Is the CCIE still worth it ?

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Jun 11th, 2003
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I would like to start by answering my own question. The answer for me is yes. I was filled with such a deep sense of satisfaction/accomplishment when I was notified that I had passed. I felt that I had earned it and that I truly deserved it. I realize that there are people who feel that Cisco has made the exam too easy. That they have made it possible for technically inferior people to pass it with little or no experience. I can tell you that if I felt Cisco had "handed" me the certification, I would have refused to take it. I would not have been able to live with myself knowing that someone had just given it to me. Some may feel that the exam has become too easy (or easier than past versions). For others, it may be impossible to achieve for a variety of reasons.

My opinion is this:

I went through my own little personal hell to achieve this goal of mine. At the tail end of my pursuit, I was a better person/engineer for having done it. This is all I need to know. I don't need triple CCIE's or other respected 4 digit people to embrace my accomplishment or to bring credibility to my achievement. I survived one of the toughest Military boot camps in the world back in 1988. I remember feeling the same way after graduating. I remember feeling the same sense of accomplishment/satisfaction. There were people who went through boot camps long before I did during wartime that claimed that modern boot camps (like mine) were for whimps. This didn't bother me then and it doesn't bother me now with the CCIE discussions.

The bottom line for me is that I learned a lot about myself. I proved to myself once again that there is nothing I can't accomplish. No one will ever be able to steal my thunder in that respect with words or opinions. As far as technical ability, I didn't need the CCIE to prove anything. I was born with it. So, I don't mind people assuming that I'm technically inferior because I happen to have a 5 digit number.

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Overall Rating: 4.4 (13 ratings)
mmolina2 Thu, 06/12/2003 - 10:15
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I guess I should have clarified that this post was in response to another post. I didn't post just to see my name in print. So to answer your question, nothing. Thanks for the question.

ddecan Thu, 06/12/2003 - 04:42
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I agree with you, and also know just who this is addressed to. It is tiring to have almost every forum discussion in here have the exact comments over and over from the same person. I think he just cuts and pastes the same opinion into every string.

kawoya Thu, 06/12/2003 - 06:08
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Oh Yessssss, It is nice for a change to have someone encourage the rest of us in this forum – keep it up. Rather than putting our ego down I am encouraged by the likes of you who encourage us to keep to our guns and move forward. While the ultimate achievement is certification, I am gaining a lot of knowledge in trying to do so.

But let me ask you…. I am working in networking and mainly dealing with routing on 3rd line support. I also support installation field engineers. In my current role I have less exposure to switching. While undertaking my CCNP, Routing and BCRAN are ok but lack hands-on in Switching. How does one go about that? I need the certification so much but at the same time I need the real-hands on experience in Switching. My question is, how does one go about the areas that you do not have direct exposure to in terms experience. I may understand the technology but feel will understand it better with hands-on.

Again I appreciate your string which has an underlying benefit to encouraging the rest of us achieving our dreams – bless your soul.

o.priest Thu, 06/12/2003 - 09:13
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Giving encouragement and telling the truth are two seperate things. Someone telling you the plain facts should ultimately make you more determined to succeed in your chosen professions. That way, when you get to where you want to go professionally, you will probably feel an even greater sense of achievement. I know this is what drives me forward.

It is a lot easier to shoot the messenger of potentially bad news. People will often demonise others if they do not share a positive view.

It would an amazing fabulous world if we all made a whole heap of money and had top jobs but the economics of the world will never allow for this.

I just wanted to say that I wish everyone a successful and prosperous future in their chosen endevours.

We all want to succeed and be the best that we can be and I think everyone of us here can agree on at least that.


mmolina2 Thu, 06/12/2003 - 10:32
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I agree with what you are saying to a certain extent. I'll use an analogy to illustrate my point:

Everyone knows that we don't live in a perfect world (if they are breathing and have their eyes open). There is death, war, famine, homelessness, etc......

My question is this: Since most people already know this, do we really need someone to keep telling us how crappy the world really is ? Is it noble to be the guy that constantly reminds us how hopeless everything is ? That's what we have the media for !

I'm just trying to say that I think people are aware of the fact that a CCIE without practical experience is not worth 150k anymore. They are aware that most people feel lower CCIE numbers connote experience/ability. So why the need to state the obvious? I understand that it would be ridiculous to skip around singing "we are the world" because that is not reality. I'm just saying let people do what they are going to do without having to be reminded of what should already be painfully obvious. Unless, of course, they are asking for someone to rain on their parade :)

o.priest Thu, 06/12/2003 - 12:34
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Agreed back. :)

Myself personally, I just let people get on with what they are doing. :)

One final thing I will say is that to some people, the points you have raised are not obvious. Some people honestly believe the solution to their problems is to pass a CCIE lab.

The situation isn't hopeless and things will get better in the long term eventually.

I know I have an idea, lets all hold hands and sing "We are the world". Haha. You never know. It might do the forum some good and we can all be nice to eachother from now on.


kawoya Thu, 06/12/2003 - 15:12
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I am appalled. In these strings I have never read of anyone suggesting nor dreaming that they will ever sit themselves in a closet cram the CCIE tests, pass and expect to land in a 150K job. If anyone would think so, I doubt if they will even pass the lab. We all know the realities that the industry has moved on (and we need no more echoing of it). This does not mean that CCIE is no longer a “valuable” certification. It is still valued, respected and worth the time spent on it (needless-to-say the self-esteem it builds in the achiever).

As simple analogy; for the likes of me originally from a developing world, there used to be one medical doctor per thousands of people (and was well known in the whole community). Now the ratio has changed for the better. But this does not devalue the medical profession.

What we need on this forum is support, and encouragement from those that have achieved what thousands of other people want to achieve. The realities of the slump in the market are common knowledge. But those of us already in this industry (just like those in this world that echo the “we are the world”) we should like wise echo the “we are the certified”. BUT as those in the world try to make things happen, we should likewise try to make thing happen (through experience) in this precious industry of ours – God bless the Networking industry!!!!

o.priest Fri, 06/13/2003 - 02:44
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"I am appalled" ??

I think you need to work on your sense of humour. Either you misunderstood what I said or you do not have any sense of humour.

Believe me there are people who think they can make silly money passing the CCIE lab. I have met them.

Comparing doctors to CCIE's is a very bad idea for many reasons. You are talking about people who have gone through rigorous training for about 7 years. You can't do a "bootcamp" and become a doctor so it is not exactly right to compare the doctor per population ratio to the CCIE per population ratio.

The valuation of certification in IT itself, relates to the rareness of skills within the industry I am afraid to say. Networking jobs are based on supply and demand of skill sets. Business economics apply totally.

With doctors, I am sure you will agree the situation is much different. There is never enough doctors (especially specialists) in most parts of the world and the amount of work and training they have to get through to graduate is staggering. Supply and demand doesn't apply in most cases.

Your simple analogy is flawed. One is a doctor. One is a network engineer. You cannot compare apples and oranges.

You state that certification is still valued and respected and worth the time spent on it? Well that depends on who you speak to. Newcomers to the industry would definetely think so because they see it as the easy way in. If you speak with some they will agree with you if you speak to others they will tell you a different story.

