This is probably my 3rd, maybe 4th attempt at a blog of some kind. I start it and then, I get anxious about continuing it. The blogging landscape in I.T. is tremendous. One can easily wonder what differentiator they can bring to the blogosphere.
So, instead, I am realizing that this blog isn’t to gain some following, its to write, think, and share my thoughts even if in the end its just with myself. But if my thoughts help others than that is a win.
So, is what I’m thinking about today:
There is a never-ending number of blogs that ask the question “is the CCIE worth it? Has the CCIE lost value?” With many variations on the same question. We end up with more or less two camps. One camp that praises the CCIE and another that criticizes it for a variety of reasons. Yes, people do VERY well with zero certifications. It literally comes down to “you do you.”
First, let me explain that I reference the CCIE here, but what I really mean is <insert your favorite high-level certification here>
Well, I’m going to take a different approach. I got my CCIE in 2008 which seems like a lifetime ago now. Since then I have grown in ways I didn’t think about in 2008. Yet, I still held on to the CCIE because I put my heart and soul into it like many other people before me. Let me say for the record that, for my career, it was absolutely worth it. I got a lot out of it. More than I imagined.
So for the long-time CCIEs, I want to talk to you about the unthinkable. The time when you stop referring to yourself with the CCIE.
Hear me out.
There will be a time when you have moved up the stack far enough that people referring to you and your CCIE together can hurt you, depending on your path. For me, that time is at hand. Mainly because the places I’m going in open networking, zero-trust network access, posture and policy aren’t confined to tests. In fact, in my 18 months at Cisco, I have been working in Cloud Security embedded in an infrastructure that is 100% cloud-native. I have been privileged to be part of teams and experimentation projects that have stoked the same type of fires that I had when I first started in networking. The CCIE is like a platform that once reached you dive off from into bigger and bigger pools. Pools you won’t see yet until you achieve the level of knowledge around which the CCIE tests. The platforms to jump off of never end.
Remember that the CCIE tests a subset of knowledge for the networking professional. This “subset” feels massive on the journey of course. Many CCIEs also have expertise in Cisco products and protocols that aren’t necessarily part of the lab, but make the person holding the CCIE more rounded.
For those people on the journey of the CCIE, I invite you to build knowledge around what you have learned on your journey over and above the CCIE blueprint. You’ll be happy that you did. In 2020 that means a deep understanding of IaaS. Learning a language, learning containers, Learning Linux and especially learning Linux networking. I don’t recommend doing it all at once.
For the Networking professional who has attained the CCIE, I invite you to realize that it is just another platform to another level, a greater abyss. Realize that you will have to eventually shed the CCIE title if you see that keeping yourself anchored to it keeps you from growing.
Shedding something that you are well known for can be difficult. You’ll know it’s time when you hear someone say “Hank the CCIE and networking SME.” In the company of people you aspire to grow to be more like you, like me may suddenly feel that tug from the anchor.
None of this is bad. No one reading this should be thinking about any kind of negative connotation. Shedding former lives is a good thing. Growth is a good thing. Don’t let the F.O.M.O. associated with shedding association to a certification keep you from reaching new heights and new areas of discovery.
Certs are amazing things to many people (and nothing to others), but don’t let that be the end of your story.