When Cisco asked for more teenage participation, they may not have been ready for South Texas.

A couple of years ago at Cisco live in Las Vegas Nevada, Chuck Robbins took the centerstage to talk about the future of Cisco. Mixed in through the presentation about growth of the company, new products, new services an so on, was a statement that he made. “Wouldn’t you love to see some highschoolers here next year?”

There was a thunderous applause from the audience as he was talking about how future generations could get involved with networking.

A little background

I’ve been operating a nonprofit organization in South Texas called CodeRGV for about the last five years with some incredible partners. We’ve been able to do some pretty amazing stuff when it comes to out reach, technology education, training, and certifications. So when I heard this on the main stage at Cisco live, I took it to heart.

I came home, got together with my organization and tried to figure out a way to start training a younger audience to get more involved with Cisco networking. I wanted to put together CCNA classes that our schools weren’t offering so high school graduates could have something to prepare them for the job market as they got ready for college.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

We didn’t have the gear, but we had a local CCIE and a talent pool ready to help. We had local organizations that were willing to lend us their Cisco certified professionals to help act as mentors and we have the space to do it in at our local McAllen Creative Incubator.

Working with our local municipality, the city of McAllen, the IT department went to bat for us and put in the request to allow us to use, on extended loan, a lot of their old gear. Enough to set up labs for about 20 people.

Inspired by the youth

One of the main reasons that we did this was because a 14-year-old student name Michael had approached us in the previous years who wanted to be a part of what we were doing. He wanted to learn as much as he could and not only be on the receiving end of the education, but then use that knowledge to help teach others what he had learned.

With his passion and dedication to soaking up as much information about technology as he could, he was one of the perfect people to help get this program off the ground.

Kicking it off

Our CCNA study group consisted of about a loose 20 people who got together every week and were self driven, self-taught, and self motivated. Some of them got all the way through their CCNA, some of them didn’t make it. And then, some of them were like Michael.

Early on, I reached out to the Cisco live team to try and help coordinate a way to get our CCNA students tickets to the big show, if they got their CCNAs. Kind of a way to reward them with something they’d love. I wanted them to experience Cisco live and understand everything that is involved in the world of technology and how it builds an ecosystem around a vendor.

Try as they might, they were unable to get me approved to get someone like Michael on the show floor. Apparently there’s an age limit of 21 and over. Even with a chaperone.

But that didn’t stop Michael..

Now, here we are in 2019 and on a Saturday afternoon I get word from Michael that he’s completed the last test for his CCNP route and switch. At 15 years old this makes him one of the youngest CCNPs that I’ve ever heard of. Too young, still, to attend Cisco live in the next few weeks though.

Let’s make this right, Chuck.

I’m not saying that there’s a double standard set by the CEO of one of the largest networking corporations in the world, I just don’t think he knows that there is an age limit on the people that are allowed to attend the show. The enthusiasm and support was there during the announcement, there has just been no follow through. Yet. 😉

The words that were spoken that day a few years back resonated enough to help drive local decisions to help bring people into the world of Cisco and networking as a whole. They asked for action, we took action. Maybe the world just isn’t ready for it.

I think it would be incredible to see special sessions and breakouts that engage and involve teenagers, like Michael, who are passionate about pursuing a technology career at Cisco Live, HPE Discover, Aruba Atmosphere, and more.

So happy to help

I am so absolutely proud to be a part of Michael’s path forward and everyone else who we get to interact with at CodeRGV. I’m also humbled by the support that he has received from people I’ve been fortunate enough to introduce him to, including those who help shape the CCIE.

It currently has an age limit on it as well, and I am all for making special exceptions for those that prove that they have the will power, knowledge, and desire to forge forward and become the best that they can be!

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