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Impact Story: Networking Academy, North Carolina

Communication skills set a Networking Academy student apart

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Nick Saylor loves to travel, and his latest road trip across the United States was his most exciting yet. After working with the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team at Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego, Nick was hired by Cisco as a wireless support technician in North Carolina, where he’s making the most of his communication and technical skills.

When Nick Saylor left school at Purdue University and moved to San Diego, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Nick loved computers and always enjoyed tinkering with technology, but also knew he had a talent for connecting with people. “Early on, I explored the job market, and an old family friend told me to apply to Apple,” Nick said. “I attended a hiring event, went through interviews, and they chose me as one of the 50 candidates.”

Nick joined a local Apple retail store in 2011 and worked at the Genius Bar for four years. There, he picked up valuable career skills, like communicating with customers and working in small teams. “I didn’t have any of those skills before moving to San Diego,” he said. “I had always worked in small environments or by myself.” However, the retail environment at Apple opened up opportunities for Nick, including taking Cisco Networking Academy courses in his free time.

Connecting with people and computers

Nick began taking Cisco Networking Academy Courses courses at San Diego Continuing Education in 2013 to build on his interest in IT and programming. “I always understood how to code, but I wanted to learn how to build networks and connect one component to another.”

After four semesters working and attending classes at night, he earned his Cisco CCENT Certification and learned how important communication can be in the IT field. “Our classes were very small, and we communicated all the time,” Nick said. “You have to be really good with talking to people, and we became a tight group of friends by the end of our last semester.”

When Cisco Live came to San Diego in 2015, Nick’s instructor urged him to apply for the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team – a group of students who set up the event’s massive network, assist Cisco’s network engineers, and showcase their skills for potential employers.

The skills Nick had honed at Apple helped set him apart in San Diego. He attached himself to the Dream Team leaders, picked up as much knowledge as he could, and worked closely with a few of the veteran national team members. Because of his tenacity, Nick made a connection with a customer support engineer from Cisco’s RTP campus in North Carolina and was soon hired to work there as a wireless support technician.

“Nick exhibited good qualities in his soft skills while we did the interview,” said Gilbert George, a Technical Support Manager and Nick’s current manager in RTP. “He was calm, composed, articulate, and set the right expectations with the engineers who did the interview. And he had technical skills, which he had learned through Cisco Networking Academy and through his own effort, which proved to us that he had the capacity, capability, and the self-learning zeal of the technology.”

The trip of a lifetime

In early August 2015 Nick packed his bags, loaded his car, and left San Diego for North Carolina. After beginning his new job as a wireless support technician, he noticed he was more prepared for the workplace than he’d ever imagined.

“My technology concepts are enough to be good,” he said during his first week on the job. “My ability to talk and communicate are the most valuable skills,” and they’re skills he’s been using while fielding calls, getting customers set up in labs, and handling customer support requests.

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“My technology concepts are enough to be good, but my ability to talk and communicate set me apart and are the most valuable skills.”
— Nick Saylor, former Cisco Networking Academy student hired as a wireless support technician at Cisco