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October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and FTCC is spotlighting some recent graduates of its Computer Information Technology programs. This is the first spotlight in the series.

Evita Reyes was looking for a career change.

The Florida native had a background in business administration, working as a corporate sales manager for a boutique hotel for a decade in Florida before deciding she needed something different.

She liked the work, but the demanding schedule too often took Reyes away from home and her three sons.

“Working as a corporate sales manager, there were a lot of events, meeting and greeting, nights and weekends,” Reyes said. “It was great but for someone who didn’t have three kids at home depending on them.”

Now, three years after enrolling at Fayetteville Tech, Reyes has her Associate Degree in Applied Science for Network Management — with three certificates — and is working for one of the biggest names in networking, cloud and cybersecurity solutions, Cisco Systems.

“Working at Cisco has exceeded my expectations,” Reyes said. “I was just starting out. I was getting my foot in the door. But now I’m working at Cisco.”

A fresh start

In June 2016, Reyes moved to North Carolina with her children in search of a change. She took a job as an executive assistant in a medical office.

“I wanted a fresh start for me and my kids,” she said. “My job as an executive assistant helped me put down roots here. But I didn’t want to dress up anymore. I wasn’t interested in that aspect of the corporate world.”

While working in her previous careers, she discovered a more exciting interest: technology. She enjoyed setting up and even occasionally troubleshooting the computer network in each new site as the office expanded. She decided this was a career worth pursuing.

“I was very much interested in technology. I was always kind of the onsite technology guru, if you will,” Reyes said. “I said, I do this really well. I have the patience for it. I have the capacity to understand networking. I might as well get paid for it.”

Reyes set out to get the education she needed to turn her interest into a reality, researching colleges in the Fayetteville area. She found that FTCC was the right fit.

“Cost was definitely a factor. The location was close to me, and the classes worked with my schedule,” Reyes said. “I was working full time, and I’m a single mom, but I also wanted to get my education in this field. I was able to do that at FTCC.”

Making the most of opportunities

Reyes started her time at FTCC almost entirely online, but she was laid off from her job in the medical office — an event she turned into a positive.

With more time available during her day, she was able to come to FTCC’s Fayetteville campus. She credits the connections she made through face-to-face interactions with improving her opportunities.

“I think with anything, you get out what you put into it,” Reyes said. “I think that I got a tremendous amount of exposure and guidance from my instructors and advisors at FTCC.

“You just have to be willing to talk to them and tell them what your path is, and everyone is willing to help you.”

Reyes set out to take advantage of as many resources as she could at FTCC, including a meeting with the Career Development Center to workshop her resume. She transferred that information to her LinkedIn profile, which attracted the eye of Cisco recruiters, landing her a job as a technical consulting engineer.

“They saw my degree and those certificates, and that I was getting ready to graduate,” Reyes said. “I think my soft skills might have put me forward a little bit. I don’t know how many people have that opportunity. It’s really awesome.”

Now, Reyes is putting those skills to use at one of the world’s most recognizable technology companies.

“I attended the Cisco Experience Academy, and they grouped us in cohorts of about 20-24,” she said. “I’m among the ranks with mechanical engineers and computer engineers and people with master’s degrees from these well-known universities. And I’m proud to represent Fayetteville Technical Community College.”

Learn more about FTCC’s Computer Information Technology programs.

Find more information about Cybersecurity Awareness Month.