It feels pretty safe to say 2020 didn’t exactly go the way any of us planned. When you put together a pandemic, riots, and an election, you get quite a bit of uncertainty. But, as the saying goes, “No mud, no lotus.” 

We all know about the mud, so I’m here to talk about the lotus. 

We hear a lot of about awareness in this industry — how low it is, what we can do to raise it, how important it is, etc. But how much do we talk about it outside of the industry? Not in a Zoom room full of high school students on virtual career day but in real life. Do you share industry-related content on your social accounts (even if it’s just a funny meme) or bring it up in casual conversations with your friends and family? I ask because you never really know what will inspire somebody. 

Take me for example …

I’m an active person who likes to travel. COVID-19 really put a damper on that. So when I found out you could enter CNet Training’s Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework at any level, I jumped at the chance. 

I enrolled in the Certified Data Center Design Professional (CDCDP®) remote learning program. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I can say this much — I was impressed. There have only been two times in my life when I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass a class, and this was one of them. 

When I registered, I received information regarding everything I would need in order to have a successful learning experience. It also included pre-class study materials covering the fundamentals in cooling, cable management, electrical safety, management practices, and more. The modules were self-paced and had accompanying quizzes to ensure a solid understanding of the material prior to the start of class. Dedicated online tutors were also available to answer any questions and track the progress of completion.  

So, you see, it’s not that I thought I was going to fail, it’s just that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I did, and I wasn’t absolutely certain that I didn’t. 

It’s a lot of information, and CNet doesn’t take their accreditation lightly — the company takes pride in its global reputation for providing comprehensive professional development training and education for professionals across the digital infrastructure industry, comprising the data center and network infrastructure sectors. 

“CNet Training is committed to providing high-quality programs to our learners, and one way we do this is by ensuring CNet instructors are not only industry experts, but we are all Level 4 Post Secondary Qualified Instructors,” said Melissa Chambal, technical manager for the U.S., Canada, and Latin America at CNet.

Now, CNet was already offering remote learning programs before the pandemic, so the curriculum didn’t require a complete overhaul. But, remote learning did go from being an option to the only option (for a while), so there were changes. Whether in person or via Zoom, the biggest challenge for instructors is to meet the unique needs of each learner. 

“We have learners from around the world,” said Pat Drew, instructor and online tutor for CNet, “this means different cultures and different levels of skills and knowledge.”

Prior to COVID-19, students could choose the learning environment that suited them best. However, some people — like all of my classmates, for example — were signed up for in-person training and had to switch to a remote learning program. 

“Students join our programs to learn,” Drew said. “They want to be better at what they do, they want to improve their knowledge and the services they deliver to their own organization and to their external customers.”

In the same vein, instructors want students to pass, so the onus falls on them to enable that. 

During my CDCDP program, I was impressed by how seamlessly the instructor addressed questions before they were asked or knew to check in at just the right time. He also encouraged participation without calling anybody out, per se. It seems impossible that we went over so much information in such a short period of time, yet it never felt overwhelming. 

But, fast-forward a few months, and we’re still in the pandemic. I’m not much of a TV person, and I’ve been pretty creative in finding ways to stay busy this year, but there has been a bit more Netflix than usual. 

I watched “Gilmore Girls” from start to finish. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, which is probably all of you, the main character is a girl named Rory who is roughly my age. We were probably at the same points in our life when the show came out. Anyway, she spent her whole life preparing to get into Harvard. And she did. She also got into Yale and Princeton. “How cool,” I thought, “to have your dream come true.” I started looking up what it takes to get into an Ivy League school. But I never wanted to go to an Ivy League school; my dream was to go to NYU. So I thought, “What the heck,” and I googled NYU master’s degrees. 

On Jan. 4, 2021, I will start my first day of class in the Bridge to Tandon Program at NYU. It’s a STEM program designed for students who come from a non-technical background. 

So, the pandemic took me from being quarantined for 22 days, to becoming CDCDP certified, to watching all seven-plus seasons of “Gilmore Girls.” Now, I’m working toward a STEM certificate from NYU, followed by a master’s degree in cybersecurity. 

“I have met many positive and motivated individuals in our training programs,” Drew said. “None more so than a learner who worked as a security guard in a data center in Africa. He wanted to learn more and be an engineer, so he saved his money to pay for flights and one of our programs so he could give himself this opportunity. That’s real determination.”

When I told my friends I enrolled in the CDCDP program, they asked why. My answer was simply, “To learn.” I had no idea that  Rory Gilmore would soon inspire me to pursue my dream and my CNet certification would give me the confidence I needed to actually do it.  

I can apply to graduate school in January. If I’m accepted into the program, it will take me a few years to complete. At that point, I’m not exactly sure what will happen. But I do know this: I’ve told quite a few people I’m going back to school, and, aside from “Congratulations,” the most common response I hear is, “So, what is cybersecurity?” 

Don’t be the person who says, “It’s complicated,” or “It’s boring,” when someone asks about the industry. You might not think you could inspire anyone, but I’ll bet that security guard never thought he would be an engineer. Stranger things have happened — let’s share our stories and see what comes of it.

*For more information on CNet's remote learning opportunities, check out the The Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework.