Meet the Cisco Learning Network VIPs
The Cisco Designated VIP program recognizes the top contributors among Cisco online communities, including the Cisco Learning Network and the Cisco Support Community. With this program, Cisco formally recognizes the positive contributions that our top individual members make to the Cisco Learning Network. For more information: Cisco Learning Network VIP program, eligibility, qualifications, and benefits.
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Aref Alsouqi is a Cisco network and security engineer with 16 years’ experience who lives in Italy, where he works as an IT consultant for his small company. Aref is the man of “Hmm, what if I do that instead…? Let me try to change that and see what happens…!! Why is that working that way and not the other?!!” Aref spends his days and nights digging deep and immersing himself into Cisco technologies. As well as being a Cisco fan, he also works with other technologies, like Windows and Linux servers, Mac OS X, VMware, and Exchange servers. Aref considers himself a troubleshooter, and VPN troubleshooting is one of his favorite things to do. He studied on his own and gained experience in his own small lab with real Cisco devices.
Aref really enjoys working in the IT field, especially with Cisco technologies, and he always tries to convince his customers to replace their non-Cisco devices with Cisco ones! He has worked, and provided support, for customers in many countries around the world, including the USA, UK, Italy, Germany, Dubai, Sweden, Jordan. He has also provided technical solutions to Internet Service Providers and telecommunication companies over the world. Typically he uses remote technical support sessions to accomplish his job.
Aref is always an active member on CLN (though he may be a little quieter during his final preparation for Cisco exams!) and he won the CLN Spotlight Award on May 2014. He enjoys participating and giving support on CLN and he considers that an important part of his continuing learning as well. Aref believes that CLN is an important technical and professional resource for all IT technicians since it has a lot of very well qualified people from all over the world. He also believes in sharing his IT experience with the others and learning from them at the same time as well.
Aref is about to start his journey toward his CCIE Security exam. After that he will be working toward his CCIE R&S, where he is looking forward to mastering IPv6 and MPLS. Aref believes that he won’t ever be finished with learning about technology as there are always new things to learn. He also believes that a lot of undocumented things are learnt only by sharing expertise with others and by building scenarios in lab environments. His dream is to reach a master level of expertise and knowledge within Cisco! When Aref has free time, he enjoys swimming and travelling to discover and explore the beautiful world, people and their culture.
Chandan Singh Takuli is a (CCIE) Voice #41344. He is also a Cisco Designated VIP of 2014 for the Cisco Learning Network and a Community Spotlight Award Winner for August 2013 – October 2013. He also holds his Juniper Certification in JNCIA-JUNOS & JNCIS-ENT. His work experiences include Managing & Maintaining the PepsiCo India networks across India with PepsiCo WAN connectivity, where he also Received Star Performer of The Year Award 2011-12. His other job roles also include HCL Infosystem Ltd as Network Engineer *** Team Lead for National Informatics Centre (India), and he holds a Certification in Linux for RHCE Module 033 & 133
During his early years, after earning his B.Tech in Computer Science, Chandan was inspired by a CCIE to work towards his own certification. This is when his future course of action became clear. While incorporating an absolute method to reach his goal, and finding an approach for himself, he spent countless hours studying, researching and pondering, which led him to leave his job to devote his time more fully to preparing for his CCIE voice. “Everything is possible when you fuel yourself with curiosity of “why’s and what’s” he says. “Many doubts will arise as you work towards your goal, but that should only inspire you to further research. Networking can be learned & excelled by any individual with the right amount of fire and passion.”
As a proactive and a contributing member of the Cisco Learning Network, he dedicates a portion of his time to making positive contributions. As for his future ventures, his next step would be to attain his CCIE R&S, amongst others. As SDN is making a bigger place in a Network Engineer’s life, he is also looking forward to going deeper into programming as he has experience as a C/C++ programmer. Chandan is located In India. (UTC+05:30).
Daniel Dib is a Senior Network Consultant and CCIE #37149 (RS). He spends his days working with network design, architecture, and as a subject matter expert, but also network design implementation. He has been in the networking industry since 2007 and is a former student of the Cisco NetAcad. Daniel holds a degree in network engineering, which is where he first got in touch with Cisco equipment. He is an active person in the networking community and believes in helping people reach their full potential. He writes technical articles, blogs and holds member led study session for the members of the Cisco Learning Network. He is currently studying to become a Cisco Certified Design Expert.
In his spare time he enjoys the company of his two children and his fiancée. He likes to work out and is a big sports fan. Daniel lives in Sweden and is located in UTC+1 time zone.
Darren Starr started his networking career quite recently following a long term career in software engineering. He wrote the first version of the Opera Web Browser to function on a platform other than Windows when he ported it to Linux. He also worked as a protocol and video technology engineer at Tandberg Video which was later acquired by Cisco Systems. In 2012, all video broadcast signals leaving the Olympics in London to broadcasters around the world were transmitted using video bridges developed by a small team of engineers at Nevion, which he was lucky enough to be a member of. During that project, he found he really wanted a better understanding of networking and how the world’s Internet operated. When the opportunity arose, he jumped ship and changed careers.
