Vimala Veerappan, a technical marketing engineer for Cisco Catalyst switches, became passionate about networking while still in college. Since graduating, she has continued her education and advanced her career through Cisco certifications, receiving the Cisco CCIE certification in 2007.
Describe your current job and what a typical day is like for you.
I work on a team that allows me to take my technical knowledge and deliver that information to a variety of Cisco customers and internal groups. As a technical marketing engineer, my goal is to showcase the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and 4500 Series products in different business cases.
My job involves continuous learning. As the industry grows, so do the features and capabilities of our products. These new technologies are then implemented in the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and 4500 Series products to meet the requirements of businesses across the globe.
What education, preparation, and training brought you to this place in your career?
I have a degree in information sciences and technology from Pennsylvania State University, where I was introduced to networking through an internship at a large insurance company. I received my first full-time job at this company after college, and received the CCNA certification while I worked there.
After I came to work at Cisco, I knew I wanted to pursue a technical career path, and so the value of attaining additional certifications became clear. I received the CCNP certification a few years ago and last year I achieved the CCIE level.
What professional and personal experiences have led you to this phase of your career?
After my first professional job as a network engineer at the insurance company, I joined Cisco in 2004. This was a dream come true for me because I knew Cisco was a leader in the industry.
My first job at Cisco was in the LAN switching team in the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC), supporting all of the Cisco Catalyst hardware and software products. After a few years in that role, I joined the escalation team for the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switches, which is part of the product business unit. Currently, I am part of the Technical Marketing group for both the Cisco Catalyst 6500 and Catalyst 4500 teams.
Who have been role models for your career and what did you learn from them?
Specific role models in my career have always been those who have been successful in the networking industry. This includes people who have their CCIE certifications and also those who have in-depth technical knowledge and experience. These individuals are able to communicate technical information and share their expertise through their presentation skills. As a result, they gain the confidence of others as well as professional recognition and respect.
What has been your biggest professional contribution to date?
Passing my CCIE certification. While preparing for this exam, I was able to get a very in-depth knowledge of the protocols that were covered on the test. The topics on the CCIE exam are not only the most common protocols, but it covers a variety of areas, which allows you to have an end-to-end understanding of Cisco-based networks.
Now this knowledge helps me when I'm troubleshooting a customer problem because I better understand how the Cisco Catalyst switches interact with other technologies.
What do you hope to still discover, learn, or accomplish in your career?
In the networking field, one thing is always a constant: technologies and protocols are continuously changing. I want to continue growing in my technical field and become a well-rounded network engineer as new theories are challenged and innovative ideas are brought to the table.
What excites you about technology and networking and about working in this field?
Networking just makes sense to me. All of the pieces fit into a puzzle, and everything builds upon each other, which allows you to do more with the technology and that's exciting. Also, the ability to work well with many different people and to establish effective relationships is just as important as continuing to expand my technical knowledge.
What are the opportunities that working in technology offers for women?
Don't feel that you can't pursue a technical career just because you are a woman. If you can show that you have strong technical knowledge and skills, you'll get the respect of your male colleagues. In this field (as well as others), the true test of an individual is what you know and what you bring to the table. If you feel intimidated by entering a male-dominated field, join one of the many professional groups for women in IT, where you will find advice and support. Don't let anything stop you from getting ahead in your career.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar career direction?
The fundamentals you learn while studying for a Cisco certification, along with the basics of TCP/IP, can take you anywhere, to different networking jobs in different companies. Reaching the CCIE level is a huge achievement that helps you stand out from others as you move through your career.
Vimala Veerappan spoke with Cisco Learning Network contributing writer Janice King in May 2008.