This post is part 1 in a three part series which includes How I Study for IT Certification Exams and What Certs Should My IT Team Have?
My First IT Certification
When I graduated from UNC Asheville in the spring of 2003 with a Computer Science degree, I had assumed that I would never take another test again. Within 5 months of graduating I was sitting in a proctored testing center sweating over questions about the 7 layers of the OSI model! Prior to taking my first Cisco CCNA exam I had only worked on a single Cisco switch in production as well as a pair of routers in a lab environment. All of my knowledge at that point came from the official Cisco CCNA book. I failed that first attempt (and the second) but I stuck with it and absorbed everything I possibly could about networking. After my the third attempt I passed the exam. I’ll never forget how thrilled I was — I even stopped and treated myself to a milkshake on the way back to the office from the testing center!
That CCNA exam was the beginning of what has been a fulfilling journey of continuing education in the IT field. As technology advanced, the necessity for expert understanding of that technology followed. With each book read and each exam passed, my understanding and confidence increased and I found topics that were once mysterious became clear.
Layer Continuing Education into Industry Experience
I’ll never forget a conversation around 2000 when I was speaking to someone who I thought knew everything about networking. At the time I didn’t understand what a subnet mask did and I asked him what that 255.255.255.0 was for. After he spent a few minutes attempting to explain it, we both became aware that he didn’t know was it was, so he abruptly ended with some obtuse answer that didn’t answer anything. I learned two lessons that day. First, I decided that if someone was to ever ask me about a topic I didn’t understand then I would swallow my pride and tell them I don’t know! Pretending to understand something is unbecoming and does both parties a disservice. Second, I learned that if I was unable to explain something I understood in a clear and concise way, then I probably didn’t understand it fully myself.
It’s impossible to know everything about everything. In a field where topics and technologies are ever-changing this becomes increasingly acute. Real world experience is an excellent professor and I’ve learned most of my IT knowledge by getting my hands dirty and working directly with technology. However, experience alone can’t provide a complete picture. Layering continuing education into industry learning will provide insight beyond experience and creates a more well rounded IT professional.
I’m not just preaching, I live by these words. Frequently people ask me how many certs I have and until this blog post I didn’t really know. I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve been enjoying it so much that keeping track wasn’t important. Today I went back through the archives of my email and compiled as best I can a list of my exams. I’m sure I’m missing some and I’ll likely add them to this list when I think of them. Some of these exams are certainly weightier than others and some when grouped together create certifications like the CCNP or MCSA.
|Exam Number||Vendor||Exam Name||Result||Date|
|640-801||Cisco||Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)||Fail||9-Oct-03|
|640-801||Cisco||Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)||Fail||20-Oct-03|
|640-801||Cisco||Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)||Pass||22-Oct-03|
|Cisco||Certified Design Associate (CCDA)||Pass||15-Apr-04|
|9E0-576||Cisco||Wireless LAN for System Engineer (WLANSE)||Pass||19-Apr-04|
|642-413||Cisco||Cisco EVODD (EVODD)||Pass||24-May-04|
|70-284||Microsoft||Implementing and Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003||Pass||17-May-04|
|70-270||Microsoft||Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional||Pass||11-Jun-04|
|70-290||Microsoft||Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment||Pass||18-Jun-04|
|70-291||Microsoft||Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure||Pass||2-Jul-04|
|642-143||Cisco||Cisco IP Telephony Express||Pass||25-Jan-06|
|2103W||Nortel||Nortel Qualified Professional -BCM||Pass||1-Feb-06|
