IT Certifications are Popular! Hiring Managers are looking at candidates who have experience on the current technology they are hiring for, as well as their certification credentials. This helps them get a better picture of their abilities.

Being a certified technician or engineer answers a few questions before you step in the door for a first interview. Hiring managers will know that you are interested in your education and more important, that you are staying up to speed and relevant in the IT industry.

Why Cisco Certifications? Lets talk about Cisco certifications in general. So what can I say about them? In my opinion, they are challenging. Yes they are.  But the truth of the matter is that they are achievable, and becoming certified will be very beneficial for your career.

In this article I will give you ideas and materials to effectively prepare for certification exams and pursue certification goals. I will start off by sharing my experience and how being Cisco certified has made a difference for me. Then I will present you with a quick guide on How to get Started. I will be listing few resources that I have used which have helped me tremendously. Last but not least, I’ll explain How to be relevant in the IT industry.

My quick story (the short version…)

I started as a Help desk technician not too long ago, and I wasn’t too sure about my new job. So I started hearing about the relevance of becoming certified, and started my journey with a few certifications aligned with my current career. This helped me be more relevant to the IT team and soon I started working on my Cisco certifications. To be honest I was very skeptical about Cisco and didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull it off. I started with my CCNA R&S, which was very hard and challenging for me (a bit ashamed to admit that I failed the exam 2 times before I knocked it out of the park… I really did!!). Soon I was part of 2 Cisco UC migrations for 2 different companies, going from a legacy PBX to their new Cisco equipment. Curiosity made me move forward and become certified in CCNA Voice, CCNP R&S, CCDA and CCDP. During the process I was given the opportunity to work for a Cisco partner and get my hands on Cisco gear and start using my Cisco knowledge. My career has been great and the work that I do is great. I love it!

How to get started

Many friends and customers ask me, how do I get started, what do you recommend? Below is a compilation of the advice and information I’ve shared with them.

The Cisco website [Cisco]. Under Training and Events look for Cisco Certifications [Certifications]. At this point you will be presented with a few “flavors” or technologies, as (we) geeks like to call them:

Networking, Network Design, Security and Mobility
Data Center
Service Provider

The website does a really good job explaining the 5 different levels of certifications, whether you want to get started or want to advance your knowledge (a bit of everything for everyone):


Having a hard time deciding? You can take a look at the following links and Explore the Career Guide. These links will help you choose from the variety of certs by technology as they are available, and the exams that are required in order to get certified.

Start with the basics. As a recommendation you can start by looking at CCNA R&S. This will give you the core knowledge of how other technologies work. I recommend starting with the basics because all the other technologies ride on top of the Network infrastructure.

Focus on your desired technology. My next recommendation is to specialize in one technology that interests you. I would love to do everything under the Cisco umbrella, but I know that I need to be the very best in one, and then I can move on to the next one.

I decided to go for UC/Collaboration technologies. My recommendation is to ask yourself what do you see yourself doing in few months or years? Examples are, Network Engineer/Architect, UC Engineer/Architect, Mobility Engineer/Architect, to name a few. Also, what is your motive or motives? Examples are financial, stability, job security, and work-life balance.

Find a source of Study Material. This one is key. There are many resources out there that can help you pursue your certifications. I have used many and like them all, but here is a short list.

The Cisco Learning Network – A great place to see what others like you are doing in order to achieve their certification goals, and official information about certification topics.

Cisco Community – This is another place I visit in order to connect with people who are in the same career path.

Cisco Press – This is where all official books are found. I’m really bad at reading for long periods of time, but I have my books to use when I need to reference specific information.

Schedule and take that exam!! – So after you’ve gone through all the material and you feel confident that you can pass that exam, go ahead and book it. Many people like to book the exam before they start with their studies just to set a deadline, and add some pressure. I have seen lots of success using this method but have experienced tons of stress too. Pick what works for you. You can register and schedule for an exam using the following link [VUE]

How to be relevant in the IT industry?

So let’s say you have completed the certifications you started pursuing. I can guarantee you, that if you really liked the ride, you will be coming back and looking for more. That was my experience. I wanted to learn more and more, because technology is always evolving into something completely new, and you will find good reasons to keep up the pace.

Socially Active. This is sometimes difficult. At first I found it challenging to share my opinions in public. Now I try to share my experiences every time I can, so that other people can learn from them.

As you progress into this industry you will discover what makes sense for you, and you will find people doing the same thing you are doing along the way, so you can share your challenges and achievements. This always helps you keep up with your knowledge.

Andres Sarmiento is a member of the Cisco Champions Program. Cisco Champions are passionate about Cisco and IT and enjoy sharing our knowledge, expertise, and thoughts across the social web and with Cisco. I am not a representative of Cisco. My views as a Cisco Champion are my own.


Andres Sarmiento

Lead Unified Communication Manager