Its about personal opinion and this is the basis of any forum. I do not get "appalled" at you for thinking the CCIE is wonderful so there isn't really any need to get "appalled" back.

You are right, the industry is indeed very precious but so is freedom of opinion and of course.... sense of humour.


mftaylj Tue, 06/17/2003 - 13:40
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Ah, but of the Doctor's sitting for their board certification(s)? I believe they cram for those tests any way that they can. They also usually "try" as soon as they become an Attending because not many hospital will hire them if they are not Board Certifiled. So at this point they have a BS, an MD, been an intern, a resident and a fellow - but have done very little unsupervised.


o.priest Tue, 06/17/2003 - 14:26
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That may be a fair point Jim but I think we can all agree that someone with an MD has gone through slightly more "quality control" for his or her chosen field compared with a CCIE passing 2 exams.

Also, doctors have continued to increase in number throughout the world yet they are almost always employed. They are needed and are essential.

The number of "senior expert" network engineers has increased dramatically over the last few years to the point where there are a surplus of experts in the developed world and not enough networks to "engineer".

If people want too see themselves as some kind of scarce resource thats up to them but I think the enlightened amongst us would agree that they are deluding themselves into thinking they are something they are clearly not.

If people want to be employable they will need to move into areas of IT which are extremely difficult to master. Finding good programmers is always a challenge for many organisations. If people spent 5 or so years learning how to code they would probably have more work offers than they could muster.

What we currently have is a situation where thousands of people are learning and reciting the OSI model then expecting to find work as network engineers. They dont find work so they think passing the next highest cert will help them. It is a bad trap to fall into. I nearly fell in myself but I saw how things were developing in 2001 and changed direction a little.


mftaylj Wed, 06/18/2003 - 06:14
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I totally agree with you that they have "gone through slightly more quality control".

My point is - they have chosen a very complex field. It takes that long to learn the "basics" of being a Doctor. I don't see it being very different than working from NA to IE - it just does not take as long to become an IE because the "basics" of Internetworking are not yet as complex as the human body, which in the end is not really all that complex anyway.

Both an IE and being Board Certified require just two tests.

Look at some other countries, they are not requiring Doctors to be an intern in general medicine, and a resident and fellow in a specialty. You choose what it is that you want to do - then do a residency in that field, then you can do nothing but that. I would love to have a cardio/thoracic surgeon that has done 2,500 valve replacements and does nothing but valve replacements do my valve replacement heart surgery - I don't really care if he rotated through peds or knows anything about blunt trama.

No-one can even begin to know everything about any topic - so become the ultimate specialist - hence the boards. Maybe this is what Cisco needs to look at with the IE program. Make it much harder, but at the same time make it more specialized. The Boards are written and verbal - I hear they are brutal - It is impossible to be a bad Doctor (medically) and be board certified!!!!! Now if we are not there with IE's, high or low number, how do we get there?


o.priest Wed, 06/18/2003 - 10:46
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How do we get to a situation where people are not judged by their CCIE number?

Create a brand new elite level certification that is brutally difficult, with a longer waiting time between reattempts. Bring in verifiable work experience as a pre requisite. Have multiple practical exams spread over a longer time frame.

Make the thing difficult, really difficult so it compares with professional qualifications from other professions (like medicine and law).


mftaylj Wed, 06/18/2003 - 11:32
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I could live with that, but why the work experience? Again, those board certified docs have very little unsupervised work experience. I say make the tests so difficult, like the boards, that no-one could pass them without being an expert in the field - period. I don't really care if you have worked as a "lab-rat" or on an actual production network - if the test was written correctly it really wouldn't matter - you would have proven by passing the test that you know your stuff. I don't believe everyone, with a high or low number, has done everything, with every protocol in a production network - but they've proven that they could.


o.priest Wed, 06/18/2003 - 13:41
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You make your points well Jim. I can tell you are an intelligent guy. :)

I think a lot of people are just generally irritated with "lab rats" passing the CCIE so what Cisco need to do is introduce measures so that individuals with no production experience cannot pass the exam. That way the E stands for expert.

How can this be done? Well like you said, make the exam super tough. Cisco have gone in the opposite direction to this moving the format from a 2 day affair to a 1 day affair removing the trouble shooting section in its entirety. So it looks like making the cert super tough isn't exactly a high priority at the moment.

The only other thing you can do if you want to maintain the integrity is have verifiable work experience. Thats why I said what I said.

The thought of people with no experience passing the CCIE does not sit too well with people who hold CCIE's but have 10 years production network experience to boot. The experienced folks do not want to be associated with the labrats who have been known to cause the network mess ups. (This doesn't mean that experienced CCIE's don't mess up however :) ) There are many known incidents where so called experts have done stupid things to production networks causing unnecessary downtime and loss of revenue.

"Aren't you guys both CCIE's?"


"Did you hear what some CCIE did to ********'s network"

People say.

The certification is supposed to be there to qualify people as experts in their field. The fact that a CCIE alone is not an assurance of this expertise is a problem in its own right. People will have to start acknowledging this fact if there is to be progress in maintaining the quality of the certification.

If people can pass it without having any actual networking experience then I am sure you will agree that there are problems with the whole certification process that needs to be addressed.


mftaylj Wed, 06/18/2003 - 13:57
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I totally "hear" what you are saying. But disagree with the no production network experence. If they can pass the test then so be it.

I feel Cisco should just start over with the IE program. Have a Campus IE, an IGP IE, an EGP IE and a Troubleshooting IE at a minimum. Focus on each like a laser and truly qualify each as an expert. Now back to the medical field - require real Continuing Education credits every year to maintain your status and you must re-test (same as anyone new) every six years. Maybe, just maybe then we can put this high - low issue to bed!!!!


o.priest Wed, 06/18/2003 - 15:20
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I have a feeling things will change a lot over the next year. Focusing on specialist focused areas is the way forward in my eyes. The CCIE voice is a good step in that direction. I just feel that the R + S cert could be redefined and overhauled.

A campus network specialist would be a nice area to focus on indeed. I don't think that troubleshooting in its own right is a specialisation. Troubleshooting a specialist area would be a major part of each focused area however.

Anyway its getting late here and I have to get up early. Nice discussing the points raised with you. :)


Jim, Olly, you guys have bee having quite the interesting discussion. At the end of the day, looks like you guys agree on what has been one of my main points on this forum for awhile now - that Cisco needs to revamp the CCIE program, you just differ on the details. But it's nice to see that people are realizing what I've been saying - that the present system is rather flawed and, to put it bluntly, people of rather dubious quality have been passing the test, especially lately. Again, let me reiterate, that's not the fault of those people - they're just following the rules that Cisco has laid out - it's the fault of Cisco itself for not performing proper quality control. The test simply is not as rigorous as it was in the past and the free market has figured this out, which is why a growing number of companies are starting to give preference to lower-number ccie's. This is the same reason why companies give preference to graduates from, say, MIT, over graduates from Podunk Community College, because the fact is, MIT is simply more rigorous than PCC. If people don't like the fact that the exam has gotten less rigorous, hey, don't get angry at me (or Jim or Olly), for it's not our fault that that happened. Take it up with Cisco itself.

In theory, I agree with Jim that a properly designed test wouldn't need an experience component. A proper exam would require knowledge that would be best obtained only through years of work experience in order to pass, but if you can acquire this knowledge and thereby pass without actually getting that experience, then more power to you.

