A friend of mine forwarded me an old link about “what is a CCIE”. It’s interesting, hilarious, but I never bothered to read it all in detail since I know for sure it’s just too far from the truth. There was a time when CCIEs are considered the gurus of computer networking. There was a time when not many study materials available and the candidates must rely solely on the experiences. There was a time when someone who has CCIE can close his eyes and pick any job he wants because there were just so many available.
Today many have passed and some of them could even pass within short time without having difficulties (you know what I mean). Some CCIEs can’t demonstrate the expected level of expertise when they have to work in the real world. Some CCIEs don’t even understand the basic knowledge. So people are looking for the new perception or definition of CCIE. To me, CCIE meaning has never been changed. But before I mention what CCIE definition is that I always have in mind, please allow me to share different experiences that I have during my journey to pass CCIE in three different tracks.
I passed CCIE in both 2-day exam and 1-day exam format.
I failed attempts to get CCIE, I also passed 1 CCIE in first attempt.
My first CCIE was paid by my previous employer. My second CCIE was self-funded. My third CCIE was after I joined Cisco.
I passed the first CCIE because I had to, else I would get kick out from the company. I passed the second CCIE because I wanted to join Cisco. And I passed the third just because I really liked the SP technology.
I didn’t take any official training to pass any CCIE lab.
I took a month off to prepare my first CCIE and used to study 16 hours a day. I had to study between 2 am till morning for 6 months to get my second CCIE. And there was just not enough time to study for the third so I had to rely on experience at customer networks, and did extensive practice in the lab only few weeks before the exam.
So what is CCIE, if you ask me?
It’s a certification program from Cisco Systems that is positioned with “expert” level of difficulty. It’s a technical certification that you can earn if you pass both the written and lab exam. The exam blueprint covers many aspect of networking technologies and one must understand the concept as well as implement it in the same lab topology. There are advanced technology, leading edge features and troubleshooting skills tested during the exam.
It’s not a design exam.
It’s not to implement best practice network.
It’s not a real world implementation.
It’s designed to ensure the candidate knows how the technology works, how to implement it, how to integrate it, and how to troubleshoot it in simulated network topology.
It can make you learn new technology. It can give you chance to test new things in the lab that you may not have chance to do so in your daily work.
Sometimes the tasks required to be done in the lab don’t make sense.
Sometimes the tasks required to be done in the lab won’t be implemented in the real world.
And due to the lab setup, features and technology asked during the exam, the complexity of the integration between many technologies, combined with the time constraint, travel required and so on make CCIE lab really challenging and difficult.
But no matter how difficult it is, it’s just an exam.
CCIE is NOT supposed to be the final target.
CCIE is just the beginning.
Once you pass the exam, it can open many new opportunities. It can give you more chance to get a better position or to get another job in better organization. It can give you opportunity to work in more complex project. It can give you chance to join Cisco directly, like me, and someday can contribute to develop the content and make the questions for the lab exam.
And last, I will make one statement that may cause many debates but I’m just saying this based on what I have seen in the field:
Every network engineer should have at least one CCIE.
It should be compulsory for any engineer who wants to implement or get involved in complex network deployment.
Get the experiences then get certified.
Or get certified then get the experiences.
Either one is fine, as long as at the end each CCIE has real world experiences not only lab or exam experiences.
And that’s what CCIE is to me.