At CDW, our Integrated Technology Solutions teams bring IT to life for our customers. They are intensely curious, exceptionally smart and never stop learning. This week, we celebrate National Engineers Week with some of those who bring IT, our engineers. We talked to Travis Polash, Associate Consultant Engineer (ACE) at CDW, about his unconventional career journey, how he became interested in engineering and his advice for aspiring engineers.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your path to CDW?
I graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2001 with a Criminal Justice degree and spent the next 16 years working in Law Enforcement. I retired in 2017 and went back to school at MidMichigan Community College (MMCC). I had started working with technology towards the end of my police career and really enjoyed it so I continued that at MMCC and started working on another degree in Computer Information Systems with an emphasis in Networking. I took all of the Cisco NetAcad courses and found that I really enjoyed it. I ended up getting that second degree and had a great time doing it!
While at MMCC, my instructor nominated me for a position on the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team. I went through the application process and was eventually selected for the 2019 Cisco Live! Dream Team. I was able to meet a ton of people, including Julie and Wendy from CDW. The entire CDW team did a great job showcasing CDW and the amazing opportunity with their Associate Consulting Engineer Program. I ended up applying with CDW as a direct result of those interactions and started as an ACE not too long after!
How did you first become interested in engineering?
I worked at the college helpdesk while in school and while that was great exposure to users and general IT issues, I wanted something a bit more specialized. My first full-time IT position was as a Network Support Associate for an auto parts supplier in mid-Michigan. I started getting into more of the network side of things and really enjoyed learning how everything worked together. The work experience, combined with my time at Cisco Live, really showed me that I wanted on the engineering side of things.
What’s your role at CDW? What does a typical day look like?
I am in Phase 2 of the ACE program on the Enterprise Networking track. Currently I have two main types of days, at home days and on the road days. Home days consist of regular book/certification studies, lab setups with different networking scenarios, meetings, and touching base with different ACEs to talk about their projects and stay connected. Road days are when I am onsite with a customer on a particular project. Those are usually longer days and more project/customer-centric.
I also try and make it into my local office once a week to touch base with sales, management and other engineers. Developing and maintaining relationships is key and takes work. It is easy to fall into the habit of working from home. I enjoy getting out and meeting other CDW coworkers or spending time with customers.
What is the most fun/innovative project that you’ve been a part of at CDW?
Right now I am shadowing/assisting my Technical Lead (TL) on a large networking project. It is great seeing a project from the very early stages and having the opportunity to work on it through completion.
You recently had the opportunity to meet with Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer at the Cisco Networking Academy at Lansing Community College. Can you tell us more about that event?
This was a great opportunity to talk about my experience leaving the workforce, getting retrained, and re-entering the workforce. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to re-invent myself and take my career/life down a second path.
This event was organized by Cisco as a way to spread awareness about the ability of the Networking Academy to help people from different walks of life re-invent themselves. The NetAcad is a great way to get your foot in the door with some real-world skills.
I really enjoy talking to and in front of people, so this was a great experience not only for me but my daughter as well. I was very excited to introduce her to and show her women in leadership positions. I think it is a very big part of my job as a father to show her the different opportunities that are out there for her.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring engineers?
What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?
Outside of family time, I really enjoy golf. I try and make sure that I carve out time each week away from my computer and anything work related.
What are you currently reading or watching?
Right now I am reading a few books:
Join Travis at CDW, check out our engineering opportunites here.