After finishing university and the Cisco Networking Academy, I started to think about how to pursue my life path and career. Should I leave my country in order to finish a PhD somewhere in the world or start working in Serbia or somewhere else? Completely unexpectedly, I got information about a new hiring opportunity in Cisco, in the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) and I decided to apply. I knew Cisco from the Networking Academy program; I liked networking and the fact that I would have an opportunity to work for a huge multinational company, and an industry leader. So, I thought, I didn't have anything to lose if I applied... and I did :)
Luckily, after several rounds of different screenings and interviews (CV submission, telephone interview, assessment center) I was offered a place on the Associate System Engineer program.
The interview process was a learning curve for me and an unbelievable experience! I learned a lot about myself as well. Even if you're not accepted, it is not a waste of time because you find out something about yourself that you usually wouldn't have a chance to learn.
At the end on August, the big day arrived - I moved to Amsterdam and officially joined CSAP. The experience was unique and amazing! Imagine being surrounded by 131 people from 43 different countries around the world! Everyone is there for the same goal and there is no reason to be afraid. Together we absorbed information about the company, processes, the way we should work and what we should expect in the coming 10 months, 10 years...
I will be honest, until arriving in Amsterdam, I didn't have clear picture of what to expect there... I knew I'd study a lot. I didn't know that I'd study so much, however, don't be scared, it all comes so naturally. There is a predefined plan of what you're supposed to do and learn. There are a lot of technical trainings as well as business and soft skills. There is one huge lab just for you and you play on real equipment as much as you like. The people who worked on the development of Cisco's products are your instructors. The day starts early, finishes late and your time is filled until the last moment. When you work alongside people with the same goal and have managers to help you reach these goals, believe me, it's not hard at all! Your motivation is always on top! The whole week is spent in trainings and then you study, study, study. When you pass your certificates there is time for celebration! So, it's hard work but also fun! Having this in mind, achieving CCNA, CCNP, CCDA, CCDP and your technology specialization certificates during this time is not hard work at all!
As the months pass, you get to know all the people that are on the program with you, some of whom you become best friends with...you're with them almost 24 hours a day... you live in the same neighborhood, you start and end the day together. You study together; you share good and bad moments, and your successes and failures. You learn from each other and about each other. You also travel together. Just imagine building a network of people from all around the world in these 10 months... and that human network is real.
We all got specialized in different technologies, some people have more interest in one area than another and that helps us a great deal. We have a real point of contact, a person we can ask at any time for help. In this way, your work gets better and you can have more time for your private life :).
After 10 months, it was hard to leave the CSAP program and to leave these new friends and Amsterdam. I had just got used to this new life. It felt like I had a new family and despite the fact that we all went to different parts of the world, we are still a family. Now, I am pleased to say that I have friends in many cities around the world.
After leaving CSAP, it was time to begin a new chapter by starting the real world of work and go back to the field (your local country's office)! It is different, but again interesting.
Cisco is an interesting place to work. You cannot get bored here. There are so many things to do and learn. Now I work as a Channel and Commercial Systems Engineer. This new beginning was hard - I had to learn to work with a new team and get integrated with their way of doing things. What I find great about this is while the people you work with are different they are still very similar. You feel like you have known each other for ages. In an environment like this, it is so easy to work on projects with customers, prepare proposals for the design of their networks and also enable partners to design their projects with Cisco solutions. You meet new people and you learn new things everyday. It's both a dynamic and interesting job. I get the chance to travel a lot and I like it! Another selling point is the level of flexibility you have in managing your time. You know your assignments, you know the deadlines and it is up to you to organize yourself in order to finish what you need. You don't have someone looking over your shoulder everyday. Your opinion counts regardless of your age! There is always an open forum for discussion. These are all important things that make you happy and that allow you to go to work with big smile on your face :)
People are always confused about my age... It's hard to believe that a young person can work for a company like Cisco because they always expect someone older with more experience! This in essence, is exactly what Cisco's culture is - diversity in any sense - culture, age, mentality. It's a great environment to work in.
On a final note, there is one more thing that makes me happy - there was no need to leave my country and go work somewhere else. Instead of leaving my country I can help in its development. Isn't that great?