Cisco Incubator Program Assessment Centre: Passed!

In my last post I told you about my experience at the Assessment Centre for the Cisco Incubator Program.

Now I’m happy and excited to inform you that I passed and I’m officially a partecipant of the program! 😀

I already said how well the Assessment Centre was organized and how interesting the experience has been, but now I want to highlight the one thing I’m most impressed by so far:

Cisco management seemed to really take care of us as candidates during the AC and now as official partecipants. The most important example of this is that the Incubator Program manager is taking the time to call every single candidate to deliver personalized feedback about how they performed during the Assessment Centre!

This is awesome by itself, but you realize the word “awesome” is not enough when you know the actual number of call he his doing: 120+!!!

That’s really impressive! There will be 66 total partecipant in this program, but he is taking the time to call even those who didn’t make it to let them know what they need to improve. Again, that’s impressive!

Going back to the program, it’s composed as follows:

  • Webinars: conducted every Wednesday and topics include Professional Development, R&S, Data Center, Collaboration, Mobility and Security.
  • Seminars: conducted once a month at Cisco office via Telepresence and topics include Professional Development, R&S, Data Center, Collaboration, and Security.
  • Cisco Academy: CCNA or CCNP courses, based on partecipant’s level.
  • English language mentoring: those partecipants who need to improve their English can also benefit and improve their language skills thanks to the 1:1 technical conversations with native speakers.

The program looks as challenging as interesting and I can’t wait to start (seminars and webinars’ topic descriptions couldn’t be more interesting).

I’m quite lucky to be part of it and my Project:Me10 project will benefit from this a lot 🙂

If you’re interested in the program you should indeed “Like” the Cisco Engineer Incubator page on Facebook 😉

Project:Them04 – Bruce DeWald

Here we are again with another interview! 😀

Today, our guest is Bruce, a young and brilliant Network Engineer from the US. Despite his youth he already have a lot of experience on the field and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his contribution here and his tips. Let’s go 🙂

Gabriele: Hey Bruce, welcome! Let’s start simple: Who are you? Where are you from? How old are you?

Bruce: Hello! My name is Bruce DeWald and I’m from a tiny town in Pennsylvania, US. I’m 21 and currently a senior at RIT.

G: What did you study and where?

B: I’m currently a senior studying Applied Networking and Systems Administration at Rochester Institute of Technology. I’ll be graduating in May 2016 with my undergraduate degree.

G: Based on your LinkedIn page, you have a lot of experience on IT. Can you talk us about your past experiences?

B: I’ve had three related jobs to network engineering. My first and current position is at my department’s on campus computer labs. I have built and manage our current server and network infrastructure. This job has given me a lot of experience as I’ve had the ability to learn a lot of new things and be able to do it myself as this isn’t a production infrastructure that a company relies on.

My second experience (Summer 2014) was a Network Engineering Internship at Harris Corporation in Melbourne, Florida. I worked more with network management and monitoring tools here ensuring the infrastructure remained up. I also got to recreate some topologies in the lab to troubleshoot issues we were having which was a lot of fun.

My most recent experience was this past summer interning at Cisco Meraki which I’ll elaborate on further on.


G: As you said, your most recent experience has been at Cisco Meraki, Tell me about it. How did you apply?

B: I actually applied at RIT’s career fair in October 2014. We have a career fair twice a year where over 250 companies come to recruit our students.

G: How was the recruiting process organized? 

B: At the career fair itself I was asked some very brief questions (about 5 or so) to supplement my resume to get a baseline about my knowledge. A few weeks later I had two one hour skype interviews. About a month after that I had a final one hour skype interview with the manager. Finally, an additional month went by until I heard back that I had received an offer (December 2014).

G: Is there anything about interviews you can share (without breaking any NDA)?

B: All three of my interviews were extremely technical with maybe about 10% of the time being spent on behavioral questions. They involved going through network troubleshooting scenarios that my interviewer would draw out on the board. These interviews were quite challenging but were also a lot of fun!

