From Taking Calls to Taking Cases

Andy Hoy shares his career transformation journey to network expert.
From Taking Calls to Taking Cases
May 21, 2024

By Andy Hoy · Webex Solution Support Engineer · United States

with Helen Gall

4 Minute Read · 6 Minute Listen

We’ve all been in that familiar spot, working at a job that’s less-than-ideal just to make ends meet.

I was in that exact situation, working in a call center, when I decided that enough was enough. It was time to do something about it. I needed to go back to school and further my education to improve my prospects to better provide for my family.

A coworker suggested a Cisco Networking class at a local community college.

Andy smiles in a selfie with his wife, Marina.
When he’s not working Andy likes to play video games and spend time with his wife Marina and his two cats, Thor and Loki.

Intrigued, I investigated further, took the plunge, and enrolled.

During the first year, we learned everything that would encompass the world of the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification — through Cisco Networking Academy, of course!

I learned about configuring switches and routers, understanding protocols like OSPF, NTP, STP, among others. My instructor encouraged us to get involved with SkillsUSA, a transformative college program that he had seen change people’s lives.

SkillsUSA is dedicated to bridging the skills gap, connecting highly skilled jobs with professionals ready to fill them. With a presence in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and postsecondary institutions, it offers opportunities in more than 130 occupational areas, from 3D animation to welding. There’s a skill for everyone, and, in my case, it was internetworking to complement my CCNA studies.

Annually, SkillsUSA holds competitions across every U.S. state and territory for each occupational area, adhering to industry standards. The winners are then invited to compete in the SkillsUSA Championships.

Inspired by SkillsUSA, in 2017 I joined and entered the internetworking competition. I figured I had nothing to lose. That year I studied everything on the CCNA, completed homework, and passed every test. By the time the state competition arrived in April 2018, I had earned my Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) certification and was about to take the CCENT 2, the final step to achieving the full CCNA.

The state competition tested the skills I’d learned throughout the year. Configuring routers and switches, troubleshooting networks, making ethernet cables, and sitting for a written exam. It was comprehensive and challenging.

Andy wears a red blazer with an embroidered emblem and SkillsUSA medal around his neck.
Andy placed first in the college division.

My efforts paid off: I won gold for internetworking, guaranteeing my spot at the national championships in June.

Shortly after state, I earned my CCNA and was on my way to the national championships — a formidable arena, amplifying everything from the state level.

It included troubleshooting (with broadcast storms), TAC (Technical Assistance Center) calls, written tests, cable making, and configuring an end-to-end enterprise network with advanced features, such as tunnels and link aggregation. The mix of Cisco employees and community college experts ensured it was a true test of my internetworking abilities.

Post-competition, I was nervous.

Did I place? Did I embarrass myself? The results came at the awards ceremony the next day where the top three winners from both college and high school would receive medals for their competitions. By the time my competition was called, I was on the edge of my seat.

I heard my name for first place in the college division, and I didn’t know how to react. I had never won anything significant before — my friend was visibly more ecstatic than I was!

I accepted my award with pride, and I stayed in touch with the Cisco representatives I met during the competition. Within a year, I joined Cisco in a TAC position in Webex. I just celebrated my fifth work anniversary in May of this year.

With SkillsUSA’s impact on my career, I was eager to give back to the organization that had helped me get my amazing job. I remained in contact with the Cisco team who ran the championships, and every year, I assist the team with running the TAC call and contribute wherever I can.

SkillsUSA’s Cisco team hold networking equipment.
The Cisco team who helped run the competition last year left to right: Alayna Zsuppan, Adam Wamsley, Ricardo Mancera, Andy Hoy, Kendra Dodson, Sarah Altenhaus Smith, and Cesar Ramirez Ugarte.

The takeaway from my journey is clear: SkillsUSA can remarkably nurture exceptional talent and build an inclusive future for the industry.

Its impact on cultivating skilled engineers is not just evident in my story but in the careers of Cisco colleagues who have advanced to technical leadership, earned their Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification, and achieved other significant milestones.

This experience has reinforced my belief that by supporting and participating in programs like SkillsUSA, we can help open doors for diverse individuals, foster a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and contribute to the ever-evolving world of technology.

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