Since I completed my CCNP a couple of weeks ago, I have been contemplating my next certification step. I have nine weeks of my paid long service left before I officially stop being employed, but I decided that that should not be any kind of cut-off, as I have plenty of time to find work after that. I considered stopping with the CCNP, as that is what most employers seem to regard highly anyway and I might just take it as a win and move on.
That didn't seem to appeal, and in any case a broader set of certs or the CCIE would open other doors in the employment space. So the question came down to whether I should plough ahead and attempt the CCIE or do some other specializations, like wireless, voice or security. The design track seems appealing, and I even had a look outside the Cisco space at the Juniper certification track. I bought the CCIE certification guide, and a couple of the specialization Cisco Press books. I consulted with a few people about which path I might go, and everyone seemed to have different opinions, and it really came down to what I was looking for out of the experience.
So what am I looking for? Marketability of the certifications is one concern, but in reality that is not the major concern. In the end, given the time I currently have, I think I want a challenge.
So my decision is this. Unless a particularly attractive job offer comes along in the interim, I am going to take the rest of 2011 and attempt the Route & Switch CCIE. I am setting myself a timeline of four or five weeks from today to pass the CCIE written exam, and then to attempt the lab in December or January, depending upon the availability. I have scribbled out a bit of a budget, and I am going to look buy a couple of 3560 switches for lab practice, but I am going to use GNS3/Dynamips to do the router side.
Everyone says that the CCIE is very difficult and challenging. I want to try it to see if my network skillz really are any good. I am never going to get a better time to try it. I was looking at travelling overseas later this year, and as part of the experience, I am considering delaying that and going to take the lab exam in the Cisco Mecca of San Jose (although in reality, I'll probably book in for it in Sydney). Also, as the time approaches for the lab, there are some excellent boot camps available to prep for the exam.
I'm setting myself a tight timeline, and I am fully aware that many, if not most people don't pass the lab on the first attempt. But now I've made the decision, I'm quite excited that I have a plan for the rest of the year - CCIE study, gym to try and get down near 100 kg, and then to look for work. I do have a bit of regret that I didn't follow on and get my PhD. I'm not going to let the opportunity pass me by to give the CCIE a go.