In the next couple of weeks I will be celebrating the 8th anniversary of my first CCIE lab attempt. I took the first CCIE lab for Routing & Switching track in Brussels on August 13, 8 years ago. I failed at that time even I was able to reach the troubleshooting section on Day 2. Exactly one month after that day, I took the second attempt in Tokyo on September 13, and I passed. So I guess the number 13 can be associated as both bad luck and good luck for me.
I have worked, and lived, as CCIE for about 8 years now. Early 2005 I decided to go public by writing my first post in this blog, to share my life, my thoughts and my experience living as CCIE to everyone. Sometimes I wrote about my experience doing project with the customers. I shared how I passed the two other CCIEs in Security and Service Provider track. Once I wrote a post about how being CCIE is not that easy. I even wrote about my journey to join Cisco AS, all the way until I reached my current state in the WWSP team now. I shared my view about how I was so desperate to move to Cisco but I didn't have a chance at all. I was one of the hopeless crowd.
I wrote those things because sometimes I like to go back and read about it. It reminds me of those good old days, and I always laugh from time to time reading it.
But even with my continuous effort to transparently share about CCIE and the life of CCIE (at least mine), I feel like there is still some missing information. I still read and receive many comments regarding CCIE, and I believe those who made ones are missing the points. So here it is, I'm writing some of the points that I believe missing from people perspective about CCIE.
# CCIE is not worth anymore due to the high number
I saw the CCIE number of some guy who passed recently is already beyond 25000. CCIE number is started from 1025, so we can say at that time I'm writing this there are more than 24000 CCIEs out there. That's the reason why some people told me it's not worth to pursue CCIE anymore.
Man, you are missing the point. What is your purpose to take CCIE? Who cares about the number if we want to take CCIE to learn the technology covered in the lab in a structured way? If someone wants to take CCIE because he wants to ensure he has a solid foundation of the networking knowledge that he needs to work in the real life, why bother with the number? And you will see in my later point, it's not the number that matters. It's the experience, it's what you have done, it's the reputation, that matter.
And it's very rare you see CCIE with low number working in the field anymore. It means, even CCIEs are moving on. Some of the old CCIE have moved out from technical field. Some have become manager or even VP in the company. Some have invented their own company. Some may have retired and play in the rock band. Who knows? The point here is we always need regeneration process to get the new network consultant or new architect or new engineer. There is always a room for the new CCIE.
# Comparing school degree with CCIE
It's actually a ridiculous way to compare, since they are completely different! Professional certification like CCIE is good for practical knowledge. Do we need the regular school degree to do networking job? It depends. Someone who works in networking area as solution design consultant or implementation project architect won't need the degree. What they need is the experience and the technical knowledge. That's the spot where the professional certification can fill in, to help building a solid knowledge. But most of knowledge we learn from professional certification is a practical knowledge.
Based on my own experience, I never use my bachelor degree (and the knowledge I learned in the university, remember, I graduated as Mechanical Engineer) except when it comes to apply for work permit.
My point here: those two can't be compared apple to apple. Ones can go to school until they reach PhD level, only to find they can't design the solution for the customer in the project. This is obvious, because those knowledge are not the ones they learned at school. The PhDs are fit to do some other stuff, for example in depth research of new networking technology or protocol.
So ask yourself, what you want to be? If you want to work in practical implementation like myself, it's obvious you need the knowledge that can be learned by taking CCIE. Even if someday my kid decides to ditch the school because he wants to focus on practical computer or networking knowledge aka geeking out all the time, I can fully understand his decision. I hope.
# If you really need the !@#$%^&* comparison
I know, the answer above may not satisfy some of you, as until now I still receive the email asking for the comparison between school degree and professional/Cisco certifications. I will provide the answer here, and please be informed this is just my personal view.
CCIE is becoming the basic standard of networking engineer. And personally I do agree to become a solid networking specialist (level III in my previous post) one needs to have the knowledge covered in CCIE. So in Networking Engineering, I believe CCIE is the first level or Bachelor degree.