Darren’s strong past in network protocol design and engineering paved the way for him to make a smooth entry to the Cisco Networking world. Having a prior understanding of how IP and routing protocols operate, he was able to move rapidly through the early stages of learning in this new career. The Cisco Learning Network, however, played a crucial role in his shift to becoming a Cisco Certified Systems Instructor. The Cisco Learning Network enabled him to harden his understanding and to learn through teaching others. As such, he has been able to establish a successful career as a business owner and consultant, and to focus almost entirely on learning and teaching Cisco technologies.
Since starting with Cisco, all traces of a personal life have seemed to dissolve. Since his favorite hobby is to learn and there is so much to learn within Cisco, Darren has been consumed day and night for nearly 3 years in learning as much as he can about Cisco. Darren now spends his evening developing new course material for Cisco Learning Network Premium, working toward his CCIE Service Provider exam, and studying for his MCSE in Private Cloud.
Darren, originally from New York, currently resides in Sunny Oslo, Norway with his wife Åse Marit, son Thomas (aka Zippy) and daughter Maia (aka Pickles). After much therapy, he can now pronounce the letter ‘R’.
DelVonte Deary, a native of Southern California, is a Senior Network Engineer for Serena Software. Based in Colorado, he has a wealth of experience in a variety of technology fields, such as Server Administration, Telephony, and UNIX Software Management systems. Now, with a CCNP earned in 2011, he brings all these experience together to meet the new challenges that his job brings. DelVonte firmly believes in having a plan for what you want to achieve with regards to life, learning, and career, and in using that plan to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. Finding new things to learn, accepting challenges, and studying are part of his recipe for self-improvement and for moving forward in his work and life goals.
Outside of his Cisco Learning Network activities, DelVonte focuses on his three ‘F’s; Faith, Family, and Friends. These are the things that help drive him further, especially while he goes back to college to further his education and continue in his quest to master his craft. DelVonte is located in the Mountain time zone (UTC -7).
Elvin Arias was born and raised in the Dominican Republic in the town of San Jose De Ococa. As a child, he envisioned working in science or economics. All that changed after he received a scholarship to study technology, specifically networking. The scholarship provided him with the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and start his career in IT where he has been working since 2008. Currently Elvin works with a group of Network Technicians and Administrators for a government entity, where his primary focus is network security. He enjoys the daily challenges of troubleshooting, monitoring and maintaining the network and the supporting environment.
With the training in networking that he received, reading blogs, using videos, and being an active member of the Cisco Learning Network, Elvin passed the CCNA exams in Route and Switching, Security and also maintains a CCNP certification in Routing and Switching. Elvin is proud to work as an IT professional and hopes to earn additional certifications though continued study.
"I like being able to collaborate with other people on different technologies. I've learned a ton here on the Cisco Learning Network," he says. Elvin has some sound advice for those who are interested in pursuing a certification: "Find what you would like to do and start building your professional career based on that." When it comes to choosing a path in networking, he also notes: "...there is a plethora of possibilities: routing & switching, security, voice, wireless, data center and more." He adds, "Finding a mentor is always a good idea, too. Be patient and never give up!"
When not involved in networking, he likes to listen to music, study math, play with his dogs, watch movies and catch up with his favorite TV series - Game of Thrones and Dexter.
Jared Hainline is a Senior Network Specialist who enjoys working in many different areas of technology and considers himself a generalist. He began his journey in technology as a Desktop support tech, progressed on to Novell servers, earning a Master CNE with Novell. He switched gears to networking, progressing on to earning his CCNP in Routing and Switching and a CCNA in Wireless. Today he works with many different technologies including Security, Data Center and Voice. A self- starter when it comes to learning, Jared spends a lot of his time keeping an eye on trends, researching topics and participating on the Cisco Learning Network. Additionally, he participates in the VIP perspectives blog to share his experiences regarding preparing for a certification exam or for wanting to learn more about the IT networking field. Jared has been a VIP since the start of the program in 2011.
When needing a break, Jared takes time to be with his family. Being a dad is the most rewarding job he has ever had. Other interests/hobbies include music, (80s rock all the way!) collaboration, genealogy and history. "If we don't learn from history, we repeat it. I would rather learn."
Jon K. Johnson (Jay) retired from 20 years service in the U.S. Air Force as a Senior Manager (E-7/MSgt) from the communications career field. During this time, he earned the Air Force rated "Network" prefix (“N”) for continued demonstration of excellence regarding his network skillset. Over this 20 year period of service (Nov 1990 – Feb 2011), he was not only fortunate enough to see the beginnings of technological advances that have become a staple in today’s society, (e.g., open internet access, electronic communication/storage/records management), but to have also played a part in their implementation on the Air Force network during various parts of his active duty service time.
