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					Nicole Johnson, SYSTEMS ENGINEER with Cisco Systems, Inc.-Public Sector Sales, Grand Rapids, MI



Ask Nicole Johnson why she entered into the technology field as a Systems Engineer and she’ll tell you
one word: Opportunity. Always interested in technology, but not quite sure what area to pursue, Nicole
realized early in her college classes that technology will always be moving forward into the future and
wanted to be a part of it. She decided to seize the opportunity in a profession traditionally absent or
lacking in women knowing it was one value she could bring to the profession, combining her ability to
interact with people, business, and technology together.

As a Cisco Systems Engineer, Nicole’s focus is customer-facing problem solving. In fact, the top heading
on her Cisco resume job description is “Solutions Expert”. She utilizes her basic Cisco certifications and
layers that with her advanced degrees, training, people skills and experience to solve customer-based
challenges within the public sector; namely, educational institutions as well as state and local
governments. She began her career with Cisco three years ago on a fast-track program as an Associate
Systems Engineer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Plucked out of a competitive group of only 25 to be
hired, Nicole moved from the Enterprise and Commercial sectors into the Public when that group
branched off. The best part of her job? “Interacting with customers, drawing from my technical
expertise and solving their problems and challenges”, says Johnson. She loves providing technical
solutions in the ever-changing technology world that is network engineering and unified
communications. And it all started at Collin College.

She began her journey in 2000. Nicole graduated from Plano Senior High School and took her core
classes at Collin College while deciding what she wanted to pursue. She realized that her interest in
technology could propel her into a rewarding career, both financially and professionally. At that time,
Collin College did not have the Convergence Technology program that is partially-funded today by an
NSF grant, so Nicole completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at UNT-now a partner college
with Collin’s technology degree programs. “How lucky Collin students are to have such a hands-on
program right there-” says Johnson. She gravitated toward the networking area of technology for the
interaction with businesses and people-thereby allowing her the opportunity to break the stereotype of
the nerdy geek working alone. Johnson presents a strong role model for girls to utilize their intelligence,
project management skills, and position themselves as leaders for other women. She encourages girls to
look past stereotypes toward opportunities in a competitive field that will want diversity as well as
quality.

What is the future of Network Technology? Johnson points to the advanced technical niches or
specialties: Voice-Over IP, Wireless Networking, Data Center, and Security. Technology seems to be
always evolving and that can be an exciting advantage in this field. “One can change focus in Networking
without really changing your entire career-” says Johnson. She encourages students to look for mentors
to connect with, bounce ideas, and help with guidance. For her, a female college professor provided the
right encouragement to find her path in technology. She also indicates that real-world experience or
hands-on Cisco certified program partners are the best way to gain an advantage in the competitive job
market. Co-ops and internships within the Convergence Technology AAS degree and certificate
programs allow for this type of employment experience.

Nicole Johnson has come a long way from Collin College to a Technology Professional with Cisco
Systems. Indeed, full circle as she now teaches technology part-time at Lansing Community College, a
community hard hit by the down-turn in the economy and the auto industry. But it is a prime
opportunity in IT and Johnson, ironically, enjoys the continued opportunity- advocating and inspiring
people by providing technology solutions at Cisco and new educational solutions at Lansing.




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posted:11/12/2011
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