Thanks, Mom and Dad. It Was Worth Every Penny

Binh Cong Nguyen tells how his family’s support made all the difference in his education and Cisco career.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. It Was Worth Every Penny
Apr 30, 2024

By Binh Cong Nguyen · Network Consulting Engineer · Vietnam

4 Minute Read · 7 Minute Listen

Xuan Mai, Vietnam 2009

“Mom, I want to take a course.”

“What course?”

CCNA, mom. It's about network administration. But it’s quite expensive.”

“How expensive?”

“More than 10 million VND, mom.”

“Take it. I'll tell Dad.”

My parents are just like that. Whenever my sisters and I ask for money, as long as it's for studying or books, they do their best to support us.

Binh smiles in an office, holding a Cisco switch and power supply.
Binh during his internship at the Cisco Hanoi office in 2010.

I was born and raised in Xuan Mai, a small town 30 kilometers (just over 18 miles) from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Xuan Mai is located at the gateway to the city, on the only road connecting the capital and the northwestern mountainous region. The town was full of goods from the highlands carried by bulky and dusty trucks. There were fruits and vegetables. There were chickens and cows. And there were drugs.

It wasn’t strange for us kids to hear about the police catching someone here and there or to see syringes stuck behind a tree stump with a urine smell.

Our family lived on the premises of the factory where my father worked. Only my father worked. His monthly salary was 6 million VND (240 USD) for a family of five. I was a good student, but I was also into pleasure-seeking.

Billiards, video games, anything. As long as it was fun, I was interested. I played every time, everywhere, and when I didn't have money to do it, I stole it.

The only thing that saved me was probably my parents' tolerance. My family still sometimes teases me about those days.

Two rows of people pose together for the Cisco Vietnam Internship Closing Ceremony.
Binh (first row, second from right) at the Cisco Vietnam Internship Closing Ceremony in 2011.

I started to have concerns about my career after some time at university. Thanks to my professor, I got my first job in my third year: a part-time programmer. Working 20 hours a week, I received about 120 thousand VND (5 USD).

Playing games with colleagues after lunch was cool, but the work of a new programmer was really boring for me. I wondered, “Will I have to do this for the rest of my life?”

“I want to talk to people. I want to travel. I want to connect things, just like when I play computer games.”

One day, I was taking a final exam. The exam supervisor brought in someone who was a senior student. After failing the exam many times, he had to retake the exam with us. He sat next to me, and, after the exam, he asked, “What do you want to do in the future?”

“I don’t know. Still thinking. Maybe something related to networking,” I replied. I was talking nonsense because I was getting fed up with the coding job.

“Then go with CCNA.”

“What is that?”

“CCNA certification from Cisco. Check it out at BKACAD.”

“Cis- what? Ridiculous,” I thought.

Binh stands, smiling with three Cisco coworkers.
Binh with his Cisco colleagues at the Hanoi office in 2012.

This guy retaking the exam was giving me career advice. I’m not sure why, but I did some research on CCNA, certifications, and Bachkhoa Information Technology Academy (BKACAD).

After my parents gave me money, I registered. The nine-month course cost two months of my dad’s salary or five years of my tuition fee — it was really tough.

Three evenings a week, it was all theory, then practice, then test, Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol, Open Systems Interconnection model, Cisco Packet Tracer, Registered Jack-45, console, Virtual Local Area Network, and more.

Everything opened up like a new horizon for me, a part-time programmer who had just quit his job.

That summer, the academy announced a regular internship program in collaboration with Cisco Vietnam and partners. After completing five exams — networking, IQ, English listening, reading, and writing — and another round of interviews, I was one of 13 selected.

The interns were all very competitive. Some of them had multiple Cisco certifications, were taking the CCIE Lab exam, and were very fluent in English. Collaborating with such an excellent group helped me improve myself a lot during the time.

At the end of the program, after my graduation thesis defense, I was offered an extension, working as an Associate Systems Engineer with the local Service Provider team.

Together, we worked on many projects with many different customers. That was the most challenging yet valuable time that would eventually shape my career.

In early 2012, I had the opportunity to apply for one of the first local High Touch Engineer positions at Cisco Vietnam. After a few rounds of interviews, I was hired, and I’ve stayed with the company since.

My whole journey with this professional, challenging — yet extremely friendly — environment all started with an unexpected question in the exam room.

Binh’s mom smiles with a certificate on a colorful community wall.
Binh’s mom admires Binh’s homemade appreciation certificate on a community wall at Cisco’s Hanoi office in 2019.

I still remember hearing my parents talking that night.

"Our son is asking for money for a course. He said it costs more than 10 million VND."

"Let him. Not sure if it’s worth it but let him."

It is, Mom and Dad. Every single penny.

Binh Cong Nguyen has worked at Cisco Vietnam for 12 years and is currently a Network Consulting Engineer. As of 2001, all Cisco Networking Academy Courses in Vietnam are licensed free to educators and nonprofit organizations.

In 2016, Cisco set a ten-year goal to positively impact one billion lives through our social impact grants and Cisco Networking Academy programs. A total of 1.1 billion people were positively impacted through these programs between FY16-FY23. Learn more about our impact.

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