Balanced Life w/CCIE

Unanswered Question
Oct 26th, 2007

I am interested in CCIE track but I want to know whether anyone of you who has gotten CCIE has still a balanced life.

My definition of balanced life is:

1. You are married reasonably happy.

2. You have one or more hobbies while still working on or maintaining your CCIE.

3. You're enjoying your family reasonably well (not perfectly).

4. You've other goals in life to accomplish next to CCIE job like financial, travel etc..

Has any CCIE been able to have balanced life or does one need to have only one purpose in life in order to get and maintain CCIE?

I am trying to understand whether CCIE takes all of life commitment or not.

thank you kindly,

I have this problem too.
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Kevin Dorrell Fri, 10/26/2007 - 07:04

I'm not going to answer that directly (partly because I failed the lab for the second time a couple of weeks ago), but I will say that that is a very, very good question! I have my doubts. (So does my family!)

Anyone else?

Kevin Dorrell

Luxembourg

jcrussell Fri, 10/26/2007 - 08:23

I passed the lab on my first try on July 6th, so it's all fresh in my mind!

I personally had no life while studying for my CCIE. I did 35+ hours a week for 5 months. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, complained about how all I did was study. But for me, it paid off. 5 months of solid studying, passed the lab on the 1st try, and was offered a new job with a 60% raise within a month of passing.

After having the baby, I am so glad I did it before, because I don't know if I could do it now!

flash2200 Fri, 10/26/2007 - 08:58

A fair question to be sure and it's not just the initial prep time (and money!) to think about.

One thing to consider is that if you do get your CCIE there is a reasonably good chance you'll end up working in a professional services consulting firm of some sort. You can almost forget the work/life balance thing. You'll be a slave to your clients schedules. The corporate culture is cut throat and the only thing that matters is billable hours. You can expect to work two hours for every one you actually bill. That means a whole lot of overtime on evenings and weekends. NOT WORTH IT!!!

I'd advise getting multiple professional level certification from Cisco so that you can be well rounded and then get a regular Network / Analyst or Systems Admin job dealing with your companies internal network. You'll still make a good salary and generally still have a life.

My two cents.

P.S. I'm in no way shooting down the CCIE here. I have the highest respect for those who do complete CCIE and if you have the interest then go for it. I have no illusions about the level of commitment it takes.

foeadefinal Fri, 10/26/2007 - 14:43

Here is what a CCIE said in answering a similarReplied by: bbayer - Senior Network Architect, RIGHT SYSTEMS INC, CCIE - Oct 25, 2007, 10:48pm PST

Yes, the CCIE cert is worth it. It is extremely difficult and takes years to complete.

With ten years of experience and a R/S CCIE you can expect a minimum of $120K per year, and that is in a secondary or tertiary market and making silly demands like "I won't travel" or I want a laptop with a 17" screen. In a primary market you can expect at least $140K per year.

A premier partner gets about 40% off list. They cannot compete with a Gold partner. Gold partners get 48% off list. To become a Gold partner, a company must retain 4 CCIEs. There are only 14000 CCIEs in the world. That makes the competition fierce among Cisco partners.

I did it, at my company they treat me like a franchise player. They ask me which project I want to do. All the places I worked before I became a CCIE treated me like a dog and TOLD me what projects I was going to do.

I am very satisfied and plan on becoming at least a double CCIE.

Brian ": )

CCIE #14105

question:

gokhankaya Fri, 10/26/2007 - 21:30

I understand his accomplishment & hard work and gaining respect of people and satisfaction but don't see any balance in his statements. I can't say this for Brian but I don't want to accomplish CCIE to gain respect. If I don't have healthy respect of myself already, I should not gain it via accomplishment nor gaining respect of people. That would make me slave of people ultimately to crave their respect and make me one of the worse managers who is craving for authority and control. I would be depended on their respect. It is to good to gain respect via CCIE but also just as important to be independent of it internally.

kirkster Sun, 10/28/2007 - 11:48

Hi there,

I passed my lab in 2003 (I am #11330). Sure, it meant a lot of time studying but I didnlt think it was that hard. I am lookig at SP CCIE now and have a wife and eight month baby. It takes time and understanding from the wife but it's quite doable.

