The Psychology of Becoming a CCIE Pt 1

I passed my CCIE written exam in October 2013 after 8 months of intermittent studying. Life does really get in the way if you know what i mean. From the onset, the plan was to slug it out in either 3 or 4 months maximum. I had a well planned schedule which entailed the exam topics pasted in an Excel sheet. It was highlighted green whenever i was done reading the section with the date of completion typed out snugly beside it.A glance at the sheet in the early stages of my studies proved a bit disheartening sometimes, knowing that although i felt high and mighty and fulfilled at successfully reading through a large chapter in 2 days of intense studying, there were 15 more to plough through!!

Now i know that the CCIE Written is not a “certification” to boast about, or as in the words of Himawan Nugroho in the fourth point on his blog on How To Become A CCIE, the Written is not half a CCIE, or anything in itself. It’s merely an entry pass to attempt the real deal, the monster of the 8-hour gruelling lab exam that has left many a perceived navy seal of networking crestfallen, slurking away with tail between the legs. In my part of the world however, it is kind of a big deal when you tell people you are preparing for the CCIE, regardless of it being the written or the lab exam. Those 4-letters coming out of one’s mouth evoke some level of awe and respect just for the fact that you don’t come across too many homegrown CCIE’s. At the time of writing, there are only 2…Yes! One…two, homegrown CCIE’s in a population of about  24 million.I stand to be corrected though. The first one got minted about 5 years ago and is close to bagging his third plaque. The second  picked up his digits in August last year.  We do know of other guys out there in the diaspora who have successfully passed the lab, some in multiple tracks and are doing exploits in their own respect. This brings me to the question one might ask, that is, why this dearth of highly specialized local talent?

 I will attempt to offer some perspectives below;

  • Many network engineers do not challenge themselves enough. Period.

I’ve come across a number of network engineers locally who are either half-heartedly pursuing some CCxP level certification or none at all after acquiring the CCNA.They are not able to focus on attaining the CCIE due to the diverse professional directions they choose to pursue. Many Ghanaian engineers have conveniently put the possibility of acquiring the CCIE out of their minds. It seems like a far reach to them because they “heard” it was designed for networking supermen due to the difficulty associated with it. Crucial traits i find lacking in a lot of these guys is focus, perseverance and an adamant determination to go in one particular direction professionally. Rupert Murdoch famously quips and says that FOCUS means to Follow One Course Until Successful and till you adopt that attitude towards the CCIE, you would just walk off the path way like many noble network craftsmen have.

  • Network Infrastructure is not extensive enough, hence CCNA/CCNP skills suffice.

In my last job i was managing a 50 site-network, with just about 10 of those sites doing some dynamic routing. Thanks to the “magic” of MPLS static routing was conveniently employed towards the PE’s of the Service Provider giving us transport at the various sites. Static routing was the order of the day and that didn’t provide much of a challenge architecturally. A CCNP would have been extremely comfortable managing that network. A CCNA who was really on top of his game and knew how to use Google  well would get along with a few scrapes and bumps. In a scenario like this going for the CCIE would seem an overkill. You didn’t need a CCIE to know your way round. A few large telcos and Service Providers have much bigger networks and more infrastructure, but none in my estimation would scale beyond a few hundred sites. Even there you would most likely find some form of expatriate talent supporting the infrastructure and running the show from overseas or in the background somewhere. So there again, not much to give the necessary hands on experience,not much to challenge someone to go for the CCIE.

Part 2 follows…

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One Response to The Psychology of Becoming a CCIE Pt 1

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