From chance student to true believer - Vice President Dan Huff's journey with Cisco Networking Academy


“Once I finished that first class, I was like hey, I really like this stuff. For some reason it was one of those technologies that came easy to me.”


“I manage a network operations team that oversees one of the world’s largest private networks,” says Dan Huff.

The Collin College graduate regularly visits the different Collin campuses to speak with Cisco Networking Academy students.

“Once I finished that first class, I was like hey, I really like this stuff. For some reason it was one of those technologies that came easy to me.”

A large network

“A lot of people don’t know how huge this network is,” he says. “I’ll go and talk at Collin College, show up in Cisco Networking Academy classes and talk to the students and I tell them we’re talking about more than 50,000 routers and switches that connect over 100 countries. More than 100,000 endpoints sit on that network. And that network—it’s a network for a bank—we move $4.6 trillion a day over that network! My team makes sure that this happens.”

Dan also talks to the students about how he ended-up in charge of a team of 30 people managing a critical network for a major international bank. “I have a selfish reason I’m there,” he says, “because maybe I’m going to find someone I’m going to hire! But on the non-selfish side, if some of those students can learn from my journey, get to hear what I had to go through, it may motivate them to keep going.”

“I had a great time at Collin. My time at Collin got me to where I’m at today. I’m very thankful for everybody there and the institution. I want to be able to go back and help out where I can,” he says.

Dan’s path to success

Dan’s journey wasn’t as straightforward as he’d originally hoped, even when it came to his studies. “I wanted to do something with computers, I grew up with computers, I was a computer nerd when I was a kid,” he says.

“Throughout high school I continued that passion for technology. Playing around with computers, building computers, building computers for friends and family, fixing people’s computers. I always had my head in a computer.”

Dan was encouraged to enroll in an electrical engineering degree, thinking it would be a gateway to a career in tech, but says “after a few semesters I kind of got tired of all the math classes.”

Discovering Cisco Networking Academy

“I was in a computer maintenance class and my professor asked me what my long-term plans were,” he says. After Dan explained his interest in computers, his professor encouraged him to try a Cisco Networking Academy class.

“Once I finished that first class, I was like hey, I really like this stuff,” he says. “For some reason it was one of those technologies that came easy to me.”

“I took that first class, and I spent the next year, year and a half in the Cisco Networking Academy program after that,” says Dan. “When I started going through the program, I was like hey, networking is where I want to be. That’s where I changed my degree to networking. I graduated with an Associates’ of Applied Science in Computer Networking.”


“I think I got my CCNA in 2001, I liked it so much I decided to hang-out at Collin for a while longer—I went through the CCNP program, and then got my CCNP.”

“I was ready for a job; I wanted that technical job. I had a mindset of ‘I’m going to get that network engineer job, I’m going to be a network administrator.’ I wanted to do network stuff. I’d spent all this time learning networking, now I’m going to get a job and get paid to do it. And I had a terrible time trying to find a job!”

“Nobody wanted to hire me because I didn’t have work experience. It is a lot better now. Looking back 20 years ago, companies really pushed hard—especially in these technical fields—you’d better have experience.”

Eventually after applying for hundreds of jobs, Dan started working for an insurance company, “doing things like helpdesk support.”

“I did that for a couple of years, then I landed a job at one of the world’s largest cybersecurity companies. I started there doing security supporting large business that used our products to secure their environment,” he says.

Move into management

After about seven years in that role, the opportunity came up to move into management, to take responsibility for a team of around 60 security engineers.

“I stepped away from the technology a bit to focus on management; people management; leadership. I didn’t know whether I was going to like it or not,” he says. “If you’d have asked me when I was at college whether I was going to be some sort of manager I’d have said absolutely not!”

“I would say that was a turning point because that just continued to elevate my career both at the security company and got me to where I am today at the bank.”

Dan returns to his true calling

“Looking back. If I go back to when I got that CCNA. The team that I manage, the role that my team is in—troubleshooting network issues—that would have been a perfect job for me coming out of that Cisco Networking Academy program,” says Dan.

“Coincidentally, almost everybody I ever hire for my team are fresh out of the Cisco Networking Academy program. If it was me 20 years ago, if there was an opportunity as a network analyst came up, I would have fit perfectly in there,” he says.

“Now that I’m managing a team of networking professionals, I can relate to that, I can understand that I can talk the talk,” says Dan. “I can sit down with one of my employees and talk about career development, I can talk about how awesome the Dallas Coyboys are, we can talk about networking. We can talk about the stuff they do every day.”

“Even though I took a rabbit trail down the cybersecurity path for 15 years, I was able to come back to networking. It took me a long time to get to where I thought I was going to be coming right out of the Cisco Networking Academy, but it was a journey,” he says.



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