However, in actual practice, such an exam would be extremely difficult to create, which is why I believe the experience component is important. To continue Jim's analogy of medschool, while new American MD's may have little unsupervised work, the fact is, they have done real work on real patients, but just supervised by a real doctor. You simply cannot say the same thing with the CCIE - the pure lab-rat truly has no real experience (supervised or not) on a real network, and consequently companies are justifiably uncomfortably in unleashing such a person onto their real networks. Hey, if you have a bad back, you probably don't want a guy operating on your 'backbone' who's never actually sliced open a real person before, so is it surprising that companies don't want the guys who are mucking with their (network) backbone that have never worked on a real network before? This is why if you want to obtain an MD in the United States, you must pass your Boards and graduate from medical school, which in the US includes a component of real (supervised) work on real patients.

(Plus, Jim has left out perhaps the biggest hurdle of all in becoming a doctor, namely getting into medical school in the first place. You can't just wake up one fine day and just decide that you want to start studying to be a doctor - you have to first win admission into med school - and the acceptance rates at med schools rarely exceed 10%. This is yet another method of how the medical profession keeps its standards so high. But I digress...)

Jim has also mentioned that other countries allow people to become doctors without actually spending time doing supervised work. That's precisely why foreign MD's are often times not allowed to practice medicine in the US until such time as they can demonstrate that they have passed the same requirements as MD's minted in the US. Let's face it , American patients demand a fairly high standard of medical care and would be most uncomfortable if their doctors all got their MD's from a place where they only had to pass a written exam but never have to work on real patients.

mftaylj Thu, 06/19/2003 - 05:40
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A few more thoughts:

First, you can be a doctor (MD) without passing the boards.

Ask your doctor(s) if they are board certified - all of mine are. I would never let a doctor touch me if they were not, that is not to say that good doctors are all board certified, but rather that no bad docs are. I live in a large city with a hospital in the top 10 in the US. The doctors at that hospital are specialized to the max. There are no general surgeons - what is your problem, they have one or more specialist to deal with any specific issue. I feel I would receive better care than at a hospital without those specialist. I want IE's to get to that point of specialization.

Second, you are correct about the MCAP's to gain entrance into a Med School, but the scores only mean so much, after that politics come into play and God help you if one of your parents didn't attend the school :-( But networking itself tends to weed out many by its complexity.

I still respectively disagree about experience on production networks. How will that assure you that I am more qualified? I have worked with many people who can quote you any common Cisco command from memory (that anyone can lookup in seconds) and have worked with the equipment for years - but do not begin to understand what is happening within the router when you issue the command, what you should expect to see or what could go wrong. They lack the fundamental understanding, but have the experience - see my point?

I also feel that anyone who would let someone at their backbone without proving the design are fair-game to whatever they get. What ever happened to design meetings, test labs, fault trees - and just plain old brain storming about what to do, how to do it, what could go wrong and what to do if it does?


First of all, let me reiterate that it's good that you recognize the problems in the present system. As you may have seen in my many 'wars' on this forum, convincing people that a problem exists with the present-day situation is like pulling teeth.

OK, let me get to some specific points

*Sure, some doctors may not be board-certified. But you know what I mean - all US doctors must have graduated from medical school, and all medical schools have some sort of hands-on component on real breathing patients. You can't just cut up cadavers and then call yourself a surgeon.

*Sure, med school admission has some politics, just like anything else. But I would contend that it's a lot less political than, say, the working world. Med school admissions require high MCAT scores, high undergrad grades, good essays, strong this, strong that, etc. etc. Would it help if your father happened to be an alumni? Sure. Would it also help if your father donated a million dollars? I don't doubt that it would. But by the same token, people have gotten employed as network engineers simply because daddy is a bigshot at a company - and he doesn't even need to donate any money to make that happen.

The point is that while nothing is ever politics-free, I believe that college/gradschool admissions are less political than the working world. In the working world, people can and have been hired just because they happen to be related to or pals with one of the company's leaders, regardless of whether they are completely incompetent. For med school admissions, you have to present a baseline set of minimum qualifications and then (and only then) might politics influence the equation.

Or, put another way, if you have a perfect 4.0 GPA from a widely respected undergrad program, a perfect MCAT, awesome essays, and everything else in your application is awesome, and even you don't come from a privileged family, you can rest assured that some medschool is going to admit you. Maybe you won't get into your first or second choice, but it's safe to say that somebody is going to admit you. Therefore, what I'm saying is that in the admissions process, you can overcome politics through hard work and sheer brainpower.

*About the 'experience' factor

No, you get me wrong. I am not pretending that experience 'guarantees' that a guy knows what he's doing. Let's face it. Nothing is ever guaranteed. For example, to extend your doctor analogy, the guy who graduated #1 from Johns Hopkins Medical school and has all the top stellar Board credentials in the world can still botch your operation. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

What experience does is improve the odds that a guy knows what he's doing. Surely you would agree that a guy with, say, 5 years of experience probably knows networking better than a guy who has none. Does it guarantee it? No, of course not. But the odds are improved. Just like a guy who is Board certified is not guaranteed to know more than a guy who isn't, but the odds are improved.

Or, I'll put it to you this way. Surely you've noticed that as people get more experience, their salaries tend to increase. But why? Do you really think companies enjoy paying more money to the guys with more experience, if those guys weren't worth it? Why would companies do this if they didn't have to? You know how companies are - they always want to pay as little as possible to all their workers. So why do they pay more experienced people more money, when you know they don't want to? The fact that all companies do this either tells me that either all companies are dumb or they realize that more experienced people tend to be more valuable. I doubt that it's the former. That doesn't guarantee that every experienced person is automatically more valuable than every non-experienced person, but the trend is clear. On average, the more experienced guy tends to be more productive, therefore on average the more experienced guy tends to get paid more.

But, don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to say that experience should be the only factor involved in getting certified. True indeed, there are guys with lots of experience who don't know what they're doing. I'm not proposing that guys are automatically handed a certificate simply because they have x years of experience. They would still have to pass a tough exam where they have to demonstrate actual strong fundamental knowledge. So I believe this covers your concern - those guys who have the experience but not the fundamental knowledge won't be able to pass the exam and therefore won't be certified until such time as they do demonstrate this knowledge.

Finally, let's talk about your 'caveat emptor' gambit. Unfortunately, you know how customers are - whenever they are stupid, they don't blame themselves, the blame the people they hired, even if they were the ones who were being stupid for hiring them. Once again, let's look at the situation from the medical standpoint. What if we lived in a world where anybody was allowed to call himself an 'MD'. For example, I can call myself 'MD', and so can you. You then might say that anybody who stupidly decides to get himself cut up by you or me without due diligence deserve what they get. But you know that's not how it works. If I kill that person because of my medical incompetence, the family isn't going to blame their (stupid) family member. They're going to blame the entire medical profession for not ensuring that I'm competent. From that point on, they're going to look at all MD's as suspect. By the same token ,when we have incompetent CCIE's who go around screwing up other people's networks, it makes both the entire CCIE community and Cisco itself look bad.

mftaylj Thu, 06/19/2003 - 12:25
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Ok, your "experience" factor.

