If there’s one person that Tafari Shambe thanks for fostering his love for technology, then it’s his mom. Now a senior systems and sales engineer with Ciena, the multinational networking and software company, Shambe credits his mother with providing the tools and opportunities for him to explore computers and technology.

“[She] always had a computer around, and she bought me circuit building kits and other technology gadgets which helped feed my passion at an early age, and, because of that, a lot of what I do in my career comes naturally,” he shares.

Initially, Shambe set his sights on a career as a mechanical engineer, but changed course while working in a telecommunications warehouse during college.

“I saw all sorts of cards and parts for what I would later learn was communications equipment, and wanted to know what the equipment was and how it worked,” Shambe recalls.

Realizing that his interests were in telecom rather than mechanical engineering, Shambe decided to discontinue his college education, and instead enrolled in tech school and began a career as a field technician working on phone lines.

Shambe continued to gain valuable industry experience, and even started his own networking company before landing a job at World Wide Packets (WWP) prior to its sale to Ciena in 2008.

“The need for bandwidth continues to grow as consumers and businesses require endless connectivity, and the need for security is even more critical as our personal information is living in public spaces like the cloud….[And the] IT field is a vast, ever-changing amalgamation of disciplines. Find the thing you like to do and become the expert in it.”

With more than 20 years in the telecom field under his belt and numerous industry technology and vendor equipment certifications, Shambe undoubtedly has the experience needed to excel at his current position at Hanover, MD-based Ciena.

“In my current role I’m responsible for introducing new technologies into the networks of various service providers. More specifically, I help deliver new automation capabilities and packet networking technologies that help service providers transform their current networks,” Shambe explains, adding that his work with some of Ciena’s 1,500-plus customers worldwide helps service providers keep pace with today’s ever-increasing connectivity demands driven by bandwidth-intensive applications such as e-gaming, 4K technology and streaming services, to name a few. It’s this technology, and its implications on an increasingly technology-based society in which we live, that continues to inspire Shambe.

“The future is bright. There have been many significant developments during the last 20 years that have changed the long-term outlook of the industry. Innovation has continued with the gig economy, social media platforms, cloud storage, streaming media, online shopping and more,” he asserts.

“The need for bandwidth continues to grow as consumers and businesses require endless connectivity, and the need for security is even more critical as our personal information is living in public spaces like the cloud.”

Coupled with the ever-increasing demand for secure bandwidth is the need for fair representation of members of minority communities in IT and technology-related fields, a problem that, according to Shambe, doesn’t have an easy solution.

“I think it starts with awareness in minority communities that these sorts of opportunities exist in the first place,” Shambe purports, recalling that he, like many young African Americans growing up, knew relatively little about the IT and telecommunications fields, much less that these fields held career options for him.

Today Shambe is doing his part to eliminate this barrier for as many youths as he can through his board seat on a non-profit called Colorado Futuretek whose mission is to expose high school-aged students to network technology, and to eventually connect them with companies to do paid IT and/or engineering internships.

“We’re doing a lot with this organization, but there’s more that can be done. More outreach to minority communities helps them become more aware of opportunities and the pathways to technology careers,” he points out.

Once these pathways are open, Shambe believes the career possibilities are endless for young professionals entering the industry. “The IT field is a vast, ever-changing amalgamation of disciplines. Find the thing you like to do and become the expert in it,” he advises.