MCCC Staff, Students Offer IT Support at DNC
By Theresa Katalinas
A Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) IT manager and several students volunteered their time helping ensure network connectivity and security at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jennifer Kim, the College’s second shift IT Manager, assisted in the network operations center and provided technical support in the boiler room where delegates were connecting with delegates on the floor. She also helped the floor operations teams with their walkie talkies and was part of the “visibility team.”
“Without the visibility team making sure all their equipment is working they can’t speak to one another. There’s just a lot of stuff that you don’t think about,” said Kim, who graduated from MCCC in 2015 with a Certificate in Computer Networking. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Connecticut.
Kim, as well as MCCC students Chris Lombardo, Patrick Powell, Dustin Rodkey, Bill Schaefer and Bryan Remington put in long hours before, during and after the convention at the request of Cisco, the company that powered the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.
MCCC has a strong, longstanding partnership with Cisco. The College is a Cisco Networking Academy Support and Instructor Training Center and provides support to approximately 110 Cisco academies located in the tri-state area for the past 18 years. The College also trains students in Cisco technologies including routing, switching, cyber security and IP telephony that lead to many industry certifications and gainful employment.
Cisco “transformed” the conventions “into mini cities in and of themselves,” according to a blog on the company’s website.
“Just like in an actual city or community, in order for things to run smoothly, everything needs to be connected.” For Kim, resolving a minute-long “glitch” with the visibility team, emphasized the importance of teamwork.
“You depend on one another so much,” she said. “When you’re all under pressure having a good team is so important.”
Kim, whose supervisor allowed her time off from the College, volunteered to assist all hours of the day, including nights and weekends.
“Hundreds of people volunteer behind the scenes making things work,” Kim said. “Without the network connectivity from Cisco there’s no phones, there’s no internet.”
Schaefer, who graduated this spring with an associate’s degree in computer networking, helped set up the event.
“We were mostly shadowing and working alongside the people from Cisco,” he said. “It was very interesting to see the things we learned at Montco and how they’re applied in the real world … It was way more complex than I imagined that it might be.”
Powell, of Horsham, a computer network and networking administration student at Montgomery County Community College, also helped set up prior to the DNC and spent the weekend afterward decommissioning.
“I got to see a lot of the hands-on of how everything we learn in the classroom is implemented into a day-to-day process,” Powell said. “Especially for an event that was that large it was cool to see the whole broad scheme.”
Being there beforehand also presented him a unique opportunity to shadow the Cicso engineers and “pick their brains” about the entire process.
Powell helped set up switches and command prompts. Afterward, he and Kim removed information and various security features from the switches so the equipment could be used for another event.
“Cisco really appreciated the College’s support both before and after the convention,” said John Barber, a network consulting engineer at Cisco. “The students were eager to learn and lend a helping hand. It was great to see people beginning their IT careers with excitement, motivation, and looking forward to rewarding careers.”
Besides taking her IT expertise to a much larger arena, Kim heard Hillary Clinton’s speech from the floor of the convention, making her behind-the-scenes role feel larger than life.
“I was in the presence of a presidential candidate. Hearing her speak live and feeling the energy and feeling the passion in the words she was speaking … You can’t really capture that on TV,” Kim said. “I think being in person it was kind of a different experience. You get goosebumps when you’re there.”
She’s already all in for the next big Cisco-run event.
“I would totally do it again.”
Photo captions (all photos courtesy of Jennifer Kim):
Photo 1: Some of the members of the decommissioning team working backstage in the Network Operations Center on Friday after the convention, including several Cisco employees, Jennifer Kim, and MCCC student Pat Powell.
Photo 2: Montgomery County Community College’s second shift IT Manager Jennifer Kim on the convention floor before the events started.
Photo 3: Guests start gathering on the convention floor near the Pennsylvania delegate section prior to the start of the events.
Photo 4: Jennifer Kim and student Pat Powell from Montgomery County Community College assist with decommissioning after the convention by wiping Cisco equipment and preparing it to be shipped.