Thinking Beyond The Cisco Certification Poster

Like many other candidates, you may find yourself at the crossroads of selecting which Cisco certification you are going to pursue in order to build or further your IT career. It is time to revisit the faithful Cisco Certification Poster to see what your options are. There is only one problem: the career poster only gives you the basics – pre-requisites, recommended training, and required exams for all available certifications. The real challenge is that it’s up to you to choose exactly which path will work for you based on your personal and professional goals.


As we approach the upcoming NFL pre-season, football fans know their favorite team is working on its winning strategy. Think of yourself as the head coach of your own IT career. The Certification Poster is your playbook – it’s comprehensive and covers all of the options available to you. But to win, you need more than a playbook; you need a game plan, and a good coach must always be strategizing what plays to call and when and which resources to utilize and how. More importantly, sometimes a key strategy is simply knowing when it’s time to scrap the game plan and call an audible – making an unexpected change in plans to account for new circumstances. Let’s look at when to utilize the playbook, the game plan, and the audible in order to win big in your IT career.

The Playbook

The Certification Poster is neatly placed on your wall or desk at work. You’re reviewing which certifications are of interest, and when you decide, you know what steps to take to get certified. This part of the game is pretty straight forward. The requirements to advance to the next certification in any given technology track are laid out for you, and all of the possibilities for your career path are neatly summed up. The only dilemma is you have a few options that you could pursue, but there are multiple reasons you might choose one over the other. That means it’s time to make a plan.

The Game Plan
Choosing your path goes one step beyond the playbook – it means thinking strategically and creating your game plan. Your technical abilities, your interests, your educational background, your previous experience, and your future career goals should be some of the biggest factors in deciding which path to pursue. Say for instance you have an interest in networking, network design, or experience in delivering secure and reliable network infrastructure. You may have already narrowed down your areas of expertise to Design, Network Security, Routing & Switching, or Wireless technologies. You might choose to become an expert in one of these technologies, starting with your Associate certification, then achieving the Professional level, and finally going for your CCIE before you explore another technology track. But because many people begin their career with the CCNA or CCNP Routing & Switching certifications, you may also want to earn a dual CCNA or CCNP certification in Security since many of the foundational pieces overlap. Deciding whether you want to move up or move laterally, and when, all depends on the goals you set for yourself.

The Audible
There may come a time when you have to make a last-minute change to your game plan. You may have significant skills in one area but you see the potential in an emerging technology that may strike your passion to pursue. Not too long ago, cloud technology was a concept that many did not understand but soon proved to have such expansive possibilities that the need for cloud engineers grew very quickly. Taking a sharp turn in your career path may take more work in the short term but can pay off exponentially in the future. Conversely, we’ve all seen existing technologies become obsolete in the rapidly changing IT industry. You may have decided on your game plan already, but as you stay abreast of changes in the industry, it may become clear that it’s time to jump to a new track if your certification path is headed towards retirement. Other times you may be subject to external influences, such as your employer pushing you in a certain direction for a technology they need to support in their organization. Whatever the case may be, be prepared for unexpected changes to your game plan, and be ready to position yourself for success.


Of course choosing your career path is not a game, but we hope these short game time scenarios help put into perspective a common sense approach to making decisions about your IT career. Once you’ve looked at your playbook and created your game plan, make sure you leverage all of the tools and resources provided to you on and the Cisco Learning Network. Take time to read the #CertsandLabs blog Is there a Right Way to Prepare for your Certification”?  This will help as you move forward with your game plan. Good luck, and we look forward to hearing about your career wins!