G: How was your internship organized? Have you done any kind of training?

B: My internship lasted eleven weeks over the summer. The first two weeks had training throughout and we eased ourselves into the job. The rest of the internship we were essentially on our own. By that I mean no one was holding our hand and we were doing real work but everyone around the entire office was extremely friendly and helpful as we had questions.

G: What was your role?

B: My official title was “Network Support Engineer Intern.” This involved handling customer cases revolving around the Meraki product. Some days I would close lots of cases because the customers would be asking easy questions. Other days I would spend an entire day on 2 or 3 cases. These cases might have required reading through lots of documentation, asking more senior employees for their expertise, or recreating the issue in our lab. Any time a case required further investigation we would recreate the customer topology in our lab. This both helped me learn the product/networking better, but also allowed us to see exactly what the customer was seeing.


G: What do you like the most about Cisco Meraki and your job as an intern?

B: The culture and atmosphere around the office made it a really enjoyable place to work in.There’s so many places to relax and so many great people around the office. Several times at lunch we would be joined by people we had never met before (often from another department) and have a great conversation over lunch.

G: How does Cisco Meraki “treat” its interns? What kind of “perks” did you receive?

B: We were treated just like full time employees. About the only difference between us and the full time employees was that we didn’t get health insurance. Meraki even provides awesome housing for us during the internship. Which is great because the cost of rent in San Francisco is ridiculous! Besides the awesome office, other perks we got were free breakfast & lunch, with occasional dinners and micro kitchens all around the office with tons of healthy (and unhealthy) snacks. We also got other random perks like free massages one day. There was also a gym in the building that we could use to work out before/after work.

G: In your opinion, what are the skills that a Cisco Meraki intern candidate should have?

B: In my opinion, the primary skill one needs at this job and any other in this field, is the ability to adapt and learn quickly. This field is always changing and companies are always shifting which technologies they use. The ability to learn something new quickly is a great skill to have. As for this particular internship, network troubleshooting skills were essential as that is pretty much what the internship entailed.

G: At the end of the internship, does they give the opportunity to convert it into a fulltime position?

B: Yes, if interested, interns can go through a few additional interviews to review their internship and skills to see if they get a full time offer.

G: How did you prepare yourself for the interviews?

B: I didn’t do any particular training for the interviews as I felt that my past experience and education had adequately prepared me for the internship. I am very happy with the education I have received and lucky to have gotten the experience that I have.

G: Can you share with us any advice for someone who want to start career in network engineering?

B: I think someone who’s interested in network engineering should play around with the technology as much as possible. I think it’s great to teach yourself new things that you are interested in. Occasionally I go into my department labs and just play with something new to teach myself. I also Co-Founded a networking club at RIT called NextHop where we try to teach students things that aren’t covered by our classes to better prepare students for a career in networking or systems administration.

I also personally believe that certs are a great way to both prove that you know something and teach yourself something new. I currently have my CCNA R&S and am pursuing others.

G: As always, one last question. What are your plans for the future?

B: My plans for the future are to obtain a full time Network Engineering position in the San Francisco Bay Area starting May 2016.

G: With such experience, knowledge and personality I’m sure you will have no problems with landing a wonderful position in any field you’d want 🙂

Many many thanks for your time, Bruce. We wish you all the best for everything 🙂

B: Thanks. It’s been a pleasure!

Honestly, I’m pretty amazed by Bruce’s story. He is so young and yet so skilled!

If you want to do like Bruce, this is the Cisco Meraki’s career page where you can find all the available positions. Don’t be shy, let’s apply 🙂


Project:Them03 – Ishan Shah

After Matija and Jakub, our friends from Cisco and Google, let me introduce you another special guest: Ishan Shah, a young network engineer who interned at LinkedIn’s HQ. Personally, I really believe in social networking as a key factor for success and so I appreciate LinkedIn. It’d be wonderful to work there 🙂

Ok then, let’s see what Ishan has to say us about his experience.

