A Double Celebration Kicks Off This Dad’s Certification Climb“I can always remember the day I passed my first Cisco exam,” recalls Jesus Merchan Reina, “being the big day it was.” That day was a high point in every parent’s life: “I took my exam on my daughter's first birthday, the day she turned one year old.” Jesus laughs that he will never have trouble remembering either milestone. 

 

“It was the only date I could book the exam; the only day I could get off from my job (that was a hard one), and I just had to do it, despite my baby's first birthday and having family over from Germany on precisely that day.

“To make it even harder for me, the only time they had available was at noon, effectively breaking my day in half. And of course, in the morning I did some relaxation techniques and reviewed my notes, so no time for Baby. However, it paid off handsomely—I obtained a 956 out of 1000 score!”

Jesus and his family were living in London at the time, and the weather was memorable as well: “I can still remember walking from the bus stop to the examination center and it being so hot (very rare for London). I was sweating quite a bit.

“It was even hotter on the way back, but do you think I noticed it or cared? I must have been gliding along. I was so happy. When I arrived back home, my daughter's cake was all ready for the candles, so it almost felt like I was celebrating both her birthday and passing my first CISCO exam.”

 

Fast Forward to Cisco

 

Jesus has more than 20 years of information technology experience, but his interest in Cisco and networking only got its start while he was working on cruise ships in the U.S. It took until 2013 (“dumb me” he says, tongue in cheek) before he signed up for a CCNA course.


Reflecting on the path that led to networking and Cisco certification is a favorite pastime for many successful IT professionals. People look back at their unique journeys and are often amazed at the many challenges, coincidences, obstacles, and choices that marked their progress to remarkable careers. Why did it take them so long, they wonder, to choose the path that was obviously the right one—in retrospect?


But this is where the flexibility and availability of Cisco training offer such great advantages. The career horizon is always bright with opportunity, awaiting that eureka moment when a person knows the time to set out on the path to certification is now. That’s when things get exciting, because life and work can present their own challenges and delays. The journey to certification will never be dull, and some discover it’s not as smooth as a freeway. 


Delays and Detours: Sometimes the Road Gets Rugged


Once he had signed up, Jesus loved the challenge and knew he was on the right path, but obstacles arose. “I loved it,” he recalls. “I had booked an exam, and studying was going great; I had a physical lab, but....” a detour arose in the form of a great but demanding new job opportunity. Jesus recalls that, “the huge amount of overtime it required left me too tired to study at the end of the day.” The well-known pressures of earning a living and taking part in a family—while simultaneously studying for an exam are a big reason that people look back and shake their heads, wondering how they ever did it!


“Actually, it’s one of my greatest regrets that I took that job, as I could have become a network engineer at that time. My CCNA teacher even offered me an opportunity to teach with him and I refused (another regret).”


“Enough is Enough.” Progress Takes Priority


Once he had embarked on that path, Jesus realized that he was actually on a detour that could lead him away from his much-desired destination. “Last year, I finally said enough is enough and went for the CCENT. That’s how I came to pass my ICND1 exam on my daughter's first birthday. Yes, I was that committed and was not going to allow anything to get in the way of my exam!”


Jesus immediately started prepping for ICND2, “but a house sale and country move put a quick stop to that. I only re-engaged with my ICND2 studies about a month ago. I’m very happy with my progress and how much I am learning, but still feel I wasted a lot of my life wandering around without a clear focus and knowing what to actually do.”

 

Jesus’ Childhood Sets the Stage


“I was born in Sydney and loved all things technology. Due to my bad asthma, my parents, who are Spanish, sent me off at age 12 to live with my grandparents in Madrid. At the airport, right before the flight, my Dad bought a computing magazine with a cover that said ‘The Woz is back!’ The article referred, of course, to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and best friend of Steve Jobs at that time.

“The relevance of this magazine is that it had an article on binary.” During the two-day flight from Sydney to Madrid and alone for the first time without his family, Jesus learned to understand and actually use binary in his head to add and subtract. ”This was my first foray into IT—at age 12.

“Later on in Madrid, at age 15, I was one of the few chosen to participate in a high school computer science class, where we learned basic computer hardware and some programs of the time on five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disks.

“At 18, I took a course called "Ofimatica," or computing for the office, which included WordPerfect, DBase III+, and Lotus 1-2-3. I had the highest exam scores in the class, loved what I had learned, and wanted more. However, due to personal circumstances, I did not touch a computer again until 1996 when I bought my first one.” While trying to get games to work properly, Jesus became proficient and began helping out neighbors and friends.

 

“At this point, I wanted to go back into computing and managed to secure a seat on a Madrid-funded course in computer hardware and maintenance similar to the A+ nowadays, which lasted for almost four months. Right after that, I learned Visual Basic 5.0 and found my very first IT job, working as a help desk technician for a bank in Madrid.”

Jesus’ Resume Goes Global and Sails the Seas

 

From Madrid, Jesus moved to South Africa, working as a senior technician for South African Breweries. “This was the first time I took a Microsoft course, but I was also discovering Cisco switches. That made me want to learn more about networking.” While working as a systems manager on cruise ships for a little over nine years, Jesus first used TACACS+ to access the ship's switches and make changes.

By 2012, Jesus moved to London, as his future wife “did not like us being apart for most of the year.” This led to that eureka moment when Jesus committed to a CCNA course. “I loved the material, purchasing a full 3x 1841 router and 3x 2950 switch kit lab, which I set up at home and used for labbing. I had set my exam date for the composite CCNA for mid-2013.”

 

But working as a senior IT analyst in the City of London financial district forced Jesus to cancel that exam. “I worked very long hours and most weekends, but to this day I truly regret not giving it a try at least. I believe I was afraid of failing, and of the effect this would have on me.”

After working various jobs for managed service providers, Jesus moved to Perth, Australia and decided to commit to his Cisco studies again. “I am now in Australia, eagerly awaiting the time when I will try for the ICND2 exam so that I can then move on to either CCNP R&S or CCDA—I haven't decided yet.

 

“There is a lot of work for competent—and certified—network engineers in Western Australia due to all the new mines they are building. I’m hoping that after I obtain my CCNA, I will be able to secure any networking job so that I can continue in my career path while earning an income to help support my growing family.”

 

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Linda Boroff
is a technical and marketing writer with more than a decade of experience in areas including network security, analytics, virtual data center, and SDN.