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Category: certifications

Too Many Details Can Hurt You (or Why You Need the Fundamentals First)

The IPv6 Security Summit at the Troopers conference always has a few awesome IPv6 presentations (many people claim Troopers is the conference to attend if you’re serious about IPv6), and this year was no exception. A day after the MLD bashing, Enno Rey delivered a great in-depth presentation on DHCPv6 features and shortcomings.

It seems the DHCPv6 intricacies presented in that talk were too much for some of the attendees – that afternoon I accidentally stumbled upon a visibly distressed gentleman who started our chat with “How could anyone expect us to deploy IPv6 in a production environment?

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Should I Go for CCIE or Some Other Certification?

One of my readers sent me this question:

I am already CCIE and work as a network engineer with pretty good salary. But I think that I am losing some passion for Cisco networking and have interests in many other technologies. Currently I am very interested in Linux and Python development. Is it worth to add some Red Hat certification along CCIE or should I pursue another CCIE?

I think “should I go for CCIE or RHCE” is the wrong question.

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SDN, Career Choices and Magic Graphs

The current explosion of SDN hype (further fueled by recent VMworld announcement of Software-Defined Data Centers) made some networking engineers understandably nervous. This is the question I got from one of them:

I have 8 plus years in Cisco, have recently passed my CCIE RS theory, and was looking forward to complete the lab test when this SDN thing hit me hard. Do you suggest completing the CCIE lab looking at this new future of Networking?

Short answer: the sky is not falling, CCIE still makes sense, and IT will still need networking people.

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Does CCIE still make sense?

A reader of my blog sent me this question:

I am a Telecommunication Engineer currently preparing for the CCIE exam. Do you think that in a near future it will be worth to be a CCIE, due to the recent developments like Nicira? What will be the future of Cisco IOS, and protocols like OSPF or BGP? I am totally disoriented about my career.

Well, although I wholeheartedly agree with recent post from Derick Winkworth, the sky is not falling (yet):

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Networking is like physics or math, not history

Every so often I stumble across a blog post (or receive an e-mail) complaining how hard it is to learn the material needed to pass a certification exam. That’s definitely true if you try the memorization approach to networking: trying to cram as many facts as possible into your grey matter. However, it’s impossible to make any reasonable progress that way; to move forward, you have to handle networking like you would math or physics: having a firm basic foundation, you slowly expand it, all the time trying to fit the new concepts into a coherent model (let’s call it “the big picture”).

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Off-topic: Maybe it’s you, not the Internet

Scott Berkun has (yet another) fantastic article on his blog: a teacher was complaining that the students use Facebook or check their e-mail in class. Scott’s response? Maybe it’s the teaching skills and the fascination with one-way lecturing, not the Internet, that’s at fault. Read the whole response; if you’ve been faced with too many narrow-minded teachers in your life, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

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Certifications and the hiring process

My good friend Stretch wrote an interesting article about the usability of certifications in the hiring process. I can’t agree more with everything he wrote about certifications, it nicely summarizes the various topics Greg Ferro and myself wrote about during the last year (please note: I’m not claiming Stretch was in any way influenced by our thoughts, anyone seriously considering the current certification processes has to come to the same conclusions).

Regrettably, I have to disagree with most of his alternative approach (although some of the ideas are great). It would work in an ideal world, but faces too many real-life obstacles in this one.

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Simulations in certification tests

Anyone who has ever had the “privilege” of interviewing a certified individual with purely theoretical knowledge appreciates the value of hands-on tests. The creators of certifications in the IT industry (including Cisco Systems) have responded by including more and more hands-on exercises in the certification exams. Unfortunately, Cisco decided not to use the real equipment, but rather simulations. While this is definitely better than relying exclusively on multiple-choice tests, students can still work their way through the simulations without having a decent level of hands-on experience.

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Writing good exam questions

Readers who commented on some of my previous certification-related posts have complained about the vagueness of exam questions. I have to agree with them; I’ve seen my fair share of dubious questions in the exams I’ve taken. For example, when I was developing EIGRP and BGP courses for Cisco, my lowest scores on the CCIE recertification exams were in those two categories. I knew too many details and was confused by the vagueness of the questions.

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Is it wise to use certifications in the candidate selection process?

My previous certification-related post described how some companies use certifications to filter job applicants for networking-related positions. Should you follow that example? If you’re in a country with a saturated job market, where the number of applicants far exceeds the number of job postings (consider yourself very lucky if you’re an employer), you should certainly use whatever filters you can to screen the hundreds of applications you receive … but be aware that you have potentially lost a few gems hidden in the flood.

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Certifications: a new barrier to entry

Recent blog posts indicate that, in at least some market segments, IT certifications are becoming a new barrier to entry: companies require a specific set of certifications in their job offerings and use those requirements to filter the candidates who are invited to the initial interview. Obviously, IT vendors pushing the certifications are getting some real traction. On the other hand, anecdotal evidence indicates that certification holders are sometimes able to memorize vast amounts of information without being able to put it to use (I don’t want to imply that they used other, less honest methods).

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