I know doctor's that have done exactly what you stated. With those credentials they would/could never botch an operation. Let me be clear here - the doctor would never botch the procedure. What I mean is that somewhere, sometime they must trust someone else. Be it ordering labs - did they get into the system, was the blood drawn correctly, was the blood labeled correctly, did the lab handle the blood correctly, is the equipment properly calibrated etc. The doctor personally handles opening, finding, fixing and closing. He will then have post-op orders and round on you every day. Will all of the info be presented to him in rounds, will his orders be followed through to the letter? That is where the system breaks - with the interns, residents, fellows and in the way that doctors are trained - don't bother the attending - at any cost, it shows weakness. Is it any different with IE's? Do they not feel they cannot do any wrong? I look for what will go wrong - plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I "feel" that salaries are increased because a company has "seen" your worth and wants to retain you - they do this by way of bribe that we all call a salary. I feel the entire networking industry is under paid. But how can that company judge your worth before they have witnessed it? This is where certifications come into play. Back to the hospital - not a single patient could be properly treated without their network - so if that job is not done correctly . . . .

I pray that Cisco fixes whatever is ailing the entire certification system, because the stronger that it is the more that the certs mean. I wish they would throw out the entire program and start over. What are your views on fixing everything? How would you do it if you ran that program at Cisco, not just the IE but all of it? You have my input - a Campus IE, a IGP IE, a EGP IE and a TS IE at minimum, I agree with Olly that each would have basic TS as a part of it also or maybe a subspecialty of each. Why do you think they changed the IE process? They seem to keep changing the NA, DA, NP and DP but why?

I am from a design background and that is my first love - why do you feel it is so trampled on? This may be why those IE's are breaking the networks - no background or training on how to roll out a project - is any change not a project?


I'm not sure I follow the point you're making in your 2nd paragraph. Are you trying to say that properly trained doctors are infallible? Or maybe that CCIE's should be less cocky? Perhaps you could rephrase that paragraph.

As far as your notion of underpaid vs. overpaid, well, I don't know, that's really in the eyes of the beholder. Pay is dictated by supply and demand. If there is high demand and low supply for a particular profession, then that profession will be highly paid. LeBron James will be highly paid simply because a lot of people like to watch basketball and there are few people in the world who have the kind of skill that he has.

I absolutely agree wholeheartedly with your idea that Cisco should throw out their present cert structure and start anew. In fact, your 4th paragraph could have very easily been written by me. I like your idea of specializations, but I think the first thing to be done is create a brand-new CCIE program. We can call it the CCIE+ or the CCIM or whatever we want to call it. This program would incorporate the ideas that I have been tossing around - the minimum years of experience, the heavy emphasis on TS, the use of a large variety of racks, etc. etc. Sitting on top of that could be your specialties.

Why did they change the IE process? I think they wanted to try to reduce the wait list. More slots equals smaller waitlist. But I think the cure was worse than the disease. Yes, the waitlist did decline, but at the expense of test rigor and realism (the loss of the dedicated TS section was a serious blow). I believe a more optimal solution would have been to simply increase the wait-time between test attempts. Right now, people can just keep taking the test again over and over again every month until they finally pass, and these guys both clog up the waitlist by soaking up available slots and reduce the integrity of the test (if a guy takes the test enough times, he's going to pass eventually). I believe that there should be a minimum wait of at least 6 months. Either that or have a maximum number of attempts in a single year - say, 2 or 3 shots per year.

As far as why they keep changing the lower certs, I really can't say. I think it has something to do with fighting braindumps. But I really don't know.

You ask why the process has been so trampled on? One word - money. Remember, just a few years ago, you could get a high-paying job if you could just spell tcp/ip. People were joking about getting their CCIE and then shopping for their own yacht. This attitude of easy money has completely perverted the whole networking industry - there still are myriad people who continue to believe that all they have to do is get certified and somebody will automatically hand them a high-paying job. In short, there still continue to be far too many people who think the CCIE = free lunch. Again, this has a lot to do with why IE's are breaking networks - the attitude of some of them is: why actually bother to learn the material deeply, all I have to do is learn just enough to pass the CCIE (but no more) and I'll be entitled to a nice job. Is it any wonder that you find bunches of CCIE's who don't have any knowledge beyond the absolute minimum necessary to pass the test? And since the CCIE does not teach how to actually roll out networks or do network changes, is it any wonder that CCIE's are causing the breakages that you mention? After all, since it's not on their test, they don't bother to learn it.

mftaylj Fri, 06/20/2003 - 07:22
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I guess that I am trying to say both. I want Cisco to follow they way that doctors are trained, all of the way to board certified - maybe even copy the way you become board certified - by board certified members blasting questions at you - it is verbal, not simulated. It is from real cases minus the outcomes, here is how this patient presented, you can order any test and they will give you the result etc - and the point is to find where your knowledge breaks down, not if.

In preparation for a procedure - I feel we could all take a lesson from doctors. It is meticulous in every possible aspect. Nero surgeons working through the entire procedure - they know what they are going after in 3D by way of MRI's etc. There are even now computer simulations for surgery. They build a fault tree of every conceivable outcome - order every possible test so that they are as prepared as a human being can be to preform that procedure.

But this is all taught to them - it is demanded of them by their peers. The pursuit of protection in your task is the goal - anything less is unacceptable. They don't make mistakes - they system may - the patient may die - that is an inherent risk of surgery, but was there negligence - rarely? Why, because of the preparation of the doctor, both in their training and for the procedure. Now, how do we get there with IE's, after all they are the attending physicians of the Internetworking world - yes?

There are also butcher out there, which is why malpractise insurance is so, so high. I feel the medical profession should police itself to cut down on the hacks - as Xavier is attempting to do on this forum about the state of the IE program.

rmcardle3 Sat, 06/28/2003 - 07:53
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Rookie here. I am sorry, I had to interject. (a bit late). "Newcomers to the industry would definetely think so because they see it as the easy way in? "

I took 9 months August 2002 - May 2003, to absorb the "Cisco Training Partner" version of CCNA preparation i.e. The Cisco Networking Academy. I chose this avenue specifically for it's most unappealling quallities to most others. This was NOT my only option. Other readers might mistakenly think themselves less worthy of "getting started", in this Industry. Is it that some people advanvced themselves into such a vaccum that no matter which avenue is taken into this industry, the industry (for them) should be considered bleak? Maybe once we achieve all that there is we need someone else to guide us over alittle bit, so we do not become complacent. Who wants to be obsolete anyway. Isn't that why we are all here? At some level didn't that motivate all of us to turn our efforts to "Joining the Cisco Kid Revolution?" "Let's hold hands again", I liked that . Maybe some of us should be prepared (eventually) to find something other than the Cisco company (whose name to the regular citizen, sounds like the food company) to measure life's success. Comments?

Thomas Larus Mon, 06/30/2003 - 17:08
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"By the same token ,when we have incompetent CCIE's who go around screwing up other people's networks, it makes both the entire CCIE community and Cisco itself look bad."

I am a CCIE without enough experience to really feel like I "know what I am doing." As such, I am careful about what I do, and do not let myself screw up other people's networks. I let people with more experience do most of the screwing up of networks. "Lab Rat CCIEs" may sometimes exhibit a sort of semi-paralysis around production networks, and this can be embarassing. However, it is usually a network engineer with substantial experience who really screws up a network so that it is hard to fix, but he does so with confidence and is often experienced in covering up his mistakes.