Gabriele: Hi Ishan and thanks for joining us. Can you start telling a little bit about yourself?

Ishan: Hey everyone, my name is Ishan Shah and I am originally from India. I am 23 years young and currently interning as a Network Engineer at LinkedIn, California for the summer.

G: Oh, California! The dreamland for every geek! Anyway, what did you study?

I: I got my undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Nirma University,India. Currently, I am enrolled as a graduate student at the North Carolina State University (USA) majoring in Computer Networks.

G: Based on your LinkedIn profile, you have a broad knowledge about software, networking, telecommunications and OS. In your opinion, what are key skills to obtain a position like yours?

I: For me, the most important skill beyond all technicalities is self confidence. Easier said than done though. Self confidence comes with efficient preparation. Once you are well prepared for any challenge, self confidence will assist in clearing out all obstacles thrown in front of you.

Coming to the technical part, I think one should either be super efficient in a particular domain (Networking, Telecom et al.) along with some coding skills or the other way round. As long as one falls under any of these two categories, I’m sure he/she can crack any job position at all the top companies.

G: Speaking about LinkedIn, can you share your experience with us? How did you apply? How does the recruiting process look like?

I: I applied online by submitting my resume through their career website. My entire recruiting process, which included 4 technical 1 hour interviews and 1 HR 30 minutes interview, took almost a month before I got my offer letter. Interviews were well organized but they typically take a while on their decision between various interviews.

All my interviews were technically fulfilling. I was asked about most of the things I knew about networking. One has to be well prepared to crack these type of interviews. Also, having thorough knowledge and awareness about everything written on one’s resume is a must.

G: What was your role?

I: My role as a Network Engineer was to support the company’s production network supporting My work was concentrated mostly towards the expansion and build of LinkedIn’s various datacenters.

G: What did you like the most about LinkedIn and your job as an intern?

I: LinkedIn’s culture is what I think separates the company from the others (in a good way). In spite of my intern tag, I was always treated as any other regular employee. My suggestions or pointers were always given equal importance. Every employee, no matter what team, was always willing to spend time and talk about anything I wanted to learn or know from them.

G: How does LinkedIn “treat” its interns?

I: I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the intern program at LinkedIn. Choosing LinkedIn over others for my internship is one of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life. Besides all the amazing perks (you’ll find details online), the general ambience during the intern program was entirely satisfying and filling. LinkedIn definitely knows who to treat its [in]terns in the best manner possible.

G: How did you prepare for the interviews?

I: Few courses that I had enrolled in at my university prepared me well for my interviews. Besides that, constant reading and practical implementation, extensive use of google for finer details were other important things that I felt helped me crack these interviews.

G: Can you share with us any advice for someone who want to start a career in network engineering?

I: I definitely recommend studying the CCNA, CCNP certification books from Cisco as a start. These books might only give theoretical knowledge though. Practical implementation in a lab environment is a must to get the exact concept behind these theories.  

G: One last question: any plans for the future?

I: I have been offered a return full-time offer to work as a Network Engineer at LinkedIn once I graduate from school. I aim to continue working at LinkedIn for the foreseeable future and hope to gain further knowledge and experience so as to hone my networking skills further.

G: Well, congratulations! 🙂

Many thanks again for finding the time to share your experience with us. I’m sure many people will find it very informative. Wish you all the best!

I: It’s been a pleasure 🙂

If you’re interested in joining LinkedIn, here is where you want to look for 🙂

Project:Them02 – Matija Mrkoci

Here we are again with the second interview of the Project:Them serie. This time our guest is Matija Mrkoci, a young engineer from Croatia who is interning at Cisco. Being the No.1 player in networking industry, Cisco represents the dream work for many students who entered this world thanks to the Cisco Networking Academy (including myself 😛 ).

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did while doing it 🙂

Gabriele: Let’s start simple introducing yourself: Who are you? Where are you from? How old are you?

