Being that we’re in February, I hope you’re all doing what you love. J  With that said, I’ve recently been asked about approaches to certification.  More specifically, how I approached my own certification.

 

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll go into greater details.  When I joined Cisco IT, I supported the production and engineering datacenters.  This was mostly switches and gateways.  Over time, my responsibilities grew and this was only because of the certifications I achieved.

 

Prior to joining Cisco, I had been a systems engineer and network engineer for years.  I really thought I knew it all when it came to Cisco.  Joining Cisco was a humbling experience and I realized I only knew a fraction, but it seemed like a lot because my previous scope of work was limited.

 

Most people will target certifications based on their interests or what technology/skills might be hot (in demand) at the time.  My approach was slightly different; I decided to look at my team’s skill gaps.  Since most of my peers had their CCNPs; I decided that I should look at what would complement my team.  I evaluated service provider, security and design and found that they could all add value to my team.  Furthermore, I found that they also required understanding of routing and switching.  So as I began my journey 10+ years ago; I took my first instructor-led course.

 

While you have many options from instructor-led, CBT/WBT, other virtual training and self-paced studies; I prefer instructor-led.  I like having the ability to ask questions live, but since the introduction of CLN and the forums; you now all have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from many experts around the world.

 

I have also used CBT/WBT, Cisco Press Books and Cisco.com to study.  Many of the CCIEs on my team have used INE to prepare for their certifications and their courses are hosted by experts covering the technology.

 

Though I prefer instructor-led courses, most of the time I did self-paced studies.  With self-paced studying, the first thing I would do is pull up the syllabus on Cisco.com.  I would review the syllabus and see what I could find related to the topic on Cisco.com.  In addition to reading white papers online, I would buy the Cisco Press books (if they were available).

 

I would commit to covering a certain number of topics per week and would hold myself accountable for getting to that point.  I would also do a lot of review to make sure I understood the topic.  I had a bit of an advantage being that I had equipment at my disposal for hands-on practice.

 

Since I knew what I wanted to cover each week, I could then divide my time up per day.  This helped me stay disciplined.  Another thing I would do is schedule my exam.  This put pressure on me to study and tend to push myself harder to meet deadlines.

 

BCRAN, CIT and COMPOSITE was the order I took my CCNP exams 10 years ago.  Things have changed quite a bit.

 

What has helped you prepare for exams?  What are some tips for others that you could share?  What didn’t work?  As always good luck and please do share your thoughts!