Let's face it. Very few people entrust their networks to unsupervised CCIEs with little or no experience, so most of the screwing up of networks is done by others. Yes. I have have heard the oft-repeated story about the CCIE who insisted on putting a switch blade in a router chassis or vice-versa. I am sure no non-CCIEs with lots have experience ever make stupid mistakes like this one.

Even if a CCIE with a little experience cannot be the super-networker you parachute into a site to fix everything and sell the customer some upgrades while he or she is on-site, he or she can still make a valuable contribution to a team.

Consider your quote of: "very few people entrust their networks to unsupervised CCIE's with little or no experience'". Yeah, not anymore, but they did in the past. Why not anymore? Simple - too many labrat CCIE's were blowing things up causing employers to realize that simply having a CCIE does not guarantee that a guy could handle a production network.

Therefore your comparison between experienced guys and lab-rat CCIE's is flawed, because it's really a comparison of opportunity rather than of ability. Sure, the guy who is given more opportunities and responsibilities is also going to screw up more times than the guy who isn't given opportunities, simply because the first guy has more chances to screw up. Or let me put it to you this way. How many times did Michael Jordan miss the winning basket? How many times did Jordan turn the ball over in the final minutes of a game? I can say that I have never in my life missed a winning shot and I have never turned over the ball in the final minutes of a game. Does that mean that I'm a better player than Jordan? No, it basically means that I have no basketball talent and as a result I have never been trusted with the ball with the clock winding down.

Jordan is not God - he doesn't win every game, he doesn't hit every shot. He sometimes screws up. But if you were the coach, who would you give the ball to with the clock winding down - Jordan or me? MJ obviously, because he clearly gives you a better chance to win. Is that a guarantee that he'll win? Of course not. But it's a better chance. Similarly , sure, the experienced guy could blow up your network and the labrat might actually save it. But what are the odds? Or, let me put it to you this way - you have 2 networks that are exactly the same. You put the experienced guy on one network, the lab-rat on the other, and it is significantly more likely that the network that the lab-rat is running will experience more problems than the other network. Is that a guarantee? Of course not. But if you're a betting man, you know where you'd place your money.

Can the labrat CCIE make contributions? Yeah. But the key is not to overstate the value of the CCIE, especially the labrat CCIE. The CCIE is no guarantee of anything. It's really the experience and the attitude that back it up that make the CCIE valuable (or not).

mftaylj Mon, 07/07/2003 - 06:24
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Why don't you post in the "How do you study" that I started? As far as that goes, why doesn't everyone. If Cisco isn't going to fix it - maybe we can by how we have "become"

rgodden Fri, 06/20/2003 - 01:32
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  • Bronze, 100 points or more

I have never met a doctor who is only an expert in administrating drugs from a particular drug company.

mftaylj Fri, 06/20/2003 - 08:43
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But how is a network built in a lab, that is properly simulated, any different than a production network - except the data is real? If you properly documented the traffic patterns - you can even simulate them.

We do it all of the time before we roll out a change.

"The more you sweat here, the less you bleed there" US Navy SEALs.

Like I said, I agree in theory that one could build a super-realistic test, and if you did, then you could do away with the experience component.

The problem, of course, is that I don't think it's realistic, for a number of reasons - Cisco doesn't care enough to try to do it, it would expensive to run (which would give Cisco every incentive to bank the program every year), etc. That is why I advocate the next best thing, which is to mandate a minimum amount of experience. I agree with you that in a perfect world, you would build that super-realistic test and you wouldn't need that requirement. But my point is that we don't live in a perfect world and I have to be realistic in what I ask for.

Mandating a minimum experience level gives a lot of bang for the buck. You mandate that all candidates must present a work history demonstrating X number of years of experience and you hire a background-check/private-investigator company to check people out (just like a lot of companies today hire investigators to do background checks on their job applicants to check for truthfulness on resumes). You obviously don't check everybody's history, you just check a random sample. Just like the IRS doesn't audit everybody's tax return, but they audit enough of them to try to ensure that taxpayers are not cheating the law. Obviously there will still be some cheating and lying but the point is not to ensure zero cheating (no enforcement mechanism is perfect) but rather to reduce cheating to a low level. Cisco could just increase the cost of the test by, say $50 to pay for this background-checking service.

Like I said, your idea is even more optimal, but it would require a lot of work, so much work that I don't think Cisco would do it. Whereas my idea is actually simple.

mftaylj Fri, 06/20/2003 - 17:14
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Do you feel it would cost so much more money for Cisco to follow the Doctor's Board Model?

I really don't know how, if anything it would be cheaper - 0 equipment - just pressure and knowledge - why should anyone have to know the syntax for commands that you can look-up?

The test: Here is a real world problem, maybe from TAC . . . now you walk them through it - they can answer any reasonable question. If you fail you cannot test again for 6 months.

The board is 12 of your peer, each an expert in this field, but each has a specific task. There are x number of scenarios - you work through each and between them they will test everything you "need" to know to achieve Board Certification - But some of the testers will be there only to trip you up - why would you do that? What is xxx out of left field, that may or may not have anything to do with what you are currently working through - to simulate the pressure of a "real" situation.

Your idea sounds rather similar to the oral-challenge exams common in PhD programs.

It's not really the dollar-cost that I'm worried about. Cisco has $20 billion in cash and short-term securities, and no debt, and can therefore easily afford to fund any idea we come up with, if they want to.

But that's the rub - we have to get them to "want to". The problem is not money, it's politics. The fact is, the ideas you propose, while they have a lot of merit, are a radical change from what is being run today, and will therefore inevitably run into vociferous resistance from people in Cisco who have vested interests in the present system. In particular your proposed system threatens the jobs of the current CCIE proctors, for I would imagine that your system would marginalize them. Therefore I would expect no help from those proctors and in fact I would expect you to encounter heavy resistance from them.

But again, that's not to say that it can't be done, it just has to be done delicately. By all means, please continue to post ideas as they come up. I'd like to think I actually have a bit of 'pull' within the CCIE administration, so let me see what I can do.

mftaylj Sat, 06/21/2003 - 05:54
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I totally agree with you about current CCIE's - heck all the those certified. Let us start over or "we" truly will become what MCSE's have (Paper Experts) - at least with the current IE etc program you almost cannot pass any test without having touched a router/switch.

I know MCSE's who have never touched a server - What they know is all theory and again, from my experience, they have not , nor been taught, what is the most important. The design, the testing and the proper way to roll out that is new. So I know every singe BGP command, by heart, is that more important or when and why to use which command and the ramification(s) of each?

Don't pull within just the IE program - pull in the entire system - A doctor cannot become an attending until he has been an intern, a resident and a fellow. IE is a journey not a destination.

mmolina2 Sat, 06/21/2003 - 20:58
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Let me ask you guys a question. Are there people on this forum who honestly believe that the 20 point troubleshooting sections on the 2-day labs entitle them to bragging rights ? Do you believe that finding a Serial cable that was installed upside down or the incorrect DLCI referenced in a Frame map is the difference between "lab-rats" and "real men". If so, I will go in and take the same 20 point section so my paper CCIE number can be transformed into one that can be respected as much as the mental giants who were able to find an OSPF network statement with a jacked up inverse mask :) This is going to upset a few people but I can't continue to have people claim that the troubleshooting section was rocket science when it wasn't. Based on what I have heard from loose lipped 2-dayers, it wasn't the "be all, end all" that people claim it is.

