Enjoying the Specialized Life
Certifications sharpen focus on the most personally
interesting aspects of IT
When it comes to IT careers, some people prefer the unpredictability of the helpdesk environment, where they never know what each day will bring. Others, however, enjoy learning all they can about a specific facet of IT, and following these interests on their career path.
Ismael Torres is definitely in the latter category. And Cisco certifications have helped him dive deeper into his specialty as a Proxy Support Engineer. "When you work on the helpdesk, you’re a jack-of-all-trades,” says Ismael. “But when you’re Cisco certified, you have a specialization, and that allows you to have a focus. Cisco certifications help you get in the door and look for career opportunities that correlate with what you like to do and specialize in. It gives you stability. You wouldn’t take it this far unless you really liked it."
Working for the ISP of NYC
For over a year, Ismael has held an IT position with the Internet service provider (ISP) for the government of New York City. He and 1500 other internal staff members serve 300,000 employees—from normal staff all the way up to the Mayor. "We’re part of the Internet edge; we ensure that everyone we serve connects to the Internet," says Ismael.
Ismael monitors Internet and network traffic for suspicious URLs and links, and keeps an eye on bandwidth and usage for each of the city’s 60 agencies. He also makes sure the Internet-facing applications are working correctly. "This is one area where my Cisco certifications have been very helpful, because we can easily interface with traditional network design staff, and let them know if there are any routing issues."
A refreshing opportunity
Ismael’s first exposure to a career in technology came in high school, and by playing video games. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Technology degree at a local university.
After graduation, Ismael did Windows administration for architectural firms, then began working for a medical-related government organization. Soon, he was in the middle of a next-generation network refresh. "This project changed my idea of what happens on the inside, in the background, in network rooms, closets, and data centers,” recalls Ismael. “It opened my eyes to a network career. I also saw the advantages of working for the government, which provides stable jobs and good benefits."
Working on the network refresh project steered him toward his first Cisco certification, a CCENT certification. "In government, you’re usually not allowed to touch anything unless you’re certified," says Ismael. To study for the ICND1 and ICND2 exams, he had the help of the mentor who was guiding him on the network refresh. He also used Cisco Press books, watched videos, and tested various scenarios in labs.
Proof of the best person for the job
Ismael successfully passed the two CCNA Routing and Switching exams, and also received a Cisco specialization in wireless (the predecessor to the CCNA Wireless certification). He then started working toward a CCNP Routing and Switching certification. He recently passed the SWITCH exam, and is currently studying for the ROUTE portion of the certification testing.
With several Cisco certifications to his name, Ismael feels that his employer has benefited as much as he has. “Employers want someone they can trust to do the right thing, and Cisco certifications confirm that,” says Ismael. “They help employers sleep at night, knowing that the right person is on the job. The fact that you spent the time and effort to get each certification is noticed and recognized.”
Looking down the road
For the long term, Ismael has set his sights on a CCIE Routing and Switching certification. “Sooner or later, you have to take a crack at the top certification,” says Ismael. “I want to be the best network engineer: the guy trusted to build the network. And certifications allow me to show that I have a technical advantage to do so.”
Ismael has some heartfelt advice for anyone considering Cisco certifications. “It’s a commitment. Make sure your spouse or partner is okay with that commitment. It’s a demanding goal that requires putting in a lot of time, but it’s very beneficial. As things change and update, at the end of the day, you’ll always need network knowledge.”
With a new baby and a two-year-old, what little free time Ismael has is devoted to running. He’s planning to run in the New York City Marathon later this year. “It’s a bucket list item to get out of the way.”
Whatever the future holds, Ismael appreciates his Cisco certifications—and the connections to Cisco that they’ve made. “Cisco is a great company. They’ve kept me informed of the latest and greatest trends. They’ve also helped me develop my career, and enabled me to interface with anyone in the company, even at the CIO and CEO levels.”