|Axis||Axis IP Video Surveillance Technician 1||Pass||24-Mar-06|
|646-391||Cisco||Cisco Lifecycle Services Express (LCSE)||Pass||24-Apr-07|
|642-371||Cisco||Cisco Foundation Express System Engineer (FoundSE)||Pass||12-Jun-07|
|642-432||Cisco||Cisco Voice Over IP (CVOICE)||Pass||13-Jun-07|
|642-444||Cisco||Cisco CIPT-4.x (CIPT)||Pass||3-Jul-07|
|642-642||Cisco||Implementing Cisco Quality of Service (QoS)||Pass||17-Jul-07|
|642-425||Cisco||Cisco IP Telephony Troubleshooting (IPTT)||Pass||14-Aug-07|
|646-228||Cisco||Cisco Lifecycle Services Advanced IP Communications||Pass||28-Aug-07|
|70-236||Microsoft||TS: Exchange Server 2007 Configuration||Pass||13-Feb-08|
|642-144||Cisco||Cisco IP Telephony Express||Pass||20-May-08|
|650-393||Cisco||Cisco Lifecycle Services Express (LCSE)||Fail||11-Jun-08|
|650-393||Cisco||Cisco Lifecycle Services Express (LCSE)||Pass||18-Jun-08|
|PSST1108WBTT||Dell||EqualLogic Technical 4.1||Pass||27-May-09|
|DBSSTT0409WBTT||Dell||Dell Blade Server Solutions||Pass||17-Jun-09|
|642-145||Cisco||Implementing Cisco IOS Unified Communications 2 (IIUC2)||Pass||8-Jun-10|
|642-383||Cisco||Cisco Express Foundation for Field Engineers (CXFF)||Pass||15-Jun-10|
|642-813||Cisco||Implementing Cisco IP Switched Networks (SWITCH)||Pass||10-Aug-10|
|VSP||Vmware||VMware Sales Professional (VSP)||Pass||21-Oct-10|
|642-374||Cisco||Cisco Express Foundation for Systems Engineers (CXFS)||Pass||28-Aug-12|
|642-384||Cisco||Cisco Express Foundation for Field Engineers (CXFF)||Pass||2-Oct-12|
|70-410||Microsoft||Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012||Pass||6-Nov-12|
|VTSP||VMware||VMware Technical Sales Professional||Pass||10-Dec-12|
|642-902||Cisco||Implementing Cisco IP Routing (ROUTE)||Pass||30-Jul-13|
|642-832||Cisco||Troubleshooting and Maintaining Cisco IP Networks (TSHOOT)||Pass||14-Aug-13|
|ATSP||Adtran||ATSP: ADTRAN Technical Solutions Professional||Pass||4-Dec-13|
|650-294||Cisco||Cisco TelePresence Video Field Engineer for Express Exam (PATVFEE)||Pass||17-Dec-13|
|700-101||Cisco||Cisco Business Edition 6000 for Sales Engineer (BE6KSE)||Pass||17-Dec-13|
|3CX||3CX Certified Engineer Certificate||Pass||15-Oct-14|
|300-320||Cisco||Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures (ARCH) CCDP||Fail||20-Jul-16|
|300-320||Cisco||Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures (ARCH) CCDP||Pass||27-Jul-16|
|3CX||3CX Basic Certified Engineer||Pass||28-Apr-17|
|400-101||Cisco||CCIE Routing and Switching (CCIERS)||Fail||22-Sep-17|
|400-101||Cisco||CCIE Routing and Switching (CCIERS)||Fail||26-Oct-17|
|3CX||3CX Intermediate Certified Engineer||Pass||22-Jan-18|
|3CX||3CX Advanced Certified Engineer||Pass||23-Jan-18|
|NSE4_FGT||Fortinet||Fortinet NSE 4 – FortiOS||Pass||9-May-18|
|NSE5_FMG||Fortinet||Fortinet NSE 5 – FortiManager||Pass||16-May-18|
|NSE7_EFW||Fortinet||Fortinet NSE 7 – Enterprise Firewall||Pass||3-May-19|
|NSE5_FAZ||Fortinet||Fortinet NSE 5 – FortiAnalyzer||Pass||3-May-19|
|400-101||Cisco||CCIE Routing and Switching (CCIERS)||Pass||10-May-19|
|SY0-501||CompTIA||CompTIA Security+ Certification Exam||Pass||1-Oct-19|
|CISSP||(ISC)²||Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||Pass||12-Nov-19|
|NS0-002||NetApp||NetApp Certified Technology Associate||Pass||12-Dec-20|
|NATSP||NetApp||NetApp Accredited Technical Sales Professional Exam||Pass||9-Feb-21|
|MS-700||Microsoft||Managing Microsoft Teams||Pass||2-Mar-21|
New Principles to Help Our Clients
When I review this list I smile! These mileposts in my career were genuinely enjoyable! I remember so many “aha” moments that illuminated my understanding and dispelled confusion. I loved learning new principles that would help our clients and I was excited to implement better solutions. I even smile when I think about those nights before exams when I would cram as much as I could into my head. Good times.
Here’s a salute to the crammers of IT. May your minds be like sponges and your multiple choice questions be clear and without malice!
P.S. During my exam history search I discovered Acclaim Badges which are a way to centralize participating vendors’ certs onto a page. Very cool!
“I hope this has been informative for you and I’d like to thank you for viewing.” 🙂
See Part II of this Article – How I Study for IT Certification Exams