Since retirement, he's worked in the position(s) of "Information Assurance Network Manager for the Army (under the company "Data Tactics Inc."), Voice and Data Network Technical Manager for HCL Technologies, and Datacenter Implementation Manager for a P3I Inc. He's currently working for Arma-Global as a Network Engineer. Within the next year or so, he hopes to have his CCNP Voice and ITIL certifications completed.
Jay is most recognized for providing his own self-styled videos to assist other learners (and himself) as they make their way through Cisco's evolving technologies. As a lifelong student, Jay understands that there's "many roads to the top of the mountain" and all we need to do is "find one" that's appropriate for our current situation.
Currently, Jay holds Cisco certifications for CCNA (Voice, R&S, Security), CCDA, CCNP (R&S), and CompTIA (Network+, Server+, Security+, I.T. Project+). Additionally, he holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology.
Joshua Johnson is the business owner of NetworkEngineer.net. He loves network engineering and helping others with their studies. Joshua's network engineering business was founded to support those who aspire to be great engineers; those who love to learn and who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of knowledge. These are the people he likes to call family. One of his favorite quotes is "I believe the pursuit of knowledge is a noble one. There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." - Ernest Hemingway. He is an active member on the Cisco Learning Network and participates in various study groups including CCENT, CCNA, CCNP and the CCIE forums.
Joshua is a Marine Corps Veteran, who worked as a network engineer in Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, carrying out switching and routing duties in the desert while scud missiles flew overhead. He did not, however, take network engineering seriously until around 2009, when he took stock of his life and decided to stop working in administrative positions, and spent three months studying for his CCNA, passing the composite exam. While holding his CCNA, he continued to work hard, obtaining his CCNP in January 2012 and spending the next three years in his first network engineering job. "My position at Unisys was really great; I had a great manager and a great team." He's not working now, spending all of his time working on his CCIE R&S certification and developing his business.
Joshua attributes his success to his passion for networking. He loves spending time with friends from the Cisco Learning Network and Facebook, who have become like family. He spends most of his time studying and working on his certifications. Helping others on the Cisco Learning Network is his passion and he has even taught some classes at his local junior college. However, there is one thing that is more important to him that keeps him going: "All that I have done couldn't have been accomplished without my wife. Sophia is my life and I couldn't have done it all without her. I love you Sophia!"
Milan Rai is from Nepal and started his career as a Desktop Support Technician for a small computer shop. Graduating in management, but with an interest to learn about networking, he enrolled in studies for CCNA. Milan now holds global certifications in MCSE, CCNA & CCNP R&S. As a result of his efforts and dedication, he now works as a Network Administrator at Himalayan Bank Ltd, one of the most reputable commercial banks in Nepal.
After beginning his career in networking he came to realize that the condition of IT in Nepal often made it hard to get good career counseling and support. Knowing this, he began Career Counseling sessions to talk about the importance of IT careers for school and college students. "Motivating youth towards the IT profession can bring big development for the nation", is one of the quotes that he loves to use as a motivational speaker in Nepal.
Milan was a Cisco Learning Network Spotlight Award Winner in November 2013 for being an active member of the community. He is currently involved as Community Administrator of the Nepal Cisco User Group (NCUG), an open community for Cisco Certification students from Nepal. As the representative of NCUG, he delivers speeches regarding the importance of the Cisco Learning Network and the Nepal Cisco User Group. Milan is currently working hard for his CCIE and spends his most of his spare time on the Cisco Learning Network. His dream is to set up a perfect networking platform for the upcoming generation in Nepal.
Riikka Sihvonen, often also known as "Sir", "Mr. Sihvonen", or "She's the man", is a Network Engineer and overall technology aficionado. She currently works as a Data Center Technician for a local service provider. Her main responsibilities include maintaining and developing data center operations. Riikka received her Bachelor's degree in 2012, and academic success earned her an honorary scholarship. Riikka was first introduced to the industry in 2008, when she was a student of Cisco Networking Academy. Seeing the Cisco certification pyramid at the first lesson, she was instantly enthralled and determined to reach the top one day. The journey continues but Riikka currently holds four Cisco certifications: CCNP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNA Security. Riikka is tirelessly working to obtain more, and is now pursuing her CCIE. In addition to being an avid learner, Riikka is an enthusiastic teacher of networking technologies. She strongly believes in education, and she likes to share her knowledge by replying to questions in detail, producing technical content, and contributing to a blog.
When not immersed in professional development or contributing to the Cisco Learning Network community, Riikka enjoys photography and sports. Recently she has also become more involved in non-profit organizations and voluntary work, trying to contribute to charities whenever possible. Riikka resides in Finland and is located in the UTC+2 time zone.
VIPs from previous years