B.C. student gets royal treatment from Cisco

A student at British Columbia Institute of Technology has just had a peek at some of Cisco Systems Inc.’s secrets after being a winner of the company’s annual NetRiders IT student skills competition.

Brody Murfin, a 23-year-old second year student in the college’s computer information systems administrator course, returned earlier this month from his reward for capturing the first place for North American contest participants.

He was pitted against 43 students who’d won province or state-wide competitions in Canada and the U.S.

“It was a great experience,” he said in an interview Friday. Not only did he and 13 other international winners tour the Cisco lab in San Jose, Calf., — “I saw things 90 per cent of Cisco employees haven’t seen,” he said – but they also got to meet CEO John Chambers.

Held in December, NetRiders is a three-stage competition with written and theoretical parts. Murfin heard about it in the fall from his networking instructor and decided “to give it a shot.”

In the first stage, competing against other BCIT students, he finished third, which qualified him to go on. In the second round, against students from across Canada, he said he was surprised to learn he finished first.

Unsure of what to expect in the competition, he grew more confident once he realized the kinds of questions he’d be facing.

In the final round – done online before judges — he faced an exam on networking basics plus a theoretical test involving solving problems like configuring a wireless network. Some of the questions were tough enough that he didn’t know the answers, he admitted. “I asked my teacher afterwards and he didn’t know,” Murfin said.

After the final session the points were tallied. The places were announced starting from 10th. When no Canadians had made it to fourth, he said, “I begin to set myself up for defeat.”

Then, with his classmates in the room with him cheering, it was confirmed he was number one. “It was pretty shocking,” he recalled.

To celebrate, school staff bought them pizza.

Joseph Arnup of Toronto’s George Brown College finished 13th and Jeff Hunter of PEI’s Holland College finished 26th

Ironically, Murfin hadn’t planned to study computers at all after leaving high school, although it was there that he first learned networking. Initially he’d enrolled in urban planning. However, he said, he soon realized that he enjoyed IT more and switched, choosing to major in networking.

The course gives CCNA and CCNP certifications, while covering a wide range of subjects including Linux and Microsoft Windows.

When he graduates this summer he hopes to land a job at an Internet or telecommunications service provider.

“I don’t think networking is the dull part of IT,” he said. “You need networking if you’re going to do anything else.”

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