I knew that CCIE Certification would be important to my career, although I didn't know exactly how at the time I began to pursue it. I expected it to get harder as new technologies emerged, so starting sooner was preferable.
I knew that whether it took off was dependent on how Cisco managed it. The challenge of a hands-on exam was exciting, especially after other programs gained reputations as 'paper certifications'. I've been delighted that, overall, Cisco has handled the program well.
Having early CCIE numbers helped everyone who worked at my first company, Chesapeake, because we knew networking, could consult on it and trained people on it. We were the quality leader in the market. Having trained over 30,000 people, we improved the lives and careers of many people. Our staff also wrote many of the key books in the industry. That legacy continues at Chesapeake Netcraftsmen, where our consulting work contains an educational component in which we teach our customers what we know so that they can continue to improve their networks and network operations. Our staff regularly writes about our experiences and interesting things that we find in this blog. I recommend that you check it out. I do a weekly blog at Netcordia, the company that I founded to develop network management products that help network engineers. I write about a variety of topics, from various technical problems that we've encountered to network management topics.
I have written about the CCIE program history on the Netcordia blog. Search for 'ccie' and look for the ones titled 'CCIE test and numbering' and 'The Original CCIE Lab's Plaque'.