In my career, like many others, I find myself in a state of constant studying & learning. In the same vein, the one thing I've been flip-flopping about is getting certified as a CCIE / JNCIE for my efforts.
When I was a wee sprout
Early in my career, in my first legitimate "Network" role, I witnessed a dear colleague achieve his CCIE. I could see him work hard at his goal, and the immense satisfaction passing gave him. Not only that, it seemed that his studies opened him up to many things I had never heard of in college. Things such as GNS3 (when it was still a dynamips-only beta), Unetlab, MPLS, etc. etc.... things I didn't see in my day to day at the small company we worked for.
He then moved on to work in a 'real' Network team at a big financial firm. It set-off the bug in my head that perhaps certification was the real deal, and I should give it a go.
I'm so happy I did. After studying for many hours and many days, I got my CCNA – soon to be followed by my CCNP. That certification on my resume, along with the exposure it gave me, definitely helped me to land & pass the technical interview I got for my first NOC role at a large Datacentre / MSP org.
As I continued my studies and certification journey, I quickly realized that is was the journey, not the destination, that really made the impact. Knowing the outline of CCNP, and reading up on it's various applications, helped me to understand the world outside of my current perview. It didn't mean that EIGRP & DMVPN were best – because I was now familiar with them, and familiar feels best – they were simply a tool in the toolbet, to be drawn upon, should the requirements deem fitting, or simply dictate.
It also was the fact that I put in the hours at the terminal, demystifying that arbitary domain-specific-language that Cisco & others implemented. This was better put towards getting my hands dirty at work, rather than prepping for a test.
After landing a position at a major nation-wide Telco, by circumstance of acquisition, I decided I would up my skills by not getting a CCIE, but by using CCIE's outline as a guideline for my studying. Time proved this method effective for me.
I also soon discovered that CCIE outlines were also a bit dated for the more emerging technologies I was working on, in a competitive Telco. In fact, it seemed that CCIE was somewhere between 2-5 years behind what we're pushing ahead today; Furthermore, when CCIE does ultimately catch up, it's rather shallow in it's exploration of new topics – Segment Routing comes to mind, as an example. This likely comes from Cisco's uncertainty in what products & implementations will actually take hold of the industry, and which ones will flop – as so many implementations do!
Source of Contention
Now I find myself at a different crossroad; I'd like to strengthen my paper portfolio (CV), along with my knowledge. The reason being is that I'd like to potentially leave this continent & move to Europe, for personal reasons.
I'd wager that a littled amplified 'Alphabet soup' would help me stand out in the crowd, especially in foreign lands. Perhaps there are other unconsidered benefits from the actualization of the full path as well.
Sadly, there are some negative associations I have with CCIE. The first one being is that I, and countless others, have encountered so many "Paper CCIEs". People who purportedly have – or had – the knowledge to pass the outline of CCIE, at the time of their certification. Yet, when it comes time to do the work, they can't troubleshoot their way out of a wet paper bag. Even on the very protocols they seemingly had to 'master' to pass the troubleshooting portion of their certification.
I have many theories as to how this happens, but the simple explanation – that isn't malicious or nefarious in nature, anyway – is that a career in Networking is a Marathon, not a sprint. This can be clearly seen in some of my colleagues I've had.
I've met those that are old CCIE's, new CCIE's, Poly *IE's, etc. etc. The defining factor in their knowledge doesn't seem to be specifically the certification journey, but an extensive or intense career path; Were they a back-bencher or a minister of pushing packets? That seemed to always be the defining factor.
Thus, I ask myself – yet again – what the hell do I want this Cert for? Who do I want this for? It always seems to be not for me. But if it increases my chances to immigrate by, say, even 5% ? How badly do I want the end result of said immigration? Even if I know I'm simply playing the HR Alphabet game.
- CCIE is universally recognized
- Reviewing the outline today, I feel confident I can master the topics, especially in CCIE-SP track.
- I'd never have to think about this again.
- There are too many CCIEs, and too many 'paper' ones. Do technical managers even care? I know I wouldn't (But maybe the job market I am targetting does).
- Many hours spent for what could be spent doing something I'd consider exceptional, like contributing to projects I believe in – such as FRR, VyOS & DBIUA.
- Money I could invest in my homelab, etc.
- Not many of these guys/gals/etc. out there.
- Could demonstrate & vastly expand my Juniper knowledge – I'd consider myself intermediate today
- I like their plaque better than the CCIE one
- One must complete the whole track – from JNCIA to JNCIP – taking more time & money.
- There seems to be more resources from the vendor, but less resources out there on the interwebz. I'd have to search for the tribe.
- I am very annoyed by this one, but Juniper silently removed the vMX trial license. Meaning my 17.2 R2 image is the best I'll get. That's too old of an image for the JNCIE-SP track. I could grovel through my companies vendor relationship, but I'd rather not. They should take this page down
I am simply writing what I'm thinking. This could all be summarized as "Maybe". If I do decide to pursue this track, I will report back & hold myself accountable to my very small – maybe non-existent – readership.
I will say that I have great respect for many *IE's:
Russ White (who was CCAr as well), Ivan Pepelnjak, Packet Pushers Crew, countless co-workers, and the most technically talented person I've personally worked with, Randy – who let his JNCIE expire, if that says anything.
I also witnessed a valued member of the r/networking community be awarded his JNCIE recently. I can definitely say that the plaque is very nice.
There are plenty others who did not pursue certification that I consider industry experts, Jeremy Stretch being the most notable.
One thing is for certain.... Certification is not the reason I grew to respect those individuals. So I wouldn't expect anyone to respect me any more, should I get mine.