Good luck,

Steve

wil_amaya Wed, 11/14/2007 - 11:16

I work for a professional services firm that employs 20 plus CCIEs. I personally will be taking my CCIE Routing and Switching in 2008 (completing my CCNP now). I can honestly say that as far as our firm is concerned, our CCIEs are not slaves to our clients and we have some very very high profile clients. Yes there are times when you have to work the weekends, but its not like u're doing cutovers and migrations 24x7. Most of the time its cool, labbing, building, testing, training, learning,etc. And the money that CCIE's earn is worth the effort in my opinion. But for me, even more important than the money, is the satisfaction that I will attain of knowing that I passed such a rigorous exam that most never even attempt.

I'm not afraid to fail, I'm afraid not to try it. There is only one way to find out and thats to do it. Just my opinion and some insight from someone that works for a professional services firm.

* The guys that are on the voice team do work more hours then the routing, switching, systems, and security guys.

Good luck.

Great question gokhankaya.

As someone way down in the ranks (currently studying for CCNA) I find this helpful in terms of thinking about my career path.

It seems though in reading through the posts mostly everyone seemed to address the demands of studying for the CCIE and not life after the cert.

Brian's post attempted to tackle it but didn't address the balance which leaves the reader with only one conclusion (there is no balance after CCIE. Your work IS your life). Though if the different between secondary and primary tiers is 20k per year and if making 120k per year means I'm tucking my children in every night than the other 20k just isn't worth it.

I hope more people jump in on this conversation to offer their perspectives.

stephen.stack Mon, 10/29/2007 - 13:49

Well, what an interesting question. This is an issue that has been on my mind for a while. I am half way through the CCNP and i am find ing that my guitar playing has taken a nose dive, my Fiancee regularly gives me a bit of grief about amount of time i study, and i try to avoid going out with friends, so that i may wake up on a weekend morning with a fresh head to get some study done.

With all that said, my end goal is CCIE. I wish for nothing more. My focus and determination will get me there. Ask anyone who is successful financially or otherwise and you will be told that the success did not come without sacrifice.

I do feel sometimes tho, is it really worth it. All this effort, just to gain some extra money, respect or self satisfaction. My ethos is simple all the same - i have no kids right now, (i hope to sometime) so i will keep going with study until that time comes at which stage i think i will have enough done.

I will be keeping an eye on this post for other opinions.

My two cents...

Stephen

ellis_b Tue, 10/30/2007 - 08:37

I bought my girl friend (at the time) a puppy. That kept her busy while I studied. :)

Sure, you can have a balance, it just depends on how much time you have to study as to how long it will take you to get prepared. The more time you have to study, the quickier you will probably reach your goal.

-brad

paul.matthews Tue, 10/30/2007 - 09:23

I'm OK. I passed back in 1998. I have a wife and two boys (5 & 1) and loads of interests.

It all depends what you want to do and your motivations.

I know I *could* earn a lot more money, but I work to live. My job is to pay for the nice house, so my wife does not have to work, holidays etc. My job is *NOT* what I am.

I suppose one of the issues is who you are and why you want to do CCIE. If the motivation is $$$ you will probably be chasing the jobs that pay big, but place big demands. I did it because it was interesting

I suppose that ANY job that pays that big will be the same, regardless of CCIE.

P.

swmorris Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:09

That's an interesting question! :) Balance keeps life a little bit more sane, but it most certainly is not easy!

I've been married since before I started my whole CCIE process... Since 1999, I have passed four separate CCIE tracks, so it's certainly possible.

I used to have hobbies (scuba diving, medieval rapier combat, etc.) but now I have children. Even with kids, it's still possible to study! I passed both of my Juniper labs after having children. It's just less free time than before. :) (Kids count as a hobby now, or at least something that eats up any available free time)

HTH,

Scott

[email protected]

jabranzahid Fri, 11/02/2007 - 23:33

Well, this certainly depends on what your interests and ambitions are. People do certs for different reasons, i.e. money, satisfaction, respect etc etc etc.