Matija: Hello, my name is Matija Mrkoci, Bachelor of Engineering in computing from Croatia. Maybe you didn’t hear for my country (great and mighty kingdom ^^), but I bet you watched Game of Thrones? 🙂 If you did, then you saw Croatia on TV because King’s Landing is in fact Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia.

I am 23 years old. Currently I’m working as Customer Support Engineer for Cisco Systems in Poland.

G: What did you study?

M: I studied engineering in computing at Polytechnic of Zagreb where I took mostly networking classes. Also I did CCNA R&S academy during my last year of studies.

G: Based on your LinkedIn profile, you’ve also worked during your studies. How did you manage this?

M: I started working as a Customer Support Agent during my last year of studies for one ISP in Croatia. I can tell you right now if you are working a lot during studies you will not have so much time to actually study. My situation was unique because I was almost done with university and I was actually doing only bachelor thesis (which ended up lasting almost two years). At the end I ended up working two and a half years there. After I finished my study I worked there for three more months and then decided I had enough but after  only one week of vacation I got on offer from Croatian post bank and moved there.

G: Tell me about your experience at Cisco. How did you apply?

M: Like I mentioned before I was working in Croatian post bank for almost one year when all of the sudden I got a message on linkedin about job position in Cisco I might be interested in. Of course  I applied and there I was, doing assessment, and got offered a job position as Customer Support Engineer, something you can’t refuse. Its one of the biggest and best companies in the world.

G: What is your role? Can you describe a typical day at job?)

M: I joined Cisco on internship position so for the first 4 months all interns and I were doing a lot of trainings. So I can’t really tell you about day to day job at this point. But from September I will be working as CSE (Customer Support Engineer) in CMS (Cloud and Managed Services) in CaaS (Collaboration as a Service) team. So as you can see Cisco loves abbreviations. My day-to-day job will include solving customer issues through some ticketing tool that customers use to report problems.

G: Anything about interviews you can share without breaking any NDA?

M: Cisco has the most intensive assessments I have ever done, and I done more than 10 job interviews. It lasts for entire working day. From 8 to 16 with one break for lunch. It’s a series of tests that will really put you up to the pressure and you will for sure show them everything you have to offer. It’s really challenging and I enjoyed it a lot.

G: What do you like the most about Cisco and your job as an intern?

M: Cisco gives you opportunity to learn as much as you want. There is no limit. There is so much CCIE engineers here that you can reach out, also there is people who literally invented MPLS… So its endless opportunities to learn and to pursue certification.

G: Lots of big companies are moving to Polonia (another example is Google). What are your impression about this?

M: I guess Polish government supports big companies so it’s a lot easier for them to move here. Also I think that the standard here is a lot lower than in some other countries in Europe so it’s also easier from that perspective, it’s not so expensive.

G: Can you share with us any advice for someone who want to start a career in network engineering?

M: My advice? Don’t let your dreams be dreams (Shia Labeouf style). But really, you can do whatever you set your mind to. Work hard but also play hard and you will get where you want to be.

G: What do you think about certifications? Did Cisco invested into your preparation?

M: During my 4 months in Cisco they invested a lot in our certifications. Basically there is no limit in what certifications you can do as long as they align with technologies you will be working with, because there is no really point in doing voice certifications if you will work in data center. I did my CCNA R&S after 2 months here and I have scheduled exams for CCNA DC in upcoming weeks. Certifications are important, especially CCIE and that should be some kind of high goal for every engineer working in networking.

G: What is your plan for the future?

M: High level plan is to do CCIE, because that is what is really valuable. Since I will be working with collaboration, after I do my CCNA DC next step is CCNA Collaboration then CCNP Collaboration and then CCIE Collaboration.

G: You’ve been so kind Matija, many thanks for your time 🙂

M: It’s been a pleasure. One last thing: everyone who is interested in joining Cisco like I did, can use this link. Here you can search for positions Cisco is looking for, so if you are interested in Krakow, just search Krakow + CSE or NCE and there you go. They are constanty looking for new people, especially in Krakow because its growing very very strong now.