Having said the above, focusing in design mindset by taking CCDE, or by taking multiple CCIEs should be the Master degree. I really want to say that the next level should be CCIE with extensive experience. But if someone can pass CCIE and CCDE, or CCIE from multiple tracks, even without experience, he deserves the Master degree. Well, at least from me.
So you may guess the PhD level in my School of Networking Engineering: Cisco Certified Architect. While the PhD in real school must be achieved by extensive research, the Architect can be obtained only by extensive experience (10 years at least based on the Cisco Certified Architect requirement).
# The argument about CCIE vs. experience
By now you should know that there should not be any argument at all! CCIE is worth nothing without experience. Period. Do you think in real life the customer will be impressed if you pass CCIE lab with 100% score, but in the project you fail to deliver because you have no experience?
Whether you like it or not, CCIE won't be able to replicate the challenges in real world. It is a hands on exam originally designed for Cisco TAC engineer, to ensure they all have the same quality to help troubleshooting the network. It's not a design exam, even there are some design aspects you can learn from it. So obviously it won't be able to give you the simulation of real world where you have to deal with real customers, real projects, and real problems. The real world is just way too complicated to be simulated in 1 day exam (even until now Cisco is still trying by announcing the CCDE and the new Cisco Certified Architect level)
But think like this: when you are stuck with the same boring job, and you are so desperate to move but you face my 2 Law of Desperate Workers (you can't get the job because you don't have the experience, and you can't get the experience because your current job is too sucky) you may think about getting the certification as CCIE. Yes, you have to admit that you still won't have the experience. But at least by taking CCIE you can show that you have the solid foundation of the knowledge, and your willingness to learn new stuff.
# It's getting easier to cheat in CCIE
Some people said, if you want to pass CCIE just go to China! Some other said, all CCIE questions are flying around on the Internet. Some may said, many CCIEs and CCIE candidates don't respect the NDA anymore as they exchange the lab questions freely.
Please remember the previous point: CCIE is worth nothing without experience. If you don't have the experience yet, at least you can build a solid foundation of the knowledge by taking CCIE. So what's the point to become CCIE, if you don't have experience and you still need to cheat to pass?
I personally have met few CCIEs, some of them even have two CCIEs, and in five minutes I can figure out they don't have what they should have as CCIE. I'm not saying they must have passed the lab by cheating. I'm just saying even with their CCIE they don't have what it takes to do the work in real world. And if someone like me can figure that out easily, don't you think the company who wants to hire can't get the same impression during the interview process? They may be able to join the company eventually if they know how to trick the interview process, but the truth will show clearly the moment they really have to deliver the work.
So don't bother to cheat. No one can tell or accuse if you really cheat. But once you have the number, you should be ready to bear the consequences. You should be ready to show that you really have what it takes to be a CCIE.
# After CCIE we must live happily ever after
One guy called me as a Triple CCIE who never writes about CCIE anymore. He meant, I never write about the technical discussion around CCIE. My reply, what should I? If you are looking for CCIE technical discussion, you can join the groupstudy mailing list. Or you can read the Internetwork Expert blog. Unless I work for CCIE training institute, so I deal with the development of CCIE scenarios, after passing the lab I won't bother to focus with CCIE anymore as I have to work and deal with challenges in the real world project.
And if you follow my blog, you know I don't write the technical stuff for CCIE because the are many other websites, especially from the CCIE training institute, have done it very well. Instead I write about how to set our mindset to pass the CCIE. I share my journey to pass CCIE so those willing to do it can know how to live within the time of preparation. The CCIE wannabe can understand what kind of things we have to lose during CCIE preparation: social life, our hobby, relationship etc. I believe it's easy to find the technical information about CCIE, but only a few willing to tell you how does the life during preparation, and how it feel like to live and be a CCIE.
I write about how to live as CCIE.
I write about the challenges for CCIE.
And for me, if anyone bother to ask: am I happy with my current situation? My answer would be: I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. At least for now. I work for the organization that taught me the very first knowledge of networking technology. Now I just need to pursue the targets in my life.
Currently I'm trying to get the best of both worlds: to work my dream job with the dream profile I have always wanted to have, while still have a happy family life and do other stuff like snowboarding, desert offroading, racing the bike and playing with my drum at home.
And it was all started from CCIE.