After looking around at men much older than him making only $12 an hour at a strenuous telephone cabling job, Cody Hooper decided he wanted more and realized he needed to stay relevant. “Analog was dying and digital was the next thing,” Cody said. “I saw a lot of old Bell technicians just stop what they were doing because they didn’t want to learn it.”
Cody discovered Collin College and the Convergence Technology Program. While working a full time job with a wife and two kids, he began taking night classes.
One of Cody’s first projects was a challenge from his professor: do something on a computer that he had never done before. It could be anything and he could decide what that something was. So he bought a Mac and a sound program and recorded his metal band; and he learned PowerPoint to make a presentation. “I had to call tech support quite a bit because I wasn’t used to it, I was used to Windows,” Cody said.
His class was impressed and Cody ended up taking his project to Washington D.C. to represent Collin at the National Science Foundation ATE (Advanced Technology Education) Principal Investigators Conference. Cody, later, took his first Cisco class and decided he was going to leave telecom behind and be a “data guy” but he knew that was not going to be easy.
“Algebra was not my strong strength in high school. I just couldn’t get past, you can’t add a letter and a number, it doesn’t make sense,” Cody said. Pete Brierley, Collin faculty member, worked with him. Cody eventually grasped subnetting – a notoriously tricky concept in IT – and that was the break-through he needed. “If I can do this, I can keep going,” Cody recalled.
Cody ended up taking the four Cisco CCNA courses and later received his CCNA certificate. Eventually, he received a call from a recruiter who asked if he wanted to work for Cisco. “Sure, I would love to work for Cisco but I didn’t think it was going to happen,” he stated. “It’s like the first round draft pick for nerds.”
After a grueling two hour interview that was used to replicate the stresses and intensity of a job at Cisco, his recruiter called and said that Cisco wanted him. “It was more psychological,” Cody said. “They wanted to see how I could handle them.”
Cody accepted the job at Cisco and was told that they went through 80 other people before they picked him. He owes it all due to his experience at Collin and the Convergence program he says. “It’s been an awesome journey. I still don’t think it’s real sometimes. This gave myself and my family a different life.”
Cody is now a member of the National Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) that helps guide the Convergence Technology program at Collin. “I went through the program and I loved it. I still stick around. I want to see other kids and other people interested in STEM and technology. Someone did this for me back then and I didn’t know it. Business changes, needs change, things are no longer relevant. Things need to progress. You shouldn’t leave a program not prepared for the world.”
Cody believes the goal should be to get students employed, so that if something isn’t needed, it shouldn’t be taught. In conclusion, he states, “I believe really strongly in coming and giving back. I felt so much was given to me. It’s a passion. They are our future and they have no idea what they’re going to do. It’s up to us to get them interested. If we stop pushing programs like this it will go away. I don’t know how else we’ll find the engineers of tomorrow. We are all a part of this puzzle and I just hope it continues.”