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25-year-old Aoife Dowling from Cork in the Republic of Ireland went from an early start in the electronics sector to a network management support role, with the help of a Networking Academy night course.
An Early Introduction to Practical Skills
Aoife Dowling discovered the importance of practical business skills early in her career, as she explains: "My first job was working with my father, a self employed electrician. I was treated like one of the apprentices; sent up into attics to pull cables, sent up ladders to change light bulbs, and I was terminating data points and patch panels in big office installations."
Dowling's initial experience, plus an interest in the emerging field of Internet technologies, first sparked her interest in networking. From the beginning, Dowling was fascinated to see the process evolve from patch panels to "contractors using laptops to connect to switches and enter commands to make the points live… and then seeing how the end users were able to connect to the whole internal network using their laptops."
Gaining Valuable Credentials
After graduating from the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Dowling had an opportunity to complete a structured cabling course, and found work in the electronics sector. Unfortunately, after a few years she realized the industry was not for her and considered a career move.
While attending an information fair at CIT, Dowling learned about a Cisco Networking Academy course that she could attend in the evenings. "It was a way for me to broaden my horizon and explore my options," she explains. "The whole Networking Academy structure suited me with its combination of theory and labs. It just caught my imagination and reestablished my interest in networks."
After completing the Cisco CCNA course and earning her CCNA certification, Dowling decided to continue her studies by enrolling in the Cisco CCNP course. Additionally, her Cisco CCNA qualification has helped her obtain a fulfilling job as a technical support engineer at the regional headquarters of SolarWinds in Cork. In her role, she provides "technical support to all customers on questions and problems they have when using the network management software."
Advice for Women in IT
When asked what it's like to study and work in a male-dominated field, Dowling says: "You get the funny looks when you walk into a room and you are the only female, but you rise above that and know that you are just as entitled to be there as any other person." She also notes that conditions seem to be improving for women: "The industry has really matured in its view towards women and I have been fortunate enough to work with some really great people, who appreciated you for your knowledge and input rather than focusing on your gender."