Coming to your orignal million dollar question, work-life balance, its certainly possible(although a bit difficult) to maintain it during preparing for a CCIE(because of the amount of study required) and after obtaining it (as you get more involved in your profession than you were before).

When you achive this cert, your work-life balance also depends on what your next steps are, for example, most people just want to get this cert and get a well paid job and thats it !!! for them, but for some people, its just not the end of story....

For example, I started getting my certs at the age of 15 and now I am 21 with MCSE,CCNA,CCNP,CCIP and I have got definite plans to get CCIEs and juniper certs as well. Its not just money I am doing this for, its because I just love this stuff 2 much !!!

During implementation, I am pleased to see it all working and while working in customer noc enviroment, I just love solving complex routing problems for customers.

The reason for diverting from topic was to explain what 'Social' life means to you. Its different for different people, i.e. family, kids, sports etc.

For me, its my family and my WORK ITSELF !!!

A lot of people will disagree with me here.

I think whatever pleases you is part of your social life.

Now my work-life is certainly going to be different than who just want to get A ccie to get a good job.

Conclusion : IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE WAY YOU LOOK AT IT.

cristip Sat, 11/03/2007 - 18:48

Here is my 2c on this:

Read Stephen Covey's 7 habbits !!

It will learn you about balance and how to structure your life. What would you like to be mentioned on your grave stone ? How would you like to be remembered ?

Put down what is important in life for you. Think about it, as Stephen says, like you are at the end of your life.

The only person that can give the correct answer to this question is YOU !

You know what you are and what you would like to become.

For some people having 4 CCIE designations may sound insane (no offence intended, I would like to have 2 :-)) ). For some others allocating the long hours for learning to anything else like photography, travel or reading may be just great.

If you feel that two BMWs and a great house will make you happy go for it ! Do whatever makes you happy but do it ! There is no absolute recipe for happiness. Each person is different. Some people learn easy Some don't. Some people read Cisco all the day long. Because they like it. Some read Philosophy, for them Cisco is something that they do for living.

You are asking about balance. What is in your balance? You mentioned a few things. Who may know what is the importance of each of them in your life ? And last but not least: how is your time budget at this moment of your life?

You may be a good Cisco negineer, a very good father and husband but you may have a poor health. You will have to work to improve that. Other will not have this problem, and they can use this time to learn..guess what: CISCO !

So, it all depends.

By my opinion to become a CCIE is a matter of chance too ! Not everybody has the money or the time to do it. And Cisco makes it tougher too ! (try to book a lab :-)) )

glisboajr Sun, 11/04/2007 - 19:23

This is a great question and one of the best questions posted on any forum thus far.

Like Cristip said, it all depends on you. It is what makes you happy. I think one can acomplish a CCIE with enough balance in life as long as you take your time and not rush it. If you're going to take the ccie exam in the next 3-5 months, then you know you won't have time for anything else but your studies. But if you take your time to study, enjoy family, do hobbies, go out on saturdays, etc. then it will take you 12 months or more. It all depends on what YOU want to do and how fast you want it. Thanks.

kirkster Fri, 11/09/2007 - 00:16

I'd also like to draw peoples attention to the dynamips software where you can run multiple routers on a PC with full configs. Brilliant !!

Why? Because you can sit wth the wife on the couch whilst configuring BGP !!!!

Now that's sad I know !!

Seriously. Do a google on this software (it's free) - it'll change your study patterns since you don't need to sit in the garage with your routers anymore.

Steve

Kevin Dorrell Fri, 11/09/2007 - 00:22

Except, of course, for those who actually prefer to sit in the garage with their routers. Now that's really sad!

Kevin

gokhankaya Fri, 11/09/2007 - 05:12

Hi Kevin,

My humble 2cent opinion:

I would have to say something about that.

