Becoming a Truly Valuable CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
I've been active in the Cisco Certification track for four years, working my way
from the CCNA to the coveted Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert title, and
during that time I've conducted job interviews and casual conversations with
hundreds of CCNAs and CCNA candidates.
The CCNA is an exciting beginning to your Cisco career, but just having the
certification simply isn't enough. A recruiter or interviewer isn't going to be
impressed just with the cert; you've got to have some real-world knowledge to back it up.
I've been down that road myself, and sat on both sides of the CCNA job interview
table. With that in mind, I'd like to offer to you some tips on becoming a truly
valuable and employable CCNA.
Get some hands-on experience. I know the trap well; you can't get experience
until you get a CCNA, and you can't get a CCNA without real experience. Well,
actually, you can, but do you want to?
Working on simulators is fine to a certain extent, but don't make the classic
mistake of depending on them. I've seen plenty of CCNAs who were put in front of
a set of routers and really didn't know what to do or how to put together a
simple configuration, and had NO idea how to begin troubleshooting.
There are CCNA classes that offer you the chance to work with industry experts
on real Cisco equipment. Beyond that, you can put together your own CCNA rack
for less than $1000 by buying used routers. Some people think that's a lot of
money, but this is the foundation of your career. Treat it that way. The work
you do now is the most important work you'll ever do. Do it on real Cisco
equipment. The skills I learned as a CCNA helped me all the way up to the CCIE.
Besides, after you get your CCNA (and after that, hopefully you'll choose to
pursue the CCNP), you can always get some of your money back by selling the
equipment. The hands-on experience you gain this way is invaluable.
Know binary math. Do NOT go the easy route of memorizing a subnet mask chart for
the CCNA exam. I know some people brag about being able to pass the CCNA exam
without really understanding binary math. I've seen those people on the other
side of the interview table, and they're not laughing when I ask them to do a
subnetting question. They're not laughing when they can't explain or create a
VLSM scheme. That chart does nothing to help you understand what's going on.
If you can add and know the difference between a one and a zero, you can do
binary math. Don't let the name intimidate you. Become a REAL CCNA - learn
Run "show" and "debug" commands. No commands help you truly understand how
things work in a Cisco network than show and debug commands. As you progress
through the Cisco certification ranks, you'll be glad you started using these at
the CCNA level.
Do you need to know these commands for the exam? Probably not. Do you need them
to be successul in the real world? Absolutely.
The Cisco certification track has been great to me, and it can boost your career
as well, whether you stop at the CCNA, CCNP, or go all the way to the CCIE. It's
the skills you develop today that will truly make you a networking engineer.
Don't take shortcuts or get the attitude of "just passing the exam".
It's what you achieve after the exam that counts, and it's the work you put in
before passing the exam that makes those achievements possible.
Chris Bryant, CCIE #12933, is the owner of The Bryant Advantage, home of free
The Ultimate CCNA Study Package, and Ultimate CCNP
Study Packages. For a FREE copy of his latest e-books, "How To Pass The CCNA"
and "How To Pass The CCNP", visit the website and download your free copies. You
can also get FREE CCNA and CCNP exam questions every day! Pass the
with The Bryant Advantage!