Do bootcamps make sense?

My recent post about a CCNP bootcamp program we've launched generated interesting comments, most of them focusing on the question: “Does it make sense to attend a bootcamp?”

The answer depends on how you got to the stage where you want to (or need to) attain the CCxP certification. Before going into discussions on “experience” versus “knowledge retention” (potentially “aided” by brain dumps), please read The Top 10 Problems with IT Certification in 2008 article published by InformIT. My potential disagreements with this article are so minor that I will not even try to document them.

OK, now that we're on the same page, let's analyze why someone would want to pursue CCxP certification:

  • To increase the salary or have better job options (as HR departments ask for people with specific set of certifications). From what I hear, this reason is more viable in US than the rest of the world (in most of Europe we can still test the technical skills of the candidates in any way we want without running the risk of being sued). Bootcamps might not be the best option for these candidates, as they tend to be priced similarly to the regular classes. Reading books or e-learning material (not to mention certain not-so-very-legitimate activities) will get you through the exams as long as they don't have the hands-on part ... and of course you'll end up having certification with zero experience;
  • To learn something new and valuable resulting in a formal recognition of the effort. Don't even think about attending the bootcamps. If you're learning completely new concepts, go through the regular courses (or use e-learning combined with hands-on lab exercises). Highly intensive format of the bootcamps (after all, we're trying to squeeze almost two weeks worth of material into a single week) will fly way over your head.
  • To formalize your experience ... either because you want to or because your employer needs certified head count (very common with Cisco partners trying to get better discount based on their partner status). In this case, a condensed bootcamp is usually the best option. For example, we had very successful bootcamp program a few years ago running back-to-back with the exams ... and, mind you, we used no cheating or brain dumps, the fact that the students took the exam right after the course obviously helped.

Last but definitely not least, it's worth mentioning that not all five-day courses have five days worth of content. In these cases, condensing them into bootcamps makes even more sense.

1 comment:

  1. And of course the number one reason for attending a bootcamp: work is paying!

    Seriously though, I've been considering a CCNP bootcamp to suite my somewhat unique situation. Being positioned indefinitely in Iraq, I've had more than ample time to study and do labs, but no opportunity to actually test. The prospect of getting 100% comfortable with all the material, then flying back to the US on leave and knocking out all four exams at once via bootcamp is very appealing.

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Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354, is the chief technology advisor for NIL Data Communications. He has been designing and implementing large-scale data communications networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. See his full profile, contact him or follow @ioshints on Twitter.