When you become part of a workplace, one thing you need to do is start building relationships with your coworkers and management. Some of us find it easier than others, but regardless of ease, what helps everyone is having a commonality – something that helps you connect to start forming a camaraderie – genuine relationship.
For Dom Chavez and Malcolm Smith, their intersection point was that they both were former Cisco Networking Academy students that met in the workplace at Presidio. Dom met Malcolm when he joined his team. As a manager, Dom kept communication lines open with his team members, which allowed him and Malcolm to engage in troubleshooting, career growth conversations, and getting through day-to-day tasks.
“ There are assumptions you can make about folks who share that common educational background. Taught me that more people are generally willing to help than not.”
Education as a Commonality
By engaging in conversations together, a mentorship type of relationship was formed, even after they both moved onwards to different teams, within the same company. Their commonality of Networking Academy provided a baseline for their friendship to grow at work. Dom explained how it is a “networking mentality, that being in Networking Academy, we are here on our time and it is cool.”
Malcolm noticed “a common denominator for him at work, with certain team members is that they are from Networking Academy. There are assumptions you can make about folks who share that common educational background. Taught me that more people are generally willing to help than not.”
When asked what the top things he learned from Networking Academy, Dom shared that it is “networking. People networking. Building relationships. I know the impact my instructor, the late Jerry Mesquita from North Lake College, had on me. The relationship with him was lifechanging. Some of the relationships I have made over the years, it is all because of Networking Academy.”
He goes on to share that “one of my biggest challenges was to figure out which skills to hone. It taught me to be more goal-oriented, it helped having mentors who guided me. They told me if I want this, I need to put in the time. I got to see what I did not know. When I got my CCNA, it was the first time I went through a program and excelled at it. It made me see that I could put together things that I learned.”
One of the experiences that was a pivotal point for Malcolm, was his participation in a Networking Academy Dream Team for Cisco Live! It was a project-based opportunity, where he worked alongside professionals to setup the network infrastructure for the event. “It shows you what it could look like. To be able to see how it [networking] is being used. Seeing the trade show at that magnitude and being able to speak with so many people, so many geniuses. It changed my life.”
From the Dream Team experience, Malcolm made connections with professionals in the field as well as his fellow team members. He shares how it was a “unique opportunity to get those connections. And to leave there with those connections.” Through these relationships he was better able to understand the potential of types of roles available. And he actively maintains his relationship with his fellow team members.
His experience with Networking Academy, “showed a better side of humanity. People are willing to help, share information, and help you up.” Malcolm credits his instructors, Jacob Brigance and Julie Ballew at Tulsa Tech, for his transformation that has had a life changing impact.
“One of my biggest challenges was to figure out which skills to hone. It taught me to be more goal-oriented, it helped having mentors who guided me. They told me if I want this, I need to put in the time.”
Paying it Forward
Both Malcolm and Dom communicate with each other to troubleshoot problems and strategize through scenarios. Though they no longer are in the same department, they find value in each other’s feedback as well as their friendship that has formed. Dom shares, that though “he was on his own journey and I was on my own, at the end of the day you came from the same place. So being able to show him the ropes, hear about his growth – personally and professionally- that’s really the most enjoyment I get.”
As Dom reflects on his journey to where he is today, he is astounded that a kid who grew up in the neighborhood that he is from, was able to create this career pathway for himself. “The neighborhood I grew up in, I am not expected to be here. It is shocking that I am here. Though at the same time it is not, because I know how hard I worked to get here.”
He has taken his success in stride and is determined to pay it forward to those around him, who are looking to lift themselves up. Outside of mentoring at work, he also plays an active role by offering advice during Networking Academy Career Fairs as a representative of Presidio. He has noticed during group interviews of Networking Academy candidates, “They are nailing it. They have that structure.” But he also cautions, “it is great that you are part of the academy, but you have to put in the work for it to benefit you. If you put it on your resume, you should know it. Backwards and forwards.”
Ultimately, your education, your career success is what you make of it – but Networking Academy can aid in preparing you for the workplace. It can help you get a job and help you continue with your growth because you have the fundamental concepts to build upon. It also provides you a common link to connect with fellow alumni in the workplace and a network of employers seeking out skilled Networking Academy students to join their teams.
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