Digital Novice Becomes ICT Professional

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Rebecca Baca was looking for a new start and a more stable livelihood when she signed up for a Networking Academy course. Although she had never heard of Cisco and had little idea of what networking was all about, she stuck with it. After completing her coursework and earning a Cisco certification, she landed a job at an ICT services company and became the first woman in the organization to rise to the position of project consulting engineer.

Getting Comfortable with Technology

In 2003, Rebecca Baca was a 27-year-old single mother living with her parents in Albuquerque. After several years in low-paying service jobs in the hospitality industry, she wanted to become financially independent and make a better life for herself and daughter. She knew she would need more education to make that happen.

"My big breakthrough was being named lead engineer on a 19-site telephony project. Now I’m a senior voice consulting engineer” - Rebecca Baca

Nearby Technical Vocational Institute (now Central New Mexico Community College, or CNMCC) offered an Associate of Science degree in technology that seemed promising, but first she had to prepare by taking refresher courses and an elementary computing class. “It was kind of embarrassing how little I knew about computers,” she says.

Rebecca admits she felt intimidated when she walked into her first Networking Academy course. “There were only six women and about 20 men,” she recalls. “I think my desire to succeed kept me going at the beginning. I thought, ‘I don’t care if this is completely over my head, I am not going to quit.’

A Foothold in the Working World

Using a state grant and working part time to help pay her way, Rebecca completed the Cisco CCNA courses for networking associates, attained her associate’s degree, and passed the CCNA certification exam. But she wasn’t sure there would be a job waiting for her. She thought, “I’m a straight-A student in the academy, but does that mean I can get hired?” But with the support of instructors, she weathered an extensive interview process and landed an internship at the ICT services firm Network Architects (now Presidio).

“Their work environment was like a fraternity house, with foosball and pool tables. But I loved it. And without my Networking Academy training, there was no way I could have gotten my head around the technology so quickly.” After three months as an intern, Rebecca was offered a full-time job as an associate consulting engineer.

It wasn’t long before she earned the opportunity to work on the project side of the business, taking responsibility for planning and installing networks for a variety of enterprises. That meant proving herself to male managers. She started to do user training and worked up to installing equipment saying “My big breakthrough was being named lead engineer on a 19-site telephony project. Now I’m a senior voice consulting engineer.” Rebecca also went on to earn her CCNP certification.

Rebecca discovered that academy courses had prepared her well for the ICT business. “In class, we approached networking as a business challenge, starting from the initial project proposal and continuing through to hardware, cabling, and pricing. Working in teams, we learned how to take different roles and how to lead. Troubleshooting was a big part of it. The instructors ‘broke’ things and asked the teams to diagnose the problems using different simulated help-desk scenarios. We had to collaborate to get the best results.”

Going forward

Rebecca has taken on an advisory role for the Networking Academy program at CNMCC and is helping to mentor and motivate a new generation of students. She has advocated for more attention to public speaking and project management in the classroom. 

Presidio is proud of Rebecca!  Learn more about our Core Values and how they define our culture of success. 

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