Long-Term CCIE Holder Interview - Katsushi Iiyama

    Mr. Iiyama

    CCIE Routing and Switching certification holder for 20 years
    Katsushi Iiyama
    CTO, vice president, and director of Top Out Human Capital

     

    “You are a CCIE!” Hearing those words acknowledging that he passed the exam marked the start of his life as a Cisco CCIE holder.

    Cisco CCIE certification is widely regarded as the highest level of certification available to network engineers. Those who maintain their CCIE recertification over many years receive special recognition from Cisco for their accomplishment. One of the few people in Japan to have held this certification for 20 years, Katsushi Iiyama is chief technology officer, vice president, and director of Top Out Human Capital, Inc. We talked with him about his thoughts when he first earned his CCIE certification and his advice on getting recertified.

     

    Mr. Iiyama

    Continuing to feel its significance 20 years after earning CCIE certification

    ――

    Congratulations on maintaining your CCIE certification for 20 years.

    Mr. Iiyama

    Thank you. I earned the certification at the age of 25 in 1996. Cisco started the recertification program in 1998, and in 2006, I received a 10-year award. I didn’t know there was a 20-year award, so I was surprised when a commemorative medal arrived out of the blue one day from Cisco’s headquarters in the United States. Both medals are silver, and they have a nice weight to them. Taking that recertification test every two years is pretty daunting, but it’s a great feeling to have maintained that qualification.

     

    ――

    Can you tell us about the experience of passing the test 20 years ago?

    Mr. Iiyama

    What I still remember clearly today is what the examiner said when he told me I passed: “You are a CCIE!” In Japan, we’d typically say something like “congratulations on passing,” but this was different. This wasn’t just passing a test, this was becoming a CCIE holder. And that is all the more reason I’ve maintained my recertification.



    Mr. Iiyama

    Making up for an early lack of textbooks and information with enthusiasm and determination

    ――

    What prompted you to take the CCIE Routing and Switching test in the first place?

    Mr. Iiyama

    At the time, the Cisco CCNA and CCNP certification programs hadn’t started, so you walked into the CCIE test cold. And there was no training for the test, so we printed out versions of the Cisco English-language manual with the text replaced. I would pore over it repeatedly on my commute to understand it better. I studied on weekends and stayed late at the office on weekdays to study there. My colleagues and I only had one set of materials to study from, so we were always jockeying for them.

     

    ――

    How did you gather information about the test?

    Mr. Iiyama

    The Internet wasn’t pervasive then, so we would read the Cisco company newsletters to find out who had passed the CCIE test, and we would contact them or their companies and talk directly to people who had earned their certification. Of course, they didn’t tell us what the test questions would be, but the test was being offered only at Cisco’s U.S. headquarters at the time, and they did tell us how long it would take to get from where we would be staying to the test location, what the environment was like, and so on. Looking back now, it was a lot of trouble, but at the time, it just seemed obvious that if you wanted to earn the qualification, that’s what you would do.


    ――

    How did you gather information about the test?

    Mr. Iiyama

    The Internet wasn’t as pervasive then, so we would read the Cisco company news letters to find out who had passed the CCIE, and we would contact them or their companies and talk directly to people who had earned their CCIEs. Of course they didn’t tell us what the test questions would be, but the test was still only being offered at Cisco’s U.S. headquarters at the time, and they did tell us how long it would take to get from where we would be staying to the test location, what the test location’s environment is like, and so on. Looking back now, it was a lot of trouble, but at the time, it just seemed obvious that if you wanted to earn the CCIE, that’s what you would do.



    Mr. Iiyama

    Preparing almost 200 people for CCIE certification as a Cisco certified instructor

    ――

    What changes did you see after passing the test?

    Mr. Iiyama

    I was being assigned to projects that were harder than before, and the hurdles got higher. Immediately after passing the test, a client said, “Oh, you’ve passed the CCIE, so you understand everything,” and he put me on a project with a network design and configuration that I wasn’t familiar with. The process of preparing for the test had equipped me with base knowledge and instilled in me the ability to adapt and apply information, and I was able to build the system without incident. The purpose of taking the CCIE test isn’t just to demonstrate the ability to pass the test, it’s to learn the ability to respond to the needs of superiors and customers. Afterward they say “this is for the guy with the CCIE.”

     

    ――

    Since then, you’ve become a Certified Cisco Systems Instructor, right?

    Mr. Iiyama

    Right, I became a Cisco certified instructor in 1998, and since then, I’ve trained almost 200 people for the CCIE certification. My business card has my CCIE number, which is low, on it, and it puts people at ease when they see it—they know they’ll be OK if they leave it to me. And the same holds true with training for new areas or difficult areas.



    Tackling recertification with an interest in new things and a desire to improve oneself

    ――

    What do you think about the recertification process that started in 1998?

    Mr. Iiyama

    At the time, I couldn’t believe it—“I’ve got to take another test?” (laughs). So the CCIE certification has been updated as needed, but if you look at the scope of the test as a blueprint, the study methods, in terms of the relevant documents to read, haven’t really changed. New areas do get added to the test, such as the cloud-related material that was added in 2016, so it’s important to keep one’s antenna tuned when preparing for recertification. People who have been CCIE holders for at least 10 years can transition to CCIE Emeritus status, with certain rights, but because of everyday job requirements, I plan to continue renewing.

     

    ――

    Do you have any advice for people getting ready to take the CCIE exam and for people facing recertification?

    Mr. Iiyama

    You can’t pass the CCIE exam just by memorization. Regardless of the test’s outcome, the process of preparing for it will be valuable to your future work. Even in situations where you need to make complex configurations in the field, having that foundational knowledge will give you greater ability to search for information and understand what you find. Making a constant, daily effort at understanding, including taking the CCNA and CCNP exams, is the key to acquiring that foundational knowledge. Also, because you can take multiple tracks, you can take better advantage of your skills. If you expect that new areas might be added to a test, you have to rely on your desire to improve yourself in order to get recertified. The CCIE qualification is going to be one way to stand out from other network engineers, and as tracks get added, picking those up will be key as well.



    Mr. Iiyama
    Name:Katsushi Iiyama
    Employer:Top Out Human Capital, Inc
    Position:CTO, vice president, and director
    Certifications:CCIE Routing and Switching, earned in June 1996 (CCIE#2023)

    At Top Out, we conduct Cisco Expert-Level Training in two areas, Routing and Switching and Collaboration, with a Cisco certified training curriculum designed to inculcate the skills needed to earn CCIE certification. In both cases, we are the only Cisco certified learning partner to have Japanese instructors leading the classes. We also have remote labs so students can take the courses at home, and we recommend that anyone interested in earning their CCIE certification take the course. We also conduct training in new areas, with CCIE certified instructors. Everyone should feel free to contact us about the courses.

    Top Out Human Capital, Inc

    Corporate information | Latest news [Japanese]