P.S- I know people who have decades of experience who can't find their ass with 2 hands. Experience is wasted on naturally dopey people.

I'm not denying that there weren't problems with the old TS section.

But hey, that doesn't justify tossing it. The fact of the matter is, it was still the most realistic part of the CCIE, and despite its flaws, was still useful. Yes I agree that some of it was gimmicky, but surely you would agree that having an imperfect TS section is a lot better than nothing at all. We both know that building new networks from the ground up is just not a very common task that we do - we spend far more time as network engineers in maintaining already-built networks.

What we are proposing is a much-improved TS section - or perhaps to have the entire test be TS. That has the potential for creating a far better test than what is being run today. But if that is infeasible, then it's still better to bring back the old TS, despite its flaws. A flawed TS section is still better than nothing at all.

And besides, the decline of the CCIE is attributable to a lot more than just the loss of the TS section and/or the switch from 2 days to 1. Those are important factors, but not the only ones. A much more serious factor is the continued proliferation of bootcamps. Believe me, when I say that those weeklong bootcamps pushed by ccbootcamp, hellocomputers, ipexperts, and others are healthy businesses. A lot of people are paying several thousand dollars each to attend these camps. But why? Simple - what these bootcamps are selling is, effectively, an increased chance to pass the lab. Either what they sell actually works, or all those students are all stupidly throwing their money away. I doubt that it's the latter - for if bootcamps really were completely ineffective, surely this would be common knowledge by now. The fact is, they work in the sense that they actually do enhance people's chances of passing the test. Obviously they don't guarantee that anybody will pass, but they do increase the odds, otherwise why are so many people paying for them?

Therefore, you must reach the inevitable conclusion that the more bootcamps there are, the easier the test becomes. Bootcamps are the anabolic steroids or the 'corked-bat' of the CCIE world. And since there are far more bootcamps around today then there were years ago, you must conclude that their increased presence probably makes the test easier (again, if this were not the case, then why are bootcamps such thriving businesses - why are so many people willing to pay for them if they don't work?)

Now let me be clear when I say that I don't blame the bootcamps for what they're doing. Bootcamps are inevitable - whenever there's a business opportunity, somebody will come along to exploit it. But their presence means that Cisco must constantly increase the difficulty of the test to stay ahead of the bootcamps. That's Cisco responsibility, and unfortunately they are not stepping up to the plate.

Also, look, nobody's claiming that experience is a perfect indicator of knowledge. The fact is, there is no perfect indicator. But experience is a lot more reliable than anything else. Does that mean that there are no highly experienced idiots? Of course not. But surely you would agree that there are less highly experienced idiots than there are inexperienced idiots.

It's all about probabilities. The guy with more experience will probably be a better worker than the guy with less experience. Is that guaranteed? Of course not. But the chances are higher. Similarly, the guy who has no criminal background will probably be a better employee than a mass murderer. Guaranteed? Of course not. The guy who gives a pleasant interview will probably be a better employee than the guy who comes in and angrily swears at you. Again, not guaranteed, though.

There are no guarantees in life. If you smoke, you increase your chances of dying young. Does it guarantee that you will die young? Of course not. But the odds are increased. Similarly, if you interview a guy that is cleancut, with lots of experience, graduated from a top school, is pleasant to talk to, demonstrates a encyclopedic level of knowledge, and has no criminal background , he is probably going to be a better employee than the guy who comes into an interview dressed like a gangbanger, dropped out of gradeschool, has a rapsheet that includes violent crime and embezzlement, has zero experience, seems to know nothing, and says he wants to kill you. But hey, the 2nd guy COULD turn out to be the best employee in the history of the company. It is theoretically possible. But how likely is that?

The point is this. Including an experience component into the CCIE improves the overall odds that the candidates will be better. Obviously it doesn't guarantee that every single guy will be good. There is no way to do that. There is no solution that is 100% perfect. But it improves the odds.

This is precisely why companies prefer to hire experienced people. You've seen the job ads, and you know that they always want experience. But why? If experience was such a useless indicator, then why would companies insist on using it? Are they all just stupidly screwing themselves over? Companies have realized that more experience tends to mean a better employee - again, it doesn't guarantee such a thing, but it does enhance the odds.

mmolina2 Sun, 06/22/2003 - 18:49
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After I posted this last time, I realized that the "mental giant" remark was probably uncalled for so I apologize if it offended anyone. My point is this: I honestly don't know what the degree of difficulty was for the 2-day lab since I never took one. I realize that there is an abundance of bootcamps/practice labs available for the 1 day lab which certainly increases the odds of passing. But I also know that the lab has evolved quite a bit from the early days. Although there weren't an abundance of bootcamps/practice labs in the beginning, there was a lot of feedback from the proctor which definitely improved the odds of passing on the next attempt. Also, I have heard stories about 2 people sharing the responsibility of passing and people taking the thing home between days when the CCIE program first started. Obviously I don't know if these things are true but the proctor feedback for the 2 day is common knowledge. Today people get zero feedback but there is an abundance of study aids. In my book, these things offset eachother.

In an attempt to bring credibility back to the CCIE (old and new), I would propose this:

1. Take all of the CCIE's with numbers below 8000 and grant them the status of CCIE+.

2. Write a 3-4 hour, CCIE level troubleshooting/advanced configuration lab. Have all of the sub-8000 CCIE's (or a majority of them) sign off on it as being challenging enough.

3. Tell all of the CCIE's with a number higher than 8000 that they have 2 choices. Go and pass the new 3-4 hour exam and earn the "+" status or don't take it and remain a regular CCIE.

This way the people who choose to do so can finally get the 2-dayers and skeptical employers off of their ass !

Because I actually passed the 2-day lab, I think I can speak with some authority on the subject. So let's clear the air.

*Feedback - it is true that in the 2-day lab, if you failed, the proctor gave you some feedback. It wasn't a lot, basically something like "study IPX more" or "you lost a lot of points on Decnet". And also there is some (very minor) feedback you get in the 1-day lab in the form of that score report that they email you. But I agree that there was more feedback in the 2-day lab than in the 1-day lab. I don't think it's a lot more, but still, it's more.

*I have heard stories about guys trying to 'cram' during the night between their first and second day to get ahead, and most of these stories seem to be apocryphal. The fact is, after your first day, your score is tallied and if you don't have a minimum number of points scored, then you won't be allowed to keep going. So if you didn't do decently on day 1, it didn't matter if you crammed - the test was over for you. If you did get enough points to continue, whatever points you lost were lost permanently - fixing any problems from day 1 would not have scored you more points. Further, you wouldn't see the day 2 questions until day 2 (obviously) so you wouldn't know what to cram for on the intervening night.

The point is that it's difficult for me to see how any help you might have gotten during the intervening night would have done you much good. Whatever points you may have lost in day 1 are lost for good and you still don't know what's going to happen on day 2.

