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Brian Farrell

"I feel like I’ve gone through this almost three-year process of every single possible way I could hit the lottery...I’ve hit the lottery! "

Brian, a 44-year-old self-described “non-traditional student” had an extensive resume, working for AT&T, Affiliated Computer Services, and owning a Supershuttle franchise for nearly eight years, “but I’d never had a career that I would say I was even remotely passionate about,” he said.

That began to change about two years ago when his fiancée, Kathy, decided to switch employers and asked him if he wanted to go back to school and do something different. He searched“hot careers” and found cyber security and under top schools,Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC).  Because he’d been out of school for so long, he decided to start with an online computing class. He got an A and registered for full-time classes.

When his fiancée found a new employer and moved to San Diego, Brian couldn’t find any schools, “close to where I was going to be living that had even half of the curriculum that EMCC has,” he said. “No schools had that National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense accreditation that I thought was so valuable.” So he moved in with his folks to continue going to school full time and saw Kathy when he could. “Estrella is awesome, I really didn’t want to give that up,” he said. “There was every reason to put up with a nine-month separation.”

During his last semester Brian was nominated to be on the Cisco NetAcademy Dream Team, 10 students from all over North America tasked with helping the network operations center create the network to connect the San Diego Convention Center, the Grand Hyatt, the Marriott, and the Hilton.

Brian made the cut, but before heading off to San Diego, he graduated from EMCC and attended an online conference put on by one of Cisco Live’s sponsors, CDW, designed to recruit new employees. The Associate Consulting Engineer, or ACE, program, caught Brian’s eye. “It’s an 18-month training program,” Brian said. “The position itself is a blend of client-facing customer support, so it heavily relies upon soft skills and people skills. In the same token, you are also a network engineer, so you have to be well versed with Cisco and other routing and switching technologies, so it’s about 50-50. So they’re looking for people who can represent and speak to people and have good customer service skills, but they’re also looking for people who are good technologically. For me personally, that is like my dream job.”

He was halfway through the interview process prior to going to Cisco Live where he not only got real-world experience and the chance to meet industry professionals, but also got a certification test paid for by the Dream Team and became Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certified.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work. I graduated with a 4.0 and my second two semesters were paid for by STEM scholarships,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve gone through this almost three-year process of every single possible way I could hit the lottery, I’ve hit the lottery.”

Estrella Mountain Community College, STEM Scholarship Fund