Solving Each Day’s IT Mystery
Certifications help engineer stand on his own
As a young person, Brian Nelson has an enviable life and career. He’s a junior network engineer for a worldwide global non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at a nearby college. Best of all, he has a passion for what he does.
“When you have an IT networking career, every day is different; it’s never the same thing twice,” says Brian. “I’m always trying to improve and I like challenges, especially something new or odd. On a good day, it’s fun to get involved and start on your mystery. What changed? And why did it change?”
“And I really enjoy working for a nonprofit. I feel a sense of pride in our organization and its mission. Because I work in a different department, I can’t get super-involved in its goals, but overall, it brings a smile to my face; it’s a good thing.”
Brian credits his Cisco Certifications for putting his IT career into high gear. “The overall information helped me tremendously in growing into a network engineer. It helped me understand our network and how things work.”
“I’m a strong advocate of Cisco Certifications. They gave me a competitive advantage and helped establish myself as a standout performer. In fact, I was made the second point of contact for network issues for our team. Certifications confirm that you take the subject matter seriously, and that you know this stuff.”
Math’s loss is IT’s gain
Brian has been working for the nonprofit for over three years, and is responsible for over 650 users scattered throughout the United States. He helps maintain the health and functionality of network infrastructure equipment, including physical servers, routers, virtual machines, and end-user day-to-day tickets. In addition, he performs network upgrades, troubleshoots issues, installs and manages anti-virus software, and assists users who are on the VPN. “We’re a small IT team of less than 10 in our Network Services department, and everybody typically wears a couple of different hats,” says Brian.
Back when he was in high school, Brian found that he had a love for technology, and learned how to fix broken cell phones and personal computers. After graduation, he attended Morgan State University while working at an electronic store selling computers and cameras, and installing memory and hard drives. “I started out majoring in electrical engineering, but when I saw how much math was involved, I changed to Information Science and Systems.”
Brian encountered the world of Cisco and networking, when he was hired by a Cisco Partner. He quickly rose to a System Administrator (Tier 3) position, then got his present job with the nonprofit. “When I learned my manager had earned a Cisco Certification, I was in awe, and thought that would help me out a lot, since I didn’t have the strongest networking skills. It made me want to get a Cisco Certification myself.”
It’s all in the preparation
Brian decided to pursue his CCENT certification. To prepare, he enrolled in classes with Global Knowledge, a Cisco Platinum Learning Partner. Brian took full advantage of the instructor who taught both of the classes he enrolled in. “We hit it off. He established a mentor relationship with me, gave me tips, and made himself available to anyone and everyone. What’s more, he corrected information that I’d misinterpreted, and taught me better study habits.”
He also took advantage of materials on the Cisco Learning Network, including IT training videos. Cisco Press books and Cisco white papers also proved to be invaluable. “Everything started coming together for me,” recalls Brian.
Later that year, Brian passed his CCENT exam. The next year, he earned a CCNA in Routing and Switching. “It took me a few attempts to pass, which was a humbling experience, but it helped me build up drive.”
More projects with more confidence
The two certifications—and the preparations for them—made Brian a better engineer. “The exams are tailored to general modern networking, and I became a better-trained, more knowledgeable employee. Recently, when we had a spanning tree network issue, I identified what went wrong quickly. I understand our network a lot better, and why something may or may not be working.”
Brian can also take on more projects by himself. “This impressed my manager, who then offloaded projects onto my plate. After I earned the CCENT, he went on paternity leave, which allowed me to shine.”
Recently, Brian was awarded a Cisco CyberOps global scholarship, and hopes to complete his CCNA CyberOps certification. He’s also planning on pursuing CCNA Security.
What advice would he give to someone who is embarking on a plan towards Cisco Certifications? “Don’t quit; you might fail a few times, but knowledge you get is worth trying for those credentials. Also, use all the resources to study: white papers, Cisco Learning Partners, Cisco Learning Network, the Cisco Networking Academy, and more.”
In his free time, Brian hangs out at home with his wife, works out with weights, plays video games, and tests software on a lab he built in his home. He’s also been fortunate enough to attend a number of Cisco-related conferences across the United States. “I had a great time at Cisco Live! I met lots of other Cisco-certified attendees, and connected with companies who are tailoring their products to work with Cisco infrastructure.”