Beyond certifications the EXTRAS you provide

Recently I have seen numerous discussions in various blogs and forums, particularly in those related to Cisco Systems Career Certifications. Heated discussions about why, what, how – even if? So I asked myself, how do I see my own certifications?

  • I’m a certified individual.
  • I’m an employee of a Cisco Gold Partner. (Cisco Gold Partners are required to pass the certification exams.)
  • I’m an employee of a Cisco Learning Partner. (NIL provides Cisco Career Certifications courses, labs, e-learning….)
  • I used to be a Cisco proctor who certified numerous Certified Cisco Systems Instructors (CCSI). (These instructors later teach Cisco Career Certifications.)

Huh! But, common to all the situations above, I can say – look for the »EXTRA«.

Let’s take a relatively simple and well-known certification, CCNA Routing and Switching. If you only know the answers to the questions from the exam and pass it, that is exactly the same as being a good baseball player – compared to being Willie Mays, a legend of the San Francisco Giants. (I was lucky to see him in summer 2008 on the field.)

The difference between knowing the minimum and proving your value in real situations is the EXTRA, the real VALUE. For instance, most of us are drivers, but some (including me! :) ) are definitely better drivers, and are able to manage the most difficult situations on the road.

In my long years of proctoring the CCSI exams, I have always recommended that the candidates study beyond just their CCNA R&S knowledge. The requirements for the candidate only list the CCNA Routing and Switching (ICND1 and ICND2) courses as a prerequisite, since this candidate will become an instructor and will teach CCNA Routing and Switching courses at the beginning. Often the candidates ask, »But why do you recommend the knowledge from the other, more advanced courses, for example from the Cisco CCNP Routing and Switching curriculum!« I respond, »Can you imagine yourself as a student? Do you expect your instructor to know less than you or more than you? Having you as an instructor is that EXTRA, that REASON that brought the people to sit in the classroom and spend five days there. YOU are that ADDED VALUE that everyone expects today.« And the same principle applies to all the certifications – the designation is your official proof (for the company, for yourself), but your own knowledge and experience is that EXTRA that brings VALUE to your customer (and consequently to you), that EXTRA that makes you (more) VALUABLE.

The certifications I have achieved in my life were, in most cases, just the final »crown« that made the ordinary man a king. :) Seriously, the certification itself was never my goal. (The boss needed some certified individuals for maintaining the company certifications, and my certifications came in handy.) In most cases, I had already possessed the knowledge, skills and experience – well beyond what was required in the certification exam (CCIE Routing and Switching being a possible exception). So passing the exam, for me, was just the final »crowning«.