From the following video it seems like Cisco is doing a great job in Poland. Let’s take eyes wide open for new opening! 😉

“Work hard but also play hard and you will get where you want to be.”

First Milestone Reached: JNCIA Certified

Good news over here: today I passed the JNCIA exam, the first milestone of my Project:Me10 journey! 😀

I’m reeeeeally happy about that! I had no experience with Juniper products and at first I found it a little bit difficult to start typing in Junos (I used to think in IOS 🙂 ) but, once this first obstacle has been overcome, the preparation has been pretty easy.

Junos OS is an interesting platform and the JNCIA exam is focused on convincing you about this (succeeding). A nice thing about the Juniper Network Certification Program, is that you can obtain a 50% voucher over the exam prize passing a practice test on their website. That’s great! I only spent 50$ for my JNCIA exam!

My only complaint is about the exam blueprint which lacks of focus on major networking protocols and technologies. The certification is designed to be an introduction to Juniper’s world, but I thought I was gonna find more CCNA-like contents. That’s why I can’t wait to start my JNCIS journey (which is the second milestone of the Project), in which I’ll find some interesting topics like IS-IS, BGP and High Availability (among many others).

But first I’ll take a little break and I’ll work on some Linux and Network Automation skills (and projects 🙂 ).

Stay tuned.


Few weeks ago I’ve also won a 10$ Amazon Gift Card solving a game posted by David Swafford (Datacenter Network Engineer at Facebook) in a network automation focused group on Facebook, which required to parse this command output in order to obtain a dictionary of port-channel numbers to their member interfaces (my solution here).

Nothing special, but something is better than nothing 😀

Just Start!

Here we are. This is my first blog post and my first step into a major challenge I decided to go into. But first, who am I? My name is Gabriele, I’m a 24 years old guy from Italy with a passion for Network Engineering. During my studies I’ve achieved something I’m really proud of, like winning the Europen Borderless Challenge from Cisco and the Silicon Valley Study Tour competition. I’ve also achieved the CCNA certification (now expired) and a Bachelor Degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Catania (I’m in the last year of my Msc right now).

What is Project:Me10?

It is a “personal development” project lasting 10 months. During this period of time I will try to improve my skills and knowledge to reach my biggest dream right now: obtain a networking related internship on a big company like Facebook, Google, Cisco, Dropbox, Juniper, Arista, HP, Ericsson, Amazon, Ebay, LinkedIn, Yahoo or VMware.

How is it structured?

Being a medium term goal, I think the best approach to pursue it is to divide the long journey into smaller milestones and try to reach them instead, one after the other. I decided to identify 5 milestones:

  1. Pass the JNCIA certification exam.
  2. Pass the JNCIS certification exam.
  3. Spend at least 350 hours studying and labbing topics like TCP/IP, OSPF, ISIS, BGP, MPLS, FHRP and Layer 2 protocols.
  4. Spend at least 350 hours studying and practicing technology like Python, Shell scripting, Linux and other automation related stuff.
  5. Obtain the internship.

I decided to switch from Cisco to Juniper certifications because the latter is much more cheaper than the former and because I already have a general knowledge of Cisco IOS and it will be useful to know another vendor as well. Probably, I will still study something from Cisco books (like the “Routing TCP/IP” and “MPLS Fundamentals”), but I don’t have plan to pass any Cisco related certification (due to their high cost).

Why Project:Me10?

I decided to open this blog for 2 main reasons:

  • It will help me to track my progress
  • There is no such thing around on the net. There are tens of blogs and websites about how to start a career in Software Engineering and tens of books about interview preparation as well, but almost nothing exists for Network Engineering track (especially regarding early stages). For this reason, I’ll also try to post some interview to networking pros and former interns from the companies above so that this blog would be helpful for all those people like me who dream big but don’t really know where to start.

I’m aware I’m trying something really difficult, where odds of “success” are very low but I want to enjoy the journey. I will never know, if I don’t try.

“A Year from Now You May Wish You Had Started Today”