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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
 

640-861

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
642-453 Cisco Cisco Gateway/Gatekeeper Pass 31-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