Women do not think like man. They think pink while you and I think blue. Our communication system/protocols are very different. To put this into Cisco Networking perspective is this way:

While you are thinking that your wife/partner feels connected when you're working on your BGP is not true. CCIE's of human psychology (Prof. Counselors) says that Women seeks "emotional connection" and men seeks "Shoulder to Shoulder" connection. When you're thinking that you're connected at home instead of working in garage, excited, enjoyed her being next to you, doesn't necessarily means that she enjoys the same deep level as you do.

Putting into perspective: To me and my partner being physically in the same room or sofa but not talking is Physical Layer in OSI (CCIE of human soul says, "Shoulder to Shoulder level communication") for men. Also Emotional Level connection is Data Link Layer Connectivity for Women. So, basically to me, there will be a Data Link layer protocol issue in my relationship with my partner when I work on router with her and don't meet the needs of my partner on Emotional Level (eye to eye, face to face level). Hence, For me my relationship with her seems UP and UP but for her it is UP and DOWN.

For more info:

1. Ask your partner/wife whether she enjoys as much as you do and what would she would prefer you doing;

2. "Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs" by Emerson Eggerichs. [PSYCHICAL AND DATA LINK LAYER COMMUNICATION]

3. "Cracking the Communication Code" by merson Eggerichs [PSYCHICAL AND DATA LINK LAYER COMMUNICATION]

AJAZ NAWAZ Fri, 11/09/2007 - 06:18

Let me tackle your questions literally which deals with life issues once CCIE has been attained. pls see answers inline:

1. You are married reasonably happy.

I was married before and after I passed (BTW that is to the same woman), and thank God I am very happy.

2. You have one or more hobbies while still working on or maintaining your CCIE.

Personally I only have time for one hobby. Driving fast carz ; ) - I use this as a treat for all the hard hours put in to get where I am. A self reward if you like.

3. You're enjoying your family reasonably well (not perfectly).

Hey life is full of up's and down's. Over all I am grateful for what I do and what I have in materialistic terms, but more importantly, emotionally and spiritually too.

4. You've other goals in life to accomplish next to CCIE job like financial, travel etc..

Financially i'm fortunate thankfully and no issues at all or worry about making more and more. I'm avoiding greed as much as I can. I can make more money if I wish but I feel that will compromise on my life quality, and essentially that is what this thread is about.

Would love to travel a bit more to warmer places and somewhere where it doesn't rain all the time (ehm ehm.. UK)

Has any CCIE been able to have balanced life or does one need to have only one purpose in life in order to get and maintain CCIE?

The path to CCIE normally will incur some sacrifices to your life quality. But IMHO this price (or sacrifices), are worth it. Once you get CCIE then as long as you remain active and working within the industry, the recognition will follow you wherever you are.

I am trying to understand whether CCIE takes all of life commitment or not.

Most certainly not. The CCIE should help you earn a fairly good living and hold a respectable job. As long as you leave work at work and don't take work home with you - all should be well. This is the balance one must strike if you value aspects of life other than *CCIE*

hth

Ajaz

rob.huffman Fri, 11/09/2007 - 14:06

Hello all,

Loved stumbling upon this great thread! It does focus on one of Lifes great dilemmas to be sure. My Grandfather had a plaque hung in his old cabin that said this;

"Too soon Old, Too late Smart"

Do what you Love to do whatever that is. The need to be happy is mans ultimate goal :)

Just my take,

Rob

PS: I have that plaque hanging in my place now, to remind me on a daily basis!

AJAZ NAWAZ Fri, 11/09/2007 - 23:09

Hi Rob,

Took a while to get it - but it's very true(5).

I've applied some inverse masking to this and it has a very similar effect - read this:

"Smart late Too, Old soon Too"

Ajaz :-)

rob.huffman Sat, 11/10/2007 - 08:11

Hi Ajaz,

Love it! (5)

You always seem to hit the nail on the head my friend :)

Take care,

Rob

bvsnarayana03 Mon, 11/12/2007 - 09:32

If this was specifically posted for CCIE's to reply, then I'm not eligible for it. But if its a general query about work & life balance, then anyone is eligible. Here's my theory:

There are people with huge bank balance, but no time to spend.

