my thoughts on the CCIE Continuing Education Program..

change.pngAfter years of blood, sweat, and tears (maybe not blood but you get the idea, alot of hard work) i eventually passed my CCIE Voice in 2012. It was a moment in my life that I can never forget. The journey from my first attempt that literally left me in tears to my 6th attempt, I saw myself develop phenomenally as an engineer. I still to this day recommend anyone to go through at least one track as it would give you many skills. Aside from mastering the topics on the blue print, it will help you develop tremendously as an individual, from my own experiences of being better able to working under pressure to being calm cool and collected when everything is going wrong but at the same time razor focused to be able to work through the problem at hand and get it resolved in a systematic and controlled fashion.

This actually proved itself for a customer for whom I recommended a redesign of an incredibly complicated CUCM deployment that started its life as a single site deployment and evolved into a multi site deployment. As the cluster expanded and new sites were added to the platform without any consideration of how it would be managed. To the point where the ‘expert’ on that deployment didn’t know how certain pieces of the puzzle actually fit together. With no documentation to go by, it was a deployment from hell…  I made a recommendation to do a complete redesign of the CUCM cluster that met its current and future needs, the customer agreed and my ‘expert’ colleague left. Ouch! ..& Yep. Baptism by Fire!. Since I made the recommendation, it fell upon me to redesign and deliver. I made the recommendation to the complete redesign of all the UK sites over two weekends to reduce the risk, the customer had other thoughts… can it be done over 1 weekend? 🙂  yep sure Mr Customer… how I regretted that statement….. To cut this story short, that weekend had many challenges but I delivered what I promised by Monday and the end users noticed virtually no difference except for the fact that when they called they noticed their numbers were now in E164, normal dialing habits retained. The LLD was written and the CUCM deployment was hailed by the company CIO as one of the best in their global estate.

I can say one thing for certain, my experiences during my CCIE journey helped me keep focused throughout. Enough! this is not a write up about my CCIE journey or lessons learnt but you get the point. Myself, as numerous CCIE’s, have their own unique experiences that we can all share but rather lets talk about the recent changes in the re certification policy and how its relevant.

As with many IT Vendors who have struggled to keep their certification/s updated and relevant in a world where there is something new being released literally every month, the exams in many aspects however are unable to keep up. If you studying for an exam, then you need somewhere to start from and go through the topics systematically mastering each topic/domain and subsequently passing the exam, this works great. But unfortunately it does not end there. Technological innovations are constant and as you progress on with your career you now need to keep yourself relevant. You are no longer the just the engineer, but now the expert in a specific technology area so you need to pull your socks up!. In many cases, as you do well, you develop into roles that are less hands-on and more architectural.

This requires you know the reason, advantages, disadvantages, counter arguments for what you propose. This is a completely different mindset. Broadly speaking, as an engineer we were concerned with configuring and fixing problems. As an architect, we need to now understand all the moving parts of the solution you are proposing and you have the added complexity of understanding how to align technology to business processes and needs, how the solution you are recommending creates value to the organisation, what is the outcome, is it monetary, an increase in productivity etc.. this can go on and on and on…

the biggest limitation when you are progressing through the ranks is that it gets increasingly difficult to remember what specific show command you need so see X, remembering how the output calculates to X etc. We are human after all. unless ‘you’ are AI – i know a few and yes they do exist! but im not. Speaking about the Human element, we also have families. you also need to find a healthy work life balance – you cant constantly put family on hold either.

I, as you may, have read a number of posts online of people criticizing Cisco’s approach, i believe strongly being part of the solution and not the problem, now while some of the perceived negativity may have some basis, one has to understand you have to start from somewhere….that ‘somewhere’ is founded on three principles:-

  • Flexibility is achieved by offering existing Cisco certified individuals an alternative option for re-certification, in addition to the already existing option of re-certifying by passing the relevant exam(s).
  • Diversity is achieved by allowing individuals a wide range of pre-approved items, such as online courses, instructor-led training, authoring of content, and Cisco Live training offerings (collectively called “Continuing Education items”), which can be pursued to earn credits toward re-certification.
  • Integrity is achieved by having Cisco authorized content providers, who deliver the content to the individual seeking re-certification, validate the credits submitted by that individual.

having some guiding principles keeps you on track…after all the integrity of the program needs to be maintained while at the same time encouraging engineers and architects to  to continue progressing…. then the penny drops and it starts making sense. The Unified Communications market as an example, involves a whole host of technologies one can specialize in that are not covered on the exam, and there is also a bigger world out there apart from UC there that needs exploring….

I certainly welcome Cisco’s new changes, While this is a great start,  i’m sure this will evolve into something more flexible while adhering to its principles. I, for one would like to see

  • more pre-approved options such as a “Cisco Live like” credits to the Partner training, etc
  • credits for Active participation in certain online platforms such as Cisco communities, Cisco Champions etc.
  • introducing a minimum % of the credits one acquires be in the technology one is a ‘expert’ in. that only makes sense

give it time and i’m sure Cisco work it out …

Rant over…


Additional Links:-

CE Portal
Cisco Continuing Education Program

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