Spoken like a CCIE: Cisco Learning Network asks the experts

In the realm of network engineering, there is one certification that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest, both in terms of difficulty and associated prestige: the CCIE. Offered by Cisco Systems, the CCIE (or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) is described as "the most prestigious networking certification in the industry" by Cisco, and the company works very hard to keep it that way.


Switch and cables

There are eight different CCIE tracks one can choose to certify in: Routing and Switching, Security, Service Provider, Service Provider Operations, Voice, Wireless, Collaboration, and Data Center. Anyone with $400 and a hunger for punishment can contact a Pearson VUE testing center and register for the written exam in their preferred track. The exam is a simple pass/fail and results are available upon completion.


Those who manage to pass the written exam move on to the much more expensive, time-consuming and all-around difficult part: the $1,600 lab portion, which generally takes eight hours. A successful applicant becomes a CCIE, complete with a unique CCIE ID number. An unsuccessful applicant must wait a specified period of time (recently lengthened to keep fools from rushing, as the say) and pay another $1,600 fee before a second attempt, or give up their quest. As many have learned from experience, failing to prepare well for the exam can be time-wasting, frustrating and expensive.


A small group of successful CCIEs on the Cisco Learning Network are attempting to help candidates better prepare for the process by blogging answers and recommendations to questions asked by members of the network, including questions about studying for the exams, as well as what, precisely, being a CCIE entails.


The first post, spearheaded by Daniel Dib (CCIE #37149) and modestly titled "Ask a CCIE — And We Shall Respond" covers topics as clinical as how the responder CCIEs prepared for the lab, and as personal as their favorite IT book. The answers are down-to-earth, candid, and often amusing; written variously by CCIEs Scott Morris, Paul Stewart, Chandan Singh Takuli and Dib, they also have the added advantage of answering from several perspectives.


The introduction to the blog describes the CCIE lab as a "mythical creature," and the blog's mission seems to be to demystify it. Although Dib admits that the respect granted to CCIEs for passing the lab is usually rightfully deserved, he then adds, "We are regular people who started out as beginners like everyone else." Throughout the post Dib and his cohorts handle CCIE hopefuls' fears in a helpful and charming manner.


Of monetary expenses, Scott Morris writes that the average candidate should have deep pockets: don't just plan to spend the $1,600 for the initial exam, but be prepared to shell out at least $6,000, enough for three repeat attempts. Morris writes of his first failed attempt; "It was quite humbling! I'm still good friends with the proctor who failed me, though." Takuli noted that he borrowed money from friends for his second exam attempt, and said, "If you just keep on studying you will exhaust yourself soon. Give yourself a break too."


Considering the rarity of CCIEs, this blog thread (one of many in Cisco Learning Network's aptly named VIP Perspectives blog) could become a useful resource for anyone considering taking or preparing to take the CCIE exam. Here's hoping we see more of it in the future.

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David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.