To be a CCIE certification holder is to be part of a rare breed indeed—among only about 3 percent of all Cisco certified individuals around the globe. But Jiaqi Xu can count himself among the best of the best of this group—one of only 16 individuals worldwide with not one, not two, not even three, four, five, or six, but seven different CCIE certifications.
Jiaqi has one word to describe this IT feat: “addicted.” From the time a friend mentioned the idea of Cisco certification to Jiaqi, he jumped in and never looked back. CCIE Security certification came first in October 2011 and then CCIE Voice in early 2013. As a network engineer involved in both pre-sales and post-sales activity for the entire East China region for Cisco’s general distributor Digital China, Jiaqi found that certification gave him the confidence and ability to communicate with customers more smoothly.
On a Roll: Five Badges in Little More than a Year
Jiaqi’s growing network knowledge and work experience were a springboard to being offered a job at Cisco in 2013. At Cisco, Jiaqi wasted no time blazing through five more badges in relatively short order: CCIE Service Provider in September 2013, followed by CCIE Collaboration in April 2014. Then came CCIE Data Center just one month later. Before 2014 had rolled out, Jiaqi had added CCIE Wireless and CCIE Routing and Switching to his list of exploits. Considering that the average amount of preparation time for an individual pursuing a single CCIE certification is eight months, Jiaqi’s dedication is particularly impressive.
Adding to the impressiveness of Jiaqi’s accomplishment is the fact that he launched directly into the quest of his seven CCIE certifications without achieving, as most people do, his Associate or Professional levels first.
It did not come without sacrifice. Says Jiaqi, “I abandoned almost all of my recreational activities and put aside all other things that I liked before. My New Year holiday was even spent in the lab.” In order to garner those last five certifications in just a little more than one year, he needed to travel between Beijing, Hong Kong, and San Jose.
Jiaqi’s thirst for know-how kept him going: “I tried my best to learn more network knowledge and absorb a new technique every day. If a knowledge point was something I didn’t know, I had a strong desire to pick it up.”
Study Groups for Added Momentum
Another thing that kept Jiaqi going was having a study group, specifically in preparing for the CCIE Data Center certification. The group set up their own lab to pace through exercises. “Even a broken-down lab could still allow me to learn a lot of the content,” says Jiaqi. The members of the study group all went for their certification at the same time. “This dramatically improved our exam pass rate,” he adds.
Earning five CCIE certifications at Cisco, in addition to the two certifications he already had, won Jiaqi the admiration of his boss and colleagues. “I became able to apply all kinds of technologies masterfully,” he states. “Now I can handle anything easily and dexterously, including routing and switching, collaboration, and data center. I can face my customers confidently.”
Jiaqi’s reward came in the form of a promotion from a pre-sales engineer position to the role of systems engineer. In this role, Jiaqi helps the sales team in China convey to customers the advantages of Cisco products and solutions. “Cisco has very strong competitors in China,” he says. “Our advantage is that we can help customers achieve their business goals by enabling them to work out complete and integrated technical solutions.”
Despite the blistering pace at which he picked up his seven CCIE titles, Jiaqi’s advice is not to proceed hastily through an acquisition of certifications. “It is very necessary to study network fundamentals robustly,” he says. “Great oaks grow from little acorns. Only when a solid foundation is built can you gradually find the road that is very broad.”
Jiaqi, as one might guess, continues to be driven, and is not a proponent of resting on one’s laurels. “Even though I have obtained seven CCIE certificates, there are still challenges in my work and there are still problems that I don’t know how to solve,” he states. “CCIE certification is only a small milestone. It is more intended to teach you how to get started and utilize a scientific learning approach to acquire knowledge. What you have to do is to learn new technologies continuously, constantly remind yourself of advancing with the times, and continue to take in new knowledge like a sponge.”
Gary Pfitzer is a content manager at Learning@Cisco, focused on bringing various aspects of today's IT journey to light through business papers, blogging, customer success stories, and other writing.