professional skills, activities outside the classroom, diversity and geographic representation.

Cisco Live Dream Team

Dream Team participants are integral to the successful operation of Cisco Live, Cisco’s largest customer event which convenes thousands of IT professionals for a week of in-person events, technical sessions, and networking opportunities. All expenses are covered for Dream Team participants while attending Cisco Live, and they receive the following additional benefits:

  • Exposure and recognition among Cisco executives and potential employers
  • Hands-on experience working with Cisco engineers to add to their resumes
  • Full access to event sessions, keynotes, and networking events
  • Opportunity to take a Cisco certification exam on site for free
  • Connections to potential employment opportunities

Dream Team members now do the same work Cisco Live once outsourced to contractors, which provides reduced staffing costs while showcasing Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in action.

  • 10 North American students are selected for the Dream Team each year for the Cisco Live US event
  • The team is coached by instructors and long term industry professionals, as well as a returning student who serves as Team Captain to provide peer-mentoring
  • Approximately 1000 Cisco wireless access points are set up and supported by the Dream Team for the event (with a 99.999% uptime success rate) to support over 26,000 industry professionals who attend the event each year

Expansion through the years

Over the years, the number of Dream Team opportunities for this unique development experience have expanded to nearly a dozen events offered annually. National Basketball Association (NBA) and Straight Up Technologies (SUT) sponsor students to support events in countries around the world, providing growth opportunities to over 200 NetAcad students to date.

  • Cisco is the official technology sponsor of the NBA, helping provide a unique fan experience at events all over the globe. Michael Gliedman, the NBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, calls the NetAcad Dream Team a “secret weapon” at events like the NBA All Star Games. Learn more about Cisco’s partnership with the NBA here and check out the blog.
  • SUT has leveraged Dream Team to expand staffing at leading-edge industry conferences they support, including Salesforce Xchange and ServiceNow Knowledge2017. “The partnership is a game changer for us,” according to John Grindley, Director of Strategy and Special Projects at SUT. “It’s changing the face of our company and the lives we touch for the better simply through NetAcad’s vast network of skilled talent meeting with our on-the-job training.” He adds, “Students gain real-world experience working with us in the trenches, and we get to help mold these amazing individuals and hand pick top talent instead of headhunting, which eliminates a lot of wasted human resources for recruiting tactics.”

Employment impact

The Dream Team is a life-changing experience. It gives students and alumni an opportunity to work under pressure, network with industry professionals, and showcase their skills for potential employers. With the expanding reach of the events the Dream Team are able to participate in, their networking opportunities to connect with peers and employers grows.

  • Veterans, who often struggle to find meaningful work after their service, and women, who are underrepresented in the IT field, earn many spots on the Dream Team Dream Team participants form a network of support and friendship, linked through social media, that lasts long after their work is done
  • The Dream Team gives a company's employees an opportunity to mentor students and offer valuable learning opportunities
  • “Having the experience at Cisco Live opened the door for interviews. Right after that, I started getting calls.” – Dream Team member Ishia Ramtahalsingh, hired as a network engineer at eBay.
  • “Several Wegmans network engineers attend Cisco Live each year. They were impressed to learn I would be working with the engineers and learning the “behind-the-scenes” workings for the event.” Erik Rockwell, former Cisco Live Dream Team member, hired as a network support technician by Wegmans Food Markets.

Employers: Find out how you can hire Networking Academy talent for your company.

Cisco Networking Academy Students Shine at NBA All-Star 2015 Students at NBA All-Star 2015
Top Students Gain Hands-On Experience at Cisco Live Dream Team at Cisco Live >
Students support the network at Cisco Live Program video
“Having the experience at Cisco Live opened the door for interviews. Right after that I started getting calls.”
— Dream Team member Ishia Ramtahalsingh, hired as a network engineer at eBay in 2014