Age Is No Barrier to Gaining IT Skills

Edgar Spikes, 88, from the United States, and Irtaza Haider, 13, from Pakistan, share a passion for learning and working with networking technology.

When Edgar Spikes enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy IT Essentials course at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana, the 88-year-old retiree had been out of school for 69 years. The course helped Spikes discover a fascination for computers, which led him to enroll in the Cisco CCNA course. 

Irtaza Haider was 12 years old when he successfully completed the CCNA curriculum at the Ahad IT Services academy in Faisalabad, Pakistan. At the age of 13, Haider became the youngest recipient of the Cisco CCNA certification.

Computer Issues Help Spark Passion for Technology

Spikes, who retired from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in 1983, doesn’t recall ever using a computer during his career. "I had a PC at home, but didn’t really know how to operate it," he says. "Then last year I attended a free computer course. The instructor told me about the IT Essentials class at Purdue. I couldn’t get anybody to repair my computer, so I though I’d take the class and learn how to do it myself."

Spikes enjoyed the IT Essential class so much that enrolled in a CCNA course. "I was fortunate to have William Robinson as an instructor," he says. "He encouraged me and took the extra time to help me out. The reading was sometimes difficult, but the hands-on aspect made it much easier." A highlight for Spikes was using the Cisco Packet Tracer simulation tool, which allows Networking Academy students to experiment with network designs and functionality in a virtual environment.

Robinson, an instructor in the computer engineering technology program at Purdue Calumet, is impressed with Spikes’ dedication. "He comes in and repeats an exercise until he gets it," Robinson says. "He’s an inspiration to the other students and everyone here."

Early Start in IT Fuels Career Aspirations

When Haider began his CCNA studies, he had already taken courses in JavaScript, Visual Basic, and HTML at Ahad IT Services in Faisalabad. He first became interested in the Networking Academy curriculum when he attended an Academy Awareness Day in Islamabad. "I was very much encouraged by the representatives at the event," he says. 

Haider believes his instructor played an important role in his success. "Syed Rizwan Dastgir motivated me to take the course," he explains. "Initially I heard that the CCNA course is rather difficult and a bit dry, but I found the curriculum very interesting." Haider also studied the course materials for several hours each day during his summer break to expand his knowledge.

Haider plans to earn his Cisco CCNP certification next and eventually work in the IT industry, where he hopes to "explore the world of networking."

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