Eight Takeaways from Talking to an IT Professional

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) is launching a new video series entitled “A Day in the Life” in which IT technicians and executives offer students their perspectives on the IT workplace. This series was requested by the CTC’s National Visiting Committee (NVC) – a group of business and education experts that convene once a year to evaluate the progress of the CTC’s grant goals. The hope is that hearing directly from a successful IT worker (rather than their professor) in a video interview may deliver a stronger, lasting impact on students.

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Cody Hooper, Customer Experience Specialist/Technical Assistance Center (TAC) for Cisco Systems.

Specifically, this video series intends to

  • Show the workplace reality of IT careers and skills
  • Underscore the value of soft skills
  • Provide career advice to students
  • Showcase aspirational workforce role models

The first subject of “A Day in the Life” is Cody Hooper, a graduate from Collin College who now works in a Technical Assistance Center (TAC) for Cisco Systems troubleshooting complex problems for customers.

Below are eight statements from Cody’s interview that might make an impact on IT students when considering the reality of entering the IT workforce. Click on the link below to watch Cody’s interview in full. The YouTube description offers a “table of contents” with timestamps if you’re interested in specific questions. You can also see the full video here.

  1. The technical stuff? It’s important. You’ve got to put in your time, you’ve got to play with the product, you’ve got to learn the product. But I will say this: you don’t have to know everything… If you have decent technical skills and good troubleshooting methodology and great soft skills, you’ll go far. 
  1. We’re always learning. Technology changes so fast. And if you don’t stay up and with it you can end up getting left behind.
  1. There’s two attitudes in this world. There’s a “Why me?” and a “Why not me?” You want to make yourself a “Why not me?” Meaning, “Why didn’t you give me that project? Why didn’t I get to do that?” Instead of a “Why do I have to do that?” If you can keep that attitude, you’ll go far.CiscoOffice
  1. Technically my first IT job was Brinks Incorporated. I was a phone guy and Brinks hired me away [from another company]. That was my first real technical job, as far as IT-related, because I did phones forever. That’s still considered IT, but it’s not really IT. You know what I mean? It was a segregated network. VoIP wasn’t really in the picture. That’s kind of the reason I went back to school was because VoIP was coming in and it was going to take over… Digital was dying… When I came into that industry I was able to see that analog was dying and digital was taking over. Fast-forward 10-15 years later and I saw that same change again with VoIP coming in. You want to keep your eyes open and watch what’s happening in your industry. You don’t want to end up becoming a dinosaur because something changes. You have to adapt.
  1. When it comes to sending your resume out, there’s 50 other resumes sitting in front of a hiring manager. If you have certifications and they can tell that you’ve put in time to further yourself and to help grow, then you have a better shot… They’re going to look at you. And when it comes to interview time, it’s up to you to sell yourself. You want to almost create a brand if you can and try to sell that brand. 
  1. If you’re a very technical person, but you don’t really do well with people then go take some classes, go read some books. Do whatever it takes to develop you in a better way so that you do get better with your soft skills. Or if you have great soft skills but you’re just kind of iffy on technical stuff then build a lab, take the time to play with it.
  1. The third interview [with Cisco] was an on-site interview here. It was two hours. And it was the most insane, grueling interview I’d ever been on in my life. They purposely tried to make me mad, get me off my game. They gave me a 400-page document and said you have one week to study it and so when I came in there was a whiteboard in the room and three people and they were, like, draw what you know. And so I started drawing… I didn’t really understand what was going on. I just thought, oh my god, these people are so smart. I can walk out. All of these things go through your mind. But I told myself if you do that, they’ll never let you come back. So just stick with it and keep going. Two hours went and it was finished. And at the end of it they said thank you very much and they all stood up and walked out. I thought, “Wow, I did that bad?”… The hiring manager came down and said… IMG_0015“The good news is you made the full two hours. Do you think we really cared about that 400-page document? Yes, we wanted to see effort but did you notice they were ignoring you and trying to get under your skin?… There’s a reason for that… These customers when they call in, they don’t say ‘Hey buddy, old pal, how are you doing?’ They’re calling in screaming and hollering, calling you every name under the sun. They’re going to be stressed. I’m going to tell you this one time. The mute button is your friend.” … The headhunter called me 15 minutes later and said you got the job… It was a feeling like a first round draft pick for the NFL for nerds.
  1. I embrace change. Change is good. Working for this company, change will always happen. It’s not a bad thing. Change equals growth.

 

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