Retooling Pays Off
Multitasking network contracting and certifications
As a freelance Network Engineer/Systems Engineer located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Randy Gates currently has a great deal of freedom. He contracts for businesses of all types and sizes, and could find himself on the job for a day, two weeks, a month, or more, depending on the needs of each customer.
“Everything is tied into the network now, so you can’t go wrong with Cisco Routing and Switching Certification,” says Randy. “Once a person learns how a network operates, they get a tremendous understanding of what goes on in the real world.”
To Randy, other training and certification vendors and their technologies simply weren’t that impressive. Since Cisco networking, collaboration, security and other products are everywhere, Randy has been inspired to learn as much as he can through Cisco Certification.
He’s been able to apply what he’s learned from his Cisco CCNA and CCNP Routing and Switching certifications to his work as well. “The core knowledge from Cisco helps me expand my knowledge of routing and switching, IP subnetting, IP addressing schemes, firewalls, the Internet of Things, Power over Ethernet, and more. When I run into different problems, I know what to expect, and can give my customers a layout of what’s happening on-site.”
The flexibility contracting provides allows for the freedom Randy needs to prepare for Cisco Certifications and target the CCIE Routing and Switching. “I want to retool myself and better my skills through Cisco. It’s hard to study when you’re working 9-5, and this way, I can prepare for the exams and work around my contracting.”
Getting his (army) boots on the ground in IT
Randy first got into networking when he took an office work course that focused on Star Systems networked computers. He then joined the U.S. Army, and started connecting modems, sending files, adding computers to the network, configuring Microsoft Mail, and gaining proficiency in Windows 3.1 and 4.1.
A turning point for Randy came during one Christmas holiday, when he was migrating the mail system to Exchange. Some contractors were brought in to help, and he noticed that they typically worked from 9-4, then left, while he had to continue working. “I talked with one of the contractors, and asked how much he earned per hour. When he told me, I said ‘What?’ It was definitely way more than I was making as a Staff Sergeant in the army. Later, when it came time to re-enlist, I gracefully declined.”
After leaving the army, Randy worked for a print company in their Network Engineering department. “Everything was coming at me fast, and I needed more knowledge of what actual networking was.”
Multiple certifications that are career stepping stones
Realizing that he needed to gain an IT specialty, Randy’s logical choice was a CCNA in Routing and Switching. “All the equipment we were working on was from Cisco,” says Randy. “And Cisco has a great reputation. As I studied, everything started to make more sense; how everything was connected and running, like security, hubs slowing traffic, dual traffic switching in and out, access control lists, and more.”
To prepare for his CCNA exam, Randy used the resources of the Cisco Networking Academy. “It took a while for me to get into studying, and build up confidence.” Despite his trepidation, he passed his CCNA Routing and Switching Exam. Over the next few years, he made sure to recertify his certification “This kept me marketable, but I wish I’d gone for more and different Cisco certifications.”
Feeling that it was time to pursue another goal, he obtained a CCNP in Routing and Switching. “The faculty at New Horizons, a Cisco Learning Partner, did a great job of preparing me for the ROUTE Exam.”
How did certifications help his career? “The industry is looking for Cisco Certifications; without them, companies won’t even talk with you. With these certifications, employers feel confident that I can come in and solve an issue, so they keep calling me back for more freelance jobs.”
Gaining networking knowledge for a connected world
In the near future, Randy will be going for his CCIE Routing and Switching Certification. For anyone considering Cisco Certification, his recommendation is “You need to start yesterday; you need these skills under your belt. You’re going to be successful if you have these certifications.”
In his spare time, Randy likes to play bass guitar in a band with his friends, travel, and listen to live music. And, of course, he’ll continue to study for Cisco Certification, and feel good about the IT work he’s done—and the work he’s about to do.