How One Cisco Networking Academy Cybersecurity Instructor Is Changing Lives

The pressure to fill open cybersecurity jobs in Latin America is increasing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force more people online. One man in Ecuador is going above and beyond to share his cybersecurity knowledge with as many people as possible — Gustavo Salazar, Cisco Networking Academy Instructor.

A Doctor of Technology

Salazar didn't start out pursuing a career in technology, or even in teaching, he just knew he wanted to help people. "I wanted to become a doctor. I'm good at biology and chemistry," said Salazar. "I'm a different kind of doctor — a doctor of technology. I still get to help people. I help people with their knowledge instead of their health." Salazar's father, having firsthand knowledge of secure communications, from his time as an Army colonel in Ecuador, pushed him toward cybersecurity — a field where he would be sure to find work.

While finishing his electronic engineering (EE) degree, Salazar enrolled in Cisco Networking Academy. He found that the classes he was taking referenced more up-to-date technologies than his regular college courses and often shared out what he was learning with his peers.

Giving Knowledge to Everyone Who Needs It

By the time Salazar earned his Cisco Certified Network Associate certification in 2007, he realized how education could change lives — and he had fallen in love with teaching. "I want to give knowledge to everyone who needs it," he said. "Seeing the smiling faces of my students makes me happy."

Salazar has taught more than 100 Networking Academy courses, including CCNA, CCNP, CCNA Security, CyberOps Associate, IT Essentials, Python, and Linux. He especially enjoys teaching college students about networking security and cybersecurity. “Because my father works in the Army’s communications, I have a good sense of how important security is,” said Salazar. “This field will explode exponentially, and it is changing every day – we are trying to stay one step ahead.” In his eight years as a Networking Academy instructor, Salazar has helped more than 1,500 students learn networking and cybersecurity skills.

Emulating his Networking Academy teachers’ approachable style in Argentina, Salazar strives to break down the barriers between himself and his students. “I do all the labs with them, explaining theory in practice, making them wonder the what, how and why of everything we learn,” said Salazar. “I show them my tricks and the experiences that I've learned in real life networking scenarios — they really appreciate that I share those experiences with them.”  This approach has led his classes to continuously be top-rated.

Salazar goes beyond just teaching his students. He went into business with one student, Carlos, building an IoT start-up together “now he has a better life and we are creating jobs for others through our start-up,” said Salazar.

Although Networking Academy classes draw students from different socio-economic backgrounds and locations in Ecuador, Salazar wants to find a ways to spread information even farther. He a works with prisoners, teaching them IT skills they can use to find work after they are released and he also regularly blogs about new technology and shares his posts on social media.

More than Networking Skills

Salazar's students learn more than just networking and cybersecurity skills. He believes in leading by example and pushes his students to value hard work, responsibility, organization, and goal setting. He attributes an easy connection with his students to his youth; his students see themselves in him. Many go on to become networking teachers themselves. By helping his students transform their own lives through education or becoming teachers, he finds they are inspired to transform the lives of others, helping expand Latin America's pool of qualified cybersecurity professionals and improve the lives of countless others.

Salazar recently earned his Cyber Ops certification from Cisco, and in his typical style, he isn't stopping there. He is already planning to earn his next networking certification — CCIE — in 2021.

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