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Impact Story: Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team

Top Students Gain Hands-On Experience at Cisco Live Conference

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Every year, two dozen top U.S. and Canada Networking Academy students are selected to help Cisco engineers build a massive wireless network at the annual Cisco Live event. Rhasaan Kimbrough and Darci Saucedo Torres were tapped to join the 2014 “Dream Team,” an assignment they say was a life-changing opportunity.  

Rhasaan and Darci share a common passion for technology and a belief that a technology career can improve their lives. By enrolling in Cisco Networking Academy classes, they took the first step toward learning how to build, maintain, and secure computer networks. Hard work and dreams for a better future took them to the next step: an invitation to work at Cisco Live, Cisco’s annual customer event.

Technology creates new career opportunities

For Rhasaan, the fast-paced deployment at Cisco Live was familiar territory. As an advanced jet aircraft weapons technician for the U.S. Air Force, his strong work ethic and advanced technical skills helped him move quickly through the ranks, from Airman to Staff Sergeant, in just under 3 years. But, following retirement from the military, he found himself in a dead-end job.

Darci hails from a very small town in eastern Washington, where most jobs are in agriculture. A father by age 19, he was working in an apple orchard, but always dreamed of something better. “I had a passion for technology,” he says, sparked by a high school computer class.

Friends knew Rhasaan was frustrated with his job, and suggested he start taking Cisco and Linux classes at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. “I didn’t know anything about Cisco, or the Networking Academy, but I wasn’t afraid of computers and technology,” he said. “So, I jumped in and excelled.” Rhasaan now holds Cisco CCNA, CCNA-Security, and CCNP certifications. He also left that “dead-end job” for one at an Internet service provider, in its network operation center.  

Darci knew attending college was his pathway to a more rewarding future, so he moved his family hundreds of miles away to attend Spokane Community College and enroll in Cisco Networking Academy classes. Today, he maintains a 4.0 GPA in all of his Cisco courses, has received CCNA and CCENT certifications, is skilled in IPv6 and Linux, and has built numerous computers.

Darci’s hard work and determination did not go unnoticed by his instructor, who encouraged him to apply for the 2014 Dream Team. “‘It will change your life,’ she said, and she was right,” Darci said. “I come from a small town, but it helped open my mind to huge possibilities.”

Hard, rewarding work reinforces job-ready skills

Cisco Live was intense, Rhasaan says. “In the Air Force, we were trained to get in there and get the job done right the first time, so when I joined the Dream Team I just jumped into ‘Air Force mode.’ I really felt like I was part of something big.”

“Big” may be an understatement. The Dream Team and Cisco engineers—in just days—converted 3 semi-trucks of Cisco gear into a fully functional wireless network with 313 switches and 923 access points spread across three buildings, three floors, and two hotels, to support 2.2 gigabytes of Internet traffic for 25,000 conference attendees.

“Now that I had a hand in building it, I know it’s possible and makes your imagination and dreams bigger,” Rhasaan says.

The days leading up to Cisco Live were long, Darci says, as his team spent hours putting up access points, antennas, and cables, but the experience was invaluable. “I talked a lot with other engineers, and we shared information about technology and the network. It’s going to help my career, and it exposed me to the potential of an enterprise-level network. It was a life-transforming opportunity.”

Darci is the first one in his family to attend college. He says his parents and brothers are extremely proud of him. “And my wife, she knows what was there for us in our small town. By going to college we are now going to have a good future.”

“My friends asked me ‘How do I get in on something like that?’” Rhasaan says. “I tell them it’s the best opportunity to learn a career and skill, but you have to take that first step and enroll in Cisco Networking Academy.”

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“When I joined the Dream Team … I really felt like I was part of something big.”
— Rhasaan Kimbrough, Networking Academy student and former U.S. Air Force weapons technician