Cisco Systems’ Networking Academy hosted its annual Job Shadow Day on Feb. 2, coinciding with Phil the Groundhog’s celebrated jaunt outside of the Punxsutawney, Pa.-based hole in which he resides. (Six more weeks of winter by the way, for those of you who missed it.) Unlike Phil, Cisco’s Job Shadow Day did not disappoint, with hundreds of students turning out in locations across the country to learn about career opportunities in information technology.
“This is kind of our fifth year,” said Gene Longo, senior manager of the Cisco Networking Academy’s field operations in Canada and the United States. “The first year, we did it with only a handful of schools. Four years ago, we really started to focus in on making this a national effort. I challenged my team to have one event in every state in the country, and we’ve actually surpassed that by quite a few.” In fact, the Cisco Networking Academy now hosts Job Shadow events at between 80 to 100 different sites per year, although not all of them are held on Feb. 2. Last year, about 2,000 high school and college students participated in the program, a number Longo projected would rise by 50 percent this year.
The appeal of the program is the opportunity to see the practical application of concepts the students have mainly learned in the abstract so far and help them build relationships in the IT community, Longo said. “We want to provide them with real-world examples of what they do in jobs in information technology, what we do at Cisco and get them connected to people who work in the field. Hopefully, that will encourage them not only to continue in our program, but also potentially pursue an academic or work career in the technology field.”
One of the largest Job Shadow Days was held at a Cisco office in Chicago last Thursday. More than 100 students attended the event, which included technology presentations and breakout sessions run by the company’s employees. The program also included guided tours of the facility conducted by John Crow, account manager for education, and spirited rounds of trivia where prizes were handed out by Area Academy Manager Clydene Stangvik.
Cisco Systems Region Manager Jeff Gentges, who traced his own professional development from an entry-level desk job as an auditor for the City of Chicago to his present position, encouraged the attendees to ask the instructors about their careers and how they got there. He also gave them a brief overview of Cisco’s history and corporate culture. (One of the program’s objectives is to create a pipeline of skilled IT workers.)
Yet the main goal isn’t to recruit future employees, but rather to help build technically and morally sound young people. One of the presenters, Account Manager Glen Tepe, pointed out that Cisco’s Job Shadow Day volunteers put considerable energy into the Networking Academy’s efforts to teach students about IT, education and the job market because they care about them. “That’s a priority they have made, because they want to invest in lives,” he said.
For more information, see http://www.cisco.com.