Congratulations to our New Community Spotlight Award RecipientsIt’s that time again…The Cisco Learning Network team is delighted to announce the new winners of our Community Spotlight Awards. Three recipients join the growing list of outstanding contributors who are recognized for their efforts and commitment, making them ideal members of our community. I would also like to thank the rest of our wonderful community for participating by submitting their nominations.


Please post your comments below and join us to congratulate our Community Spotlight Award winners for this round:



Members' Choice: Daniel Larsson

Technical Excellence: Nathan Farrar

Rookie: Micheline Murphy





What education and training (including certification) led you to where you are now?

Daniel: The short answer is - my curiosity and genuine interest for electronics and technology.


The longer answer is - that like many others I started out in the early ages, with Commodore 64 at the age of 6. I quickly moved on to using Amiga 500/600. It was during the Amiga-era that I found my passion for what came to be the general public access to The Internet. At local communities/clubs we had access to SUNET (which was an early access to The Internet in Sweden) and I quickly got hooked even though the funniest things we could do was to browse BBS.


I moved on to the PC-platform quickly after that and continued to self-educate myself about what and how this worked. From that point, I never looked back and I found WWW-to be very excited. So exciting that I started to learn Coding and Scripting and became quite good at it. That was my first IT-job as a Webbprogrammer in ASP.NET and HTML.


Since IT/Computers & Electronics were my hobbies, I decided after a couple of years to take a step back and work with Electronics. My reason was that I did not want my hobby to become less interesting just because i worked with it. So while I worked with electronics, I spend my spare time and evenings studying Comptuer Science/Engineering. Not specifically Datacommunications, anything that I found interesting was on my agenda.


I learned about servers, operating systems, novell and of course networking. It was somewhere around here that I decided to go back to IT and my passion for Communication. During this time - CCNA was on my agenda, as well as CCNP and other IT-certifications. I read/studied a lot of them, but never certified myself since I didn't work with IT. However I came to the conclusion that I would not get tired of this even if I worked with it, so I looked at various universities that offered CCNA/Cisco educations as part of their programs and then I found one that felt like it was the right thing for me. The Datacommunication courses were the most interesting ones to me, so that's how I got my CCNA R&S.


I never stopped and moved quickly to CCNP R&S and now I’m trying my best to find the time to prepare for the CCIE R&S lab, although I sadly have to admit that work takes a lot of studying hours away from that! I have never been satisfied with not knowing how things work, I love to learn new things....the more complicated, the better!


I am also working a lot with Design-questions, so that's what led me to pursue the CCDA and hopefully soon the CCDP.


So the best answer I can give to this question is that: That curiosity and my genuine interest for electronics and technology have led me to where I am now.


Nathan: My education actually started off in photography of all things! I’ve always been split between art and the sciences. In college I studied photography and computer science but really didn’t know what I wanted to do with either. After a voluntary early graduation I found myself in the home automation world. It was from here that I learned much from my peers and became curious. I’m largely self taught. Once I got my hands on the CCNA study material I got hooked and obtained my CCNA. While working as a programmer for automation systems and then later a project manager, I continued to study. My job didn’t put me in a position to truly satiate my curiosity for network technologies however. After getting my CCNA-Security I found an opportunity as an entry level engineer. Once in a role where I could really get my hands dirty, I did! I made lots of mistakes and learned a lot more from it. Since that time I’ve tackled achieved the CCDA certification. Around that time I also got the CXFS and CMNA (Cisco Meraki).


Micheline: I'm a retired lawyer with over a decade of litigation experience.  In 2014, I had a life-changing back injury and couldn't do the work I was doing. Instead of seeing my injury as a something catastrophic, I chose to see it as an opportunity--to remake myself. I chose network engineering, in part because my partner is in the field, but also in part because it seemed interesting. The deeper in I got, the more interesting it has become.


What's your job title now and what's really cool about your job?

Daniel: I work as an IT-consultant with Network Engineering as my Specialization and I am part of the Infrastructure Consulting team that tries to meet the high demands that clients expect from a senior consulting agency.


I just want to say that I'm not too fond of titles, but with my current client my title is Network Management - Infrastructure Technical Specialist. In more common terminology that's 3rd-level support for Network Management Systems like SolarWinds, Cisco LMS, Cisco Prime Infrastructure, IBM Netcool, and the network in general.


What's really cool about my job is that I always get challenged to come up with a design decision that should meet business demands...and it's usually not something I have done before, so it's always fun to be trusted to get involved in complex projects to try and make the best design decisions.


And of course - working as a consultant means you get to experience a lot of different companies and their technical infrastructure. Oh and I cannot forget to mention that I have the luxury to meet a lot of talented people from all IT-areas and learn a lot from all those experienced engineers I have to interact with!

Nathan: Currently I’m fortunate to be called a Senior Network Engineer. Over the past two years my job role has had some entropy. I do a lot of work with the Cisco ASA and medium size enterprise technology which is cool. What is really cool about my job is that I’ve had to become a “Swiss Army Knife” engineer. I work on servers and virtualization, mobility and voice, and even some systems automation still. Occasionally I’ll travel to various sites. My most recent fun trip was to configure a Cisco network on a yacht! Now that was a cool experience. Recently I’ve been able to work a bit in healthcare networks which is something that is very interesting to me.