& There are people who just make some amount & spend it all to be happy.

So its not about MONEY or POSITION, but something else.

Famous author Stephen Covey mentioned in 1 of his bestseller:

To every stimulus, there is a response. & for every response u have the freedom to choose.

So its entirely the choice of an individual of what he wants in life to be happy, whether its more money or some golden moments with family.

Its very true from the fact that this question itself has pinned down so many different opinions, where each opinion reflects the individual's freedom to choose. Some have chosen more money while others are happy with family.

At the end I would like to leave u all with an interesting response from the recently crowned Richest man in the world, to a newspaper:

" I dont carry any cash or credit cards with me anytime because when you have too much money, you dont carry it but the money carries you".

sounds interesting........

marksenteza Mon, 11/12/2007 - 05:57

Very good question, and some very interesting replies i had read.

I am currently CCNP, and been struggling to wrap up my CCSP for most of this year, reason being i have a wife and 2 kids now - a 2 year old and 2 month old. For the first part of the year, my wife was pregnant and also constantly questioned how much time i spent studying and being at work. Whenever am done with an exam, am fired up for the next, but my wife wants me to take time off of studying.

Am also hoping to move up to CCIE Security at some point in future, but i do believe that there is a delicate balancing act between family, life outside your job and in pursuing advanced certification that requires committed study.

Still well worth it though

Mark

swmorris Mon, 11/12/2007 - 08:23

That is definitely something that needs to be worked out with the wife! And part of that will depend on what your job/financial situation is (or could be) in terms of a motivation for either studying more or spending more time with the family.

My CCIE's were done before kids were in the picture in my case. But I did still do studying and lab exams after kids. I took my Juniper JNCIP about two months before my first daughter was born. My JNCIE lab was when my first was 1.5 years old and my second daughter was about 4 months old.

So it CAN be done. But priorities have to be in place, and a conversation with the other half AHEAD of time should happen as well. :)

You most likely also have to be able to work without much sleep! But I know many people in similar situations as you have who are struggling to have more time with both work and family.

There is no simple answer, but it is possible to balance them all. Just talk lots and set expectations and priorities so that everyone at least understands what's going on!

HTH,

Scott

[email protected]

kirkster Wed, 11/14/2007 - 23:34

Very true.

Whats also missing from this thread is time to pursue your other interests as well. I happen to be a very keen cyclist,in the Lance Armstrong mold, and really enjoy a 3-4 hour, 70 mile ride once per week (or did, several in fact).

So, you work 40 - 60 hours a week (delete as appropriate). You then spend more spare time studying. Then, when you have a bit of free time I say to my wife - I want to go out on my bike for four hours dear. That lot equals divorce !!!!!

Somethings always got to give and there has got be be compromises. In my case that means going for a run early in the morning -BEFORE work. And also it means going on my bike WHEN my wife is at relations and her frends (whereas before I'd watch a movie). You get the idea I'm sure !!!

My 2C.

K

cirrusstratus Wed, 11/14/2007 - 11:54

It's still illegal for me to get married, so I'll just focus on the remaining four points.

mikepinto Thu, 11/15/2007 - 09:12

Very interesting topic. My advice is to look 2-5 years down the road and ask yourself if I have my CCIE how would my life be, and if I don't, how would my life be. One thing to keep in mind is that you can go at your own pace. You can lock yourself in a bunker for 3 months, set aside some hours every week for a year, or you can Tommy-Boy it. The point is you can go at your own pace and still pass. In direct response to balanced life point #4, (speaking from observation) for most attaining a CCIE will better afford them (monetarily) to travel, save, retire early, etc. After attaining the CCIE, I have never had a more balanced-life (or balanced checkbook). In conclusion, I think the topic should be titled: Can I have a 'Balanced Couple of Years or Less' w/ CCIE. Whatever you decide, Good Luck.

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