Cisco U. VP Explains How Upskilling and Reskilling Drive Tech Careers

In this Q&A, Cisco U. executive Par Merat shares career advice and discusses how education and learning can improve equity issues in the tech industry.

Alyse Burnside, Contributor

May 10, 2023

4 Min Read
keyboard with a key that says continuous learning

If you’re just breaking into tech, be eager to learn, expand your knowledge and skills, and take advantage of training programs to get ahead.

That’s according to Par Merat, vice president of training and certifications at Cisco U., Cisco’s soon-to-launch digital learning center.

Merat has always been interested in the tech industry due to its endless opportunities. She credits her success to the training opportunities she had and her love of learning. She believes that education, upskilling, and reskilling are critical to improving equity issues within tech.

Par Merat, vice president of training and certifications at Cisco U

par merat_cisco_u

ITPro Today spoke with Merat about advice she has for tech professionals, whether they’re just starting their careers or are already established. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What was your initial interest in the tech world?

Merat: I’ve always had a love of learning, and I was most attracted to the endless opportunities the tech world offered. It’s such an innovative and exciting space to be in. Plus, I believe technology has tremendous potential to serve as a great equalizer, especially when you combine innovation with emotional intelligence.

I pursued a career in tech because I saw that it can be a great enabler in the pursuit of equal opportunities. As a California native of Native American, Mexican, and Iranian descent, my diverse cultural and socioeconomic background left me in a position different from my peers and made a traditional education path more difficult for me.

Related:A White Hat Hacker’s Advice on Ethical Hacking and Career Growth

Despite all the challenges I faced, I managed to build a career for myself – and I did it very differently than most. I credit my success to the training opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have throughout my career, as well as the love of learning my parents instilled in me. 

How can education improve equity issues within the tech world? Has Cisco U. undertaken any specific initiatives aimed at hiring and retaining people of color, queer people, or otherwise underrepresented people in tech? 

Education and even more specifically learning and development through upskilling and reskilling are critical to improving equity issues within the tech industry. Upskilling, reskilling, and continuing one’s education journey – traditional or not – has the potential to serve as a great equalizer-providing opportunity for anyone at any stage of their career.

Par Merat quote

White Black Minimalist Business Quote Instagram Post (1)_1

Working in an industry where there is a general lack of diversity among software developers and women continue to be underrepresented, it’s my vision is to create career opportunities for all through Cisco U.’s personalized, AI-enabled, skills-based training programs.

Why do you think cybersecurity faces such a significant skills gap?

The cybersecurity industry is rapidly evolving. Over the last three years, the workplace has nearly become fully digitized. Today, the speed and scale of innovation require more agility, adaptation, and real-time readiness at every career stage. With this comes a need for a greater skill set, one that not everyone has.

Cybersecurity is an industry where there is a severe skills gap that needs to be mitigated quickly. As our working world changes and the future of work begins to take shape, traditional degree paths may not be enough to close the real-time skills gap.

What has been the best career advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to someone just breaking into the tech world?

With the Cisco U. launch fast approaching, my friends and family have reminded me of the importance of creating synergy with work, community, family, and myself. Even something as simple as taking the time to breathe is a new skill I am learning. I’m always grateful to my loved ones for reminding me to take that time, and it truly is the best advice I have received because it is life-changing. 

For someone just breaking into the tech world, I would say be eager to learn and expand your knowledge and skills. When organizations offer training programs to help advance one’s skills or develop new skills, employees should jump at those opportunities because it’s a great way to get ahead. I would not be where I am today without the training opportunities I was afforded.

About the Author(s)

Alyse Burnside

Contributor, ITPro Today

Alyse Burnside is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She is working on a collection of personal essays about queerness, visibility, and the hyperreal. She's especially interested in writing about cybersecurity, AI, machine learning, VR, AR, and ER.

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