The Value of Cisco Certifications

Every now and then I read an article about the value of Cisco certifications, and how they are declining over time.

Depending on whether the question is from a perspective of advancing in career through another Cisco cert, or from the perspective of choosing a network certification between Cisco and another vendor. The question can have two or more logical answers.

If I had to start from scratch once again and study for a Cisco certification, I would consider this set of thoughts before engaging in the cert journey.

Is the Cisco certification relevant to my job?

In the previous CCNP Security curriculum for example, we had an exam for each Cisco security product: one for ASA, one for VPN, one for ISE, etc. You get the idea. So if you work with Fortinet or Juniper instead most of the time, those Cisco security certs won’t be as much of value as you think.

But, one of the reasons that Cisco certifications are in constant demand, is that Cisco continuously adapts its exams to the market. So, the new CCNP Security track for example has one Core exam, covering general security topics, and a couple of concentration exams around specific security products. That is a way better approach to the problem.

How many paper engineers are cheating at this Cisco certification exam?

There are more and more cheaters nowadays. And there is a whole big ecosystem built around brain dumps over the last decade or so.

A colleague of mine got a CCNP title. When I asked him about his study material, he told me he “studied” the dumps.

Another colleague passed the ENCOR exam. When asked about his study method, he said he “went through” the official guide, he practiced the topics and used some kind of Boson test exam. No mention of GNS3 or Eve-ng or home lab whatsoever. And this colleague at one occasion did not make the difference between a switched port and a routed port!

There are even CCIE folks who dumped their lab exam! Sometimes double and triple CCIE folks. Do you really still think a guy with a CCIE number is always an expert? Do you think getting a CCIE number is still hard? I can throw you a couple of companies in Asia that produce dozens of “paper CCIEs” a month. But I don’t want to get in useless legal Wishiwashi with them because it is pointless and a waste of my time. In those companies you are basically paying them to “guarantee” you a CCIE number later by exposing you to the same CCIE lab questions and topology as it appears in the exam! The end result is yes, you get a CCIE number. But you are to me far from being a fucking expert!

If you don’t believe me then read:

Where am I now in terms of Cisco certifications?

Let me compare two guys here:

  • Samir has studied his way up to CCNP, but found out later that many of his colleagues were cheating to get CCNA and CCNP with brain dumps. So, he started reading about the value of Cisco certifications. He got despaired, and quit renewing his certs.
  • Nawfel studied up to CCNA, was impressed by the quality and amount of marketable knowledge he gathered. So he decided to study for other Cisco certifications and climb the tech ladder up.

As CCNA was my first networking certification I’ve ever earned, it opened me the door to work in network administration and support right after my Bachelor studies.

Later, as I studied and passed all three CCNP level exams, my ego got a boost. I was thrilled by the amount and depth of knowledge I acquired, compared to CCNA. And the CCNP knowledge made me kind of a hero in my customers’ eyes, after being able to solve some complex network troubleshooting problems.

I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I still never encountered network engineers who have earned their Cisco certifications the right way, and are not happy with their career and/or financial situation for a long time.

Another example of real value of Cisco certifications is the instant financial reward: my current employer offers a financial bonus to anyone who achieves CCNP-level or CCIE-level exams. And the bonus associated with a CCIE is a three-digit number!

What the fuck happened to me?

I’ve just forgot how Cisco certifications were a big player in shaping my career towards network engineering.

I was demotivated by the number of cheaters and the horror stories I’ve read. I’ve been demotivated for years now, and been only renewing my CCNP status each three years, instead of gaining more network engineering skills.

No, here is a better formulation: I’ve let myself get demotivated. I’ve simply allowed some pussy mentally weak so-called “engineers” mess up with my motivation.

Yes, “paper engineers” are cheating: they grab a copy of exam dumps, learn them by heart, pass the exam, and claim to be certified. Then they come to work bragging about how hard the exam was. They are taking shortcuts to get “faster” results, in their own opinion. Some others say that Cisco exam wording is hard and using brain dumps helps circumvent that.

So in a way, my internal representation of IT certifications was over time mutilated by fucking cheaters, low perceived ROI certification value, and a sense of high “fake competitiveness” due to paper certified donkeys.

However, I should not forget the fact that a great network engineer is not a title on a paper that you win after getting/cheating in a cert. It is rather a recognition you get after giving in the sweat, the time and the effort in advance, to pass the exam and succeed.

It is a reward for all the sacrifices you’ve given in advance, in exchange of that title.

The standard in the market today is leaning towards seeing more and more of such paper donkeys, who can not even answer some basic network engineering technical questions.

And that frustrated me. I even used to get angry when I hear about co-workers cheating for their CCNA or CCNP exams… until today.

What if I could take benefit from this situation?

What if I can prove to employers/co-workers/customers, that I am an exception to the new “standard”? What if I can astonish them, through hard work, patience and stubbornness, that I am not just another pretender?

What if I was not seeing the big picture, that cheaters are burning down their career, which means less competition for real network engineers in the future?

I am going to continue taking my time to properly study for the technologies: reading and understanding the material, labbing, making flashcards, repeating concepts, etc. And it will take me some more time. My goal of becoming a CCIE by the age of 40 may seem not yet reachable, because I wasted a lot of time in the past watching movies and TV series. But I know it will haunt me forever if I do not continue pursuing my goals.

That being said, if you perceive the value of Cisco certifications -and IT certifications in general maybe- to be in a declining curve, then I’m fine with that. In fact, I no longer care. Be sure though, that in the meantime, there are network engineers out there who do not give a fuck about what happens in the certification industry. I respect them a lot. They work hard day and night. And they bang their certification exams in an ethical way, no matter how many times it takes them.

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