*Wait times

Back during the days of the 2-day exam, wait-times for R/S test dates would easily run you 6 months or more. And just like today, you were only allowed to hold one date at time. So if you failed, you went right back to the end of the line. So let's suppose you failed and got great feedback from your proctor. I don't know that it really matters very much because you still had to wait for at least 6 months to try again. In fact, I know a few guys who decided to study for the old (now defunct) SNA CCIE not because they actually liked SNA but because the wait time for lab-dates for that one were much shorter.

The 1-day exam freed up a lot of slots (in fact, that was the very impetus behind changing the test in the first place - to free up slots) and combined with the new slick Web-based scheduling tool, lab-dates are a lot easier to come by. Sure, the "official" wait-time may still seem to be 6 months long or so, but people drop lab-dates all the time, and if you use that scheduling tool every day, you will usually find an open slot in a reasonable amount of time. You might have to do it in a moment's notice (for example, a slot might open up in, say, a week) and you might have to travel someplace exotic, but the point is that lab availability is a lot higher than it was in the old days. Basically, wait-times have been cut significantly.

Yet that has led to another problem that I've been talking about for awhile - which is that some people now just go and take the test over and over again. The official Cisco policy is that if you fail but score above a minimum number of points, you can take the test again after 30 days, and quite honestly, that minimum threshold score is low enough that if you can't attain that, you probably shouldn't be trying the test in the first place. But the point is that now there are people who score that (easy to reach) minim and as a result just keep going back every month. This is especially true with people who live near test centers (for example, there are people who live in Silicon Valley who just keep going to the Cisco campus on West Tasman every month). It's especially true of Cisco employees who work in the same campuses as those test centers - because they work at Cisco, they never have to pay for the test, so why not keep going back? My sources tell me that there are quite a few Cisco engineers who literally have nothing better to do than just keep taking the CCIE test over and over again, and if you do that, eventually you're going to get lucky.

I never liked the idea of a wait list (you should be able to take the test whenever you are ready without having to wait), but at the same time, the fact that the same people keep going back to the test center every month is simply unseemly. Either you should have to wait a longer period of time between attempts - say 6 months - or you should be allowed only a reasonable number of attempts, say 2 or 3 attempts, in a given 1 year period. But you can't just allow people to pitch a tent and set up camp at the test center.

And of course, there are the effects of losing the TS section and the proliferation of bootcamps and practice labs which I have mentioned numerous times so I don't need to repeat it here.

But to summarize, it's good that you acknowledge that there are growing problems with the test and that the bulk of the evidence seems to indicate that the test is becoming less rigorous. The question now is what to do about it. You have some good solutions, so does mftaylj, and I'd like to think that I have some decent ideas as well. Believe me when I say that I know that the CCIE administrators do monitor this forum, so your ideas may well become part of the new test. By all means keep talking about it, because that's the only way that things are ever going to be improved. Change will happen only when people honestly and openly acknowledge problems. Silence and censorship are breeding grounds for mediocrity. Nobody ever solved anything by keeping silent.

mftaylj Tue, 06/24/2003 - 10:33
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I think my only point is anything that the HR department fells, be it right or wrong, is a problem that needs to be fixed and the sooner the better - for all of us involved in Internetworking!!!!!

Exactly. It's not just HR - but the entire gamut of individuals who participate in the hiring process - the whole suite of them feel that the CCIE is having problems. Whether you like it or not, these people have jobs to give so if you want one, you will have to respect their wishes.

And besides, I would ask you all to go one step further and ask yourselves why these people are skeptical of the high-number CCIE's. Why would they do that? Only 2 explanations are possible. #1 - they have all decided to conspire to intentionally and deliberately screw over the high-number CCIE's for no good reason. But if this really is the case, then why would do they do - what exactly do they gain by doing that? Does it seem reasonable to think that these people would all get together to hurt a group of CCIE's just because they "don't like them"? Or, #2 - that they feel that there really is a problem with rigor in the CCIE exam lately and that's why they are skeptical of them. #2 is the far more logical explanation.

mftaylj Wed, 06/25/2003 - 08:20
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I'd only ask that you move beyond CCIE's. The entire industry needs help - not just the CCIE's. Networking seems to be moving backwards and "we" need to push Cisco to turn it around - I doubt that fixing the IE program or their entire cert program will do that.

I know a few businesses, locally to me, that have totally stopped addding to their networking department - I have no idea why, that is someone within Cisco's problem - but that fact remains . . .


True, the entire industry needs help. But some sectors need more help than others. I have never heard of an unemployed Cisco storage-networking expert, for example. Or for that matter, an unemployed EMC, Brocade, HDS, or McData storage-networking expert. Or an unemployed star security guy (I'm talking about REAL security, including OS's and apps, not just network security).

Personally, I am not that surprised that companies are not adding to their department. Think about it - Cisco is also not adding to their networking department either. For almost 2 years now, Cisco has been laying off more people than they've been hiring. And seriously, why exactly should companies be hiring for their network department? Their networks are mostly built out. They don't need more network capacity or capabilty. So why do they need more people?

mftaylj Thu, 06/26/2003 - 08:42
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So are you really saying - that the industry is dead? No company is ever going to add networking staff? Or is it no additional staff plus they are not even going to buy anymore gear until they cannot afford to run what they already own?

Because if either is true - I need a new profession and to call my stock broker because I want, no need, companies that I invest in to expand.

I believe the net effect is that the number of people employed in the industry will go down at least for the near future. The fact is, the world just went through a network buildout orgy that we will probably never see again in our lifetime. A lot of people entered the industry to man the buildout, but now that the buildout is emphatically over, and the fact that it takes far more people to actually build a network than to maintain an existing one, that means there are now too many people in networking than the present demand dictates. Simply put, now that the massive network buildout of the 90's is over, the world simply doesn't need as many network engineers as it did in the past.

Yes, that may seem harsh, but that's the way free-market capitalism works. In the free-market, industries rise and industries fall according to the demand of the time. For example, as PC's grew to prominence in the 1980's, the world simply didn't need as many typewriters as it did before. Seriously, when was the last time you saw somebody using a typewriter? The net effect is that the typewriter industry declined and people who worked in that industry had to go to other fields. The world simply had less need for people to be building typewriters.

You want companies that are going to expand? How about the defense industry? Or maybe biotech? Or how about investing in mortgages through FannieMae? Housing sales have been hitting record highs lately, you know.

Anonymous (not verified) Thu, 07/31/2003 - 19:22
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People who are studying for their CCIEs today because they enjoy networking, how will they overcome their high CCIE number? How will they ever get a job if they have no experience?

First of all, your questions contain a tautological paradox. You ask how people who are studying for their CCIE because they enjoy networking will be able to overcome their high CCIE number. But if we are assuming that they really enjoy networking, then there's nothing to overcome - they're doing the CCIE simply because they like it, not because they're out to impress somebody, and if you are truly doing something solely for your own self-enjoyment, then who really cares what other people think? Surely everybody here is psychologically secure enough not to be mere puppets to peer pressure.