Micheline: Full-time student and CCIE-bound!  I surprise myself every day that I find the subject matter interesting and exciting.  It's what keeps me at it, even though some days I think I might have jumped into the deep end of the pool.


Why did you decide to go into IT as a career and how long have you been working in IT?

Daniel: I think I have already answered that during the first question. More specifically, I decided that it was my evolves and you have to always stay on the edge and learn new things to keep up with technology. It comes natural for me to learn new things quickly, so IT is really a passion for me.


I have been working on and off with IT for about 14 years as a consultant taking on interesting projects. Some of them with IT and some of them with Electronics. But for the past 5 years I've been working as a Networking Consultant.

Nathan: I’m not really sure when it all started. Maybe when I was a kid taking apart my family’s first computer trying to figure it all out ( and totally getting in trouble for breaking it ). I really started to actively pursue it when I was in the automation field. I worked on audio and video control systems for sizable homes. It was complex wiring and lots of serial connections. There came a time when I started to see more and more devices with Ethernet ports. This was around the time that the old network hub started to disappear. It was then that I realized that there is going to be a big future with networking and home control. I meandered my way into the field some years later. Officially I’ve been an “IT” guy for about 10 years and an engineer for about 5.

Micheline: I am a disciplined, hard-working, and driven woman with exceptional communication skills.  I love an intellectual challenge--and network engineering is certainly intellectually challenging.  Someday I will put my considerable skills and intellect to work for a discerning employer.

But until then, I will be focusing full-time on my certifications.


What professional achievement(s) are you most proud of and what would you like to learn or do next in your career?

Daniel: This is difficult to answer. I think I am most proud of that I manage to explain complex things to other people so that they can understand it. I am proud of that people come and ask me for my opinion.


What I would like to do next in my career is to be a mentor or slowly start educating some of the things I know of. I just love to give advice and guide people in making the right choices based on their goals and qualifications. And of course to earn my CCIE R&S!

Nathan: My Cisco certifications are something that I’m proud of without a doubt. I’ve always tried to maintain a balance between all of the things I’m interested in. I think what I’m most proud of is that while I was studying for my CCNA and CCNA-Security I was very active in triathlon. I participated in a handful of half-ironman races as well as a dozen or so Olympic distance events. I know that isn’t necessarily a professional achievement but since I was in that whole community of triathlon-nuts I ended up rubbing elbows with others in the field as well. I found that work/play balance really helped me to focus. The discipline I learned in training has helped me to keep focused on my professional goals.


I don’t think I could answer a question about what I would like to learn… I may end up writing too much But in my next career, I’d like to be able to apply my work more creatively. I love problem solving but I also like to create. Perhaps getting more into design or consulting will be my next big thing.

Micheline: Many people might not have taken such a big leap as I did.  It's scary to just walk away from what you've been doing for so long.  I am proud of myself, that at 45, I had the courage to make the transition.  As I said above, I am setting my sights on the CCIE, and I'm very excited at the challenge.


What have you found most useful on the Cisco Learning Network?

Daniel: Without a doubt the chance to interact with and to have discussions with some of the most brilliant Network Engineers available. It's truly amazing how friendly and eager everybody is to help out, including some of the most recognized names in the industry. I always admire when I see that they take the time to answer questions and give their opinions in difficult topics.

Nathan: The community! That might go without saying but CLN really isn’t anything without the passionate people that hang around these parts, members and moderators alike. I’ve learned and will continue to learn a lot from this community. The site brings together people new to the field as well as well known veterans with many years of experience. The amount of knowledge available in the community is invaluable.

Micheline: I would imagine that many folks would say that the community is the most useful thing about the Cisco Learning Network. I feel privileged to have found this community and belonging to this community has given me a powerful tool in my own studies.

But for me personally, the most useful thing I have found about CLN is a forum in which I might be able to give back as well as receive. It is such valuable mental reinforcement to be able to help another member grasp an idea or a concept that I, myself, struggled with.  An idea or concept that maybe some other member helped me understand.


What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career / certification direction?

Daniel: I would say that the most important skill to have is to be determined and not give up. IT in general is a tough business where it's required to always adapt to changing situations. You will never be fully trained, and it's not for everybody due to that fact.


But if you are really serious about going with IT and Networking my recommendation would be to not cheat! There's no easy path but to learn and lab! Learn the foundation and the basics really well, and then add on with more complicated things. If you learn the foundation good you will succeed with your goals! I see too many people that take the easy path, it's not worth it. Study hard to learn things - that's the key to success!


And I have to also add:

USE LABS to verify theory! It's a perfect way to verify that you understand things correctly! I find myself too many times arguing about theory instead of verifying with labs, it would have saved so much time in those situations ;-).

Nathan: Most importantly, don’t lose your curiosity. There are going to be times that you may have trouble grasping a concept but if you can maintain your curiosity, you’ll get the answers you need. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out for support. Second most important advice is to not expect to find all of your answers in one place. CLN is one great resource, certification materials, video tutorials, and labs are another. One thing people tend to miss is that Cisco has a treasure trove of documentation right there on the site. Learning to dig through them will pay off in many ways.

Micheline: I'm kinda the new kid on the block, so I might not be the best person to give career advice, but I'm no stranger to crazy exams that require some serious commitment.  I would say, "It's a marathon, not a sprint.  Make a plan, pace out your plan, and make sure you build in some time for you to rest."  And go for it.  Commit with wild abandon!  I'll be there to cheer you on.