CCIE is one of the most respected and widely know certifications in the IT industry. It is sometimes compared to PhD in networking. People certified with CCIE certification are experts in one or more fields of networking. The oldest and the most widespread is the CCIE in Routing and Switching, but there are other CCIE tracks, too. Network security experts are certified as CCIE Security, VoIP experts as CCIE Voice, for example. Other tracks include Service Provider, Wireless, Storage and Service Provider Operations. Whatever the track, one thing is certain – person certified as CCIE has gone through grueling preparation and even more difficult on-site hands-on test, delivered by Cisco. Certification is administered by Cisco, but is respected and accepted as certificate of utmost networking competence and achievement by everyone.
The biggest value of this certification is that there are no shortcuts, cheats and so-called “brain-dumps” that can be used! Since it’s an on-site, hands-on examination that lasts EIGHT hours, it’s not hard to imagine why. Furthermore, Cisco has cherished and nurtured their CCIE program since 1993. CCIE certified individuals bring many benefits to their companies, such as improved/faster access to relevant support teams within Cisco, but much more importantly, by being experts who can be relied on.
What does one need to do to become CCIE? Here is some advice for effective CCIE preparation.
The first step is to understand that CCIE certification is no easy task. Vast majority of candidates do not pass the exam on their first attempt. Be ready for that and don’t give up easily. Be prepared for at least 6-9 months of long days and even longer nights of hard study and work – sometimes even to give up on social life completely. If you can, plan to have at least one month before your exam date fully dedicated to study!
CCIE is expert-level certification and as such requires those who are certified CCIE to be experts in their respective fields. This requires a lot of reading and a lot of practice. Get familiar with Cisco’s website and products, as well as available books from their publishing company, Cisco Press.
Chose the CCIE track that best suits your interests and current expertise in networking. Just as a reminder, available tracks are: Routing and Switching, Voice, Security, Service Provider, Service Provider Operations, Wireless and Storage.
Study, prepare and pass the written qualification exam for the selected track. For most popular tracks, Cisco Press has published certification guides and usually, this is not a big problem for most students. Preparing well for the qualification exam will pay off during lab preparation, as this should offer solid theoretical background.
Select reliable CCIE lab training partner, with proven track record and methodology, combined with blended learning solutions, that include comprehensive self-study material and instructor-led classes for the second part of the certification – the dreaded CCIE Lab.
Understand advanced theory and concepts associated with the selected track and begin technology-focused, targeted learning by watching video on demand, listening to audio on demand products, as well as practicing individual technologies. Watching videos and listening to instructors at your leisure, is an excellent kick-start for CCIE preparation. Especially with those who wish to follow structured learning approach to CCIE certification.
Follow the previous step by reinforcing theory, advanced knowledge and technologies working together by beginning multiprotocol exercises from lab practice workbooks. Further establish advanced expertise by attending one of the instructor-led classes. These classes are popularly known as “CCIE Bootcamps” and, as their nickname suggests, are very intensive. They are usually week-long and serve to fill-in any knowledge gaps you may have at this point in your preparation.
When you are finished with your first instructor-led training, polish advanced knowledge and troubleshooting skills by doing advanced and the most complex lab exercises available to you. Most respectable CCIE training vendors offer self-study material of varying difficulty. Beginners, or even experienced engineers, could easily be overwhelmed by the levels of complexity offered in some material. These most difficult challenges and practice labs should be left for late-stage preparation.
Knowledge is only part of success with CCIE. Large part is psychological pressure, mostly augmented by unknown environment in the test lab. Practice taking the lab exam by attending even more specialized “Lab Experience” training classes offered. As is the case with self-study material, good training vendors offer lab experience weeks, where students are immersed into very complex hands-on practice labs, closely watched by instructor with the aim to imitate the experience of taking the real hands-on lab exam delivered by Cisco. As the last-stage exam preparation aid, these can be invaluable!