A Decade As A CCIE

Monday 5th January 2009 •
Billy Law-Bregan, Communications Officer

By Chris Pagel, Technical Services Manager

Being a Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert can actually be a burden. why? Well there’s a perception that CCIE’s know everything about everything and can answer any question thrown at them. Well I’ve been a CCIE for almost ten years now and I still don’t know everything and I never will. That’s why the CCIE logo isn’t on my business card and why I prefer not to be introduced as “our CCIE” when meeting customers.

When I passed my CCIE I was very proud, and I still am, it was and still is one of the most sought after and most respected qualifications in IT.

10 years ago CCNA and CCNP did not exist, you went straight for CCIE and that was it. There was a pre-qualification test, as there is now, and a two day lab. The lab was one of, if not the, most stressful things I’ve ever done. The months of effort I had put in to revising, and the late nights configuring routers in every conceivable configuration in my spare bedroom would have counted for nothing if I had failed. Luckily I passed, one of three out of the twelve who did the exam over those two long days. Today there’s a structured path to get to CCIE and a one day lab exam, I’m not sure if that makes it any easier.

To me being a CCIE is not about passing an exam it’s about being a good engineer, being dynamic and adaptable, having a logical approach to an issue or problem and having the ability to work under pressure and to see it through. I know people who can do this and they don’t have a CCIE (or any other qualification for that matter) but that are equally as good as any CCIE I know.  It’s not always about having the qualification.

I was glad when Cisco took the decision to split CCIE in to six tracks a few years back. Due to the breadth of technology area’s Cisco products now cover it made sense.  I had hoped that this would make the CCIE re-certification tests (every two years) a little easier as it would be more specific to the subject of routing and switching, however I was wrong. There’s still a vast range of topics to cover so it’s no easier.

A CCIE qualification is a good thing to have it certainly opens doors and gave me opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise. So if you’re looking to do CCIE my advice would be to go for it – follow the CCNA, CCNP path first but be realistic it’s going to take over your life and will take a lot of commitment and you need to immerse yourself in Cisco for months. The best advice I can give is to speak other CCIE’s and get them to help and mentor you. You also need the backing of your employer, that’s very important as you will need lab equipment and study time.  It’s worth the effort for the rewards – well it was for me anyway.

I was a little disappointed to find out that Cisco don’t do anything to mark 10 years of CCIE certification, but I suppose there’s a lot of us now. Still a t-shirt wouldn’t have gone a miss!

You can find more information about CCIE at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco_Career_Certifications
http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le3/ccie/index.html

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