“Cool jacket. What’s a CCIE?”
Oh, man, where to start? Maybe at the beginning, over a quarter century ago.
I joined Cisco in their Technical Assistance Center (TAC) in 1992. To give you some context, this was before Google, Facebook, smartphones and even the web browser. It was even before the widespread public availability of the Internet as we know it today. But everyone at Cisco saw the future and we frantically worked to lay the asphalt for the information superhighway.
The technology to build large networks was nascent, and few experts existed as the demand for those very same experts skyrocketed. We were on fire! Swamped! Buried with demand.
IT Certifications in that era were something of a joke. They consisted of simple regurgitations of trivial facts, designed more to drive brand affiliation than to foster the growth of the sophisticated knowledge needed to build the Internet. Cisco needed more.
Out of this pressure cooker came the idea for the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) program in which a candidate had to pass a deeply technical written qualifying test before submitting to a grueling two-day lab. I had the honor of being one of the engineers who experienced real, state-of-the-art networks every day, up close and personal, and knew what worked, what didn’t, and what could go wrong in the Technical Assistance Center.
This amazing team decided to make a test that you couldn’t just pass by a weekend of studying a book. We wanted a test that would identify the kindred souls who really understood this technology and were willing to go as deep as we would. It was not meant to be easy or for the “cram and forget” audience. This certification concept was forged in the fire of experience, with engineers who worked with customers every day leading the way.
As a member of the TAC, I was proud to earn the 10th certification ever issued, CCIE #1034.
Since that was a long time ago, you might think that a lot has changed.
Sure! The technology didn’t stand still, so neither would the tests. The CCIE test subject matter expanded with the technology until the single exam burst at the seams into multiple tracks of expertise. I was so enthusiastic about the program that I volunteered to project manage the first subject specific CCIE track and subsequently became the first person to hold two CCIE certifications.
We eventually added tiers of certifications leading up to CCIE and we went on to further expand the program through to the present day, including the DevNet certifications to reflect the increasing needs for programmability of infrastructure.
But 25 years? Why would I be a CCIE for so long? That’s the easy part. For me, it’s the people! More so than the technology, I value the community of experts formed around the shared experience of achieving this elite certification.
At the annual Cisco Live! event, the CCIE community gathers in a private lounge area to enjoy sneak previews of new technology and converse with fellow enthusiasts from the industry and inside Cisco. On top of that, Cisco hosts a private party for the CCIEs where the experts can kick back with their peers in the industry as well as experts inside Cisco to plot what the next 25 years should look like.
The community of experts around Cisco and our customers has kept me at the company for more than half my life. I’ve held a number of positions on my path to becoming a Distinguished Engineer on our Customer Experience team and have had a fantastic journey along the way. The technology evolves, the customer needs evolve, and a constant parade of new, smart people keep walking in the door.
We’re passionate about the technology, and making it work hard for our customers.
The CCIE program has been a centerpiece of the Cisco experience for me and I’m proud to have retained that elite designation, but I’m most excited to constantly meet the new engineers that are now discovering what I have known for a long time and helping them along the path.
The Internet isn’t getting any smaller, and neither is the need for technology experts.
Ready to join our team of experts? Apply now.
Good story, Phil. My team (from Chernikeeff Telecommunications in London) went to the first European CCIE certification – they all passed. Since someone had to stay to mind the shop, I never did get to take the test. Cisco encouraging its customers to take this test, and to support each other via the public cisco-users group, was instrumental in enabling the growth and scaling of the commercial and public Internet.
You are a learning ninja and such a huge inspiration for all of us, Phil. Thank you for always being so generous to share your knowledge and help people around you succeed. You are indeed a #GlobalProblemSolver in action :-). #WeAreCisco #CiscoCX
Thank you for all your contributions and it’s great that I learn something new every time I talk with you and it started back in 2000 with Parser Police and CLI Usability, remember that 🙂
Thanks for sharing your journey, Phil!
Phil, it is amazing to stop and think the magnitude of your achievement — not only the quarter century as CCIE, or being 10th cert ever, but rather the amount of people that were inspired in this time to pursue excellence in technology and networking — THANK YOU!
Phillip – I thought you told me that CCIE stood for Cool, Calm, Internet Engineer?
Great blog. And we’re so glad that Cisco’s certification aren’t ‘cram and forget’ situations. How would the internet run, if they were?
Thanks Phil! I’m actually on the route to being a CCIE, Your story is such a motivation! Gracias.
Great blog Phil! 25 and counting??
Just fantastic Phil, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Truly inspiring Phil! thanks and wishing you continued learning success!