But if we are to assume that people are not really doing the CCIE because they enjoy networking, but rather because they are trying to impress people and/or land a job, then there is something to 'overcome'. And to that, what can I say? The indisputable fact is, the higher-number CCIE has a certain stigma due to the proliferation of bootcamps, study guides, and the change of the test from 2 days to 1. Is that fair? Probably not. But unfortunately it's not really a question of fairness. It is what it is, and shutting your eyes and wishing it weren't true isn't going to make it go away. It is what it is.

You also ask how people will ever get a job without experience. Surely you realize that the networking industry has been around for a long time, and people got jobs in this industry long before the CCIE program was ever born. One interesting phenomenom I've witnessed with the rise of certification programs is the mentality that certs are the only way to get jobs, and that mentality's "ugly cousin" - that if you get a cert, you're somehow entitled to a job. Not so. Certs are only one method of breaking into the field, and on the whole, not even close to being the most effective method. By far, the most effective method of breaking into networking (or any industry for that matter) is the time-honored manner of getting in through personal contacts. Surely you've heard the expression: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Bear in mind that most job surveys estimate that the vast majority of available jobs are never advertised anywhere and are filled through contacts.

Simply put - you gotta get to know people, whether on a professional level or a personal level or whatever, because that's the REAL way of getting jobs. When Microsoft first started out, do you really think it was just a coincidence that practically all the programmers there just so happened to be old school-buddies of Bill Gates from Lakeside High in Seattle? When Larry Ellison decided to start the company that would later be known as Oracle, the first 2 people he brought on were Ed Oates and Bob Minor. Did that have anything to do with the fact that they just so happened to be 2 old pals of Larry's during his days as a programmer at Ampex? When Cisco started out, do you find it suspicious that practically every employee either happened to have a personal connection to either the founders, Sandy and Len, or to the backing VC, Don Valentine? That's the way business works. The fact is, most "hiring" is actually done while playing golf or when drinking beers at a bar.

I'm not saying that certs have zero value. Rather, what I'm saying is that certs should not be over-valued.

mmolina2 Wed, 06/25/2003 - 21:22
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Regarding the possible reasons that people (employers/HR) are skeptical of the high-number CCIE's:

#3 -- They have never taken the lab, don't really have a clue about what it entails and are just assuming that a lower number means a better engineer.

What they should be asking the low-number guys is:

"Well, I'm not running Appletalk or Decnet in my network so how good are you with BGP and Layer 3 switches ?" Make sure that they haven't been doing under water welding or something else for the last decade.

What they should be asking the high-number guys is:

"What type of practical experience do you have to compliment your new certification ?"

Just my opinion. A guy with zero experience and a high number is worth about as much as a guy who passed the lab when there were oil funnels for the routers he earned his low number on and hasn't done anything since.

First of all, the low-number ccie from the old days who hasn't stayed in networking probably hasn't recertified, either because he can't pass the recert exam, or (more likely) because he just doesn't care anymore. Whatever the reason, since he didn't recertify, he's not a CCIE and therefore doesn't count.

Second of all, you keep pushing the important of new technologies. But honestly, are they really that important? Consider the following that I posted on another newsgroup:

"I believe that people place far too much emphasis on knowing the new technology. Hey, don't get me wrong, it's important to keep up. But let's not overemphasize this point too much. For example, take the case of the R/S CCIE which is the CCIE that is supposedly geared to enterprise-level networking (those guys who want to do service-provider work are supposed to be looking at the C/S CCIE). Some people have retorted that the low-number R/S CCIE's don't know, say, BGP, so they contend that the higher-number CCIE is actually more relevant and useful. But let's be honest - how many enterprises actually run BGP? 1% at most? Probably more like 0.1%, or perhaps even less? And even those enterprises that are running BGP - how many actually have a legitimate need to run BGP vs. how many have just done it for stupid reasons (something that myself, Howard Berkowitz, and Peter van Oene have discussed before)? Even in those cases, how many actually have enough BGP routers that they might actually need to run their own route-reflectors? And furthermore, I have to ask, how many enterprises are running BGP not because they actually need it, but because their network engineer has decided to make things more complicated than they really need to be because it means greater job security for himself/herself (i.e. "...if I install BGP everywhere and I'm the only person here who actually knows BGP, that makes it that much harder for them to lay me off...")? How many enterprises are like this? I don't know the answer either, but it's safe to say that the number is greater than zero.

Or take the case of IP multicasting. With apologies to Howard Berkowitz - pop quiz - name 10 popular IP multicasting applications that, right now, are in use in the company you work for. Can't do it, can you? Can you even name one? For most people, they can't even name a single one. In all my years of networking, I have not run into a single enterprise that is actually actively using IP multicasting. Now don't get me wrong - I know that there are some rare cases of multicasting being used in the enterprise. But the key operating word there is 'rare'. For various reasons, I believe anything that could be done by IP multicasting could probably be done far easier either through a broadcast network (for example, right now through my digital cableTV service at home I get hundreds of TV channels - and quite frankly most of them suck - and with compression algorithms improving all the time, I may be getting thousands of channels in the near future) or through an application-level proxy/cache/CDN arrangement. But the point is that even the most fervent IP multicasting supporter has to concede that the technology hasn't exactly taken the world by storm.

Therefore the argument that the newer CCIE test supposedly has more relevant technologies really doesn't hold water. In the case of BGP, most enterprises don't need it, in the case of route-reflection most enterprises don't know it and care about it, and in the case of IP multicasting, most enterprises don't know it, don't need it and don't care about it. Or, let me put it to you another way. The newest version of the CCIE no longer has IPX or tokenring. Yet I think I'm on safe ground when I say there are far more enterprises out there running tokenring and IPX than are running IP multicasting or BGP route reflection. Therefore, of the older or newer CCIE, which one is REALLY more relevant to present-day enterprise networks? "

I see that you work for SBC, so obviously coming from a serviceprovider standpoint, your perspective is different from most enterprises. In your case, BGP would indeed be important, indeed vital. But you have to admit that BGP is actually fairly useless in most enterprises, and since the R/S CCIE is supposedly geared to enterprises, surely you would agree that the fixation on BGP is a bit weird. Why center so much of an enterprise-oriented test on BGP when the fact is, there are very very few enterprises that need to run BGP.

You talk about L3 switches. I take it you're talking about the IOS-fused 3550's L3 switches that are on the new exams. Similar switches would include the Cat4000 with a Sup3/4 or a Cat6500 with MSFC in NativeIOS mode. Yeah, what about those switches? Honestly, how many enterprises are really running these kinds of switches? Compare that to the number of enterprises that are still running pure L2 switches like the 2900 or 3500XL's, or old-school chassis-based core switches like the Cat5000, the Cat4000 with Sup1/2, or the Cat6500 with either no MSFC or an MSFC in Hybrid mode? I think it's safe to say that there are far more enterprises out there running the older switches than the newer switches. So, again, I would ask you, which is more relevant in today's actual networks - knowledge of the 3550 and cousins, or knowledge of the older switches? You keep talking about relevance, but honestly, what's REALLY more relevant?

And think about what you're saying when you say that HR is clueless and doesn't know what they're doing. If this were really the case, then I would imagine that they would be equally clueless in multiple ways. For example, some idiotic HR guys might assume that lower means better, but other idiotic HR guys might assume that higher means better. Idiocy should be random. The question is why does the idiocy go 'one-way'? When things are one-way, that should tell you that there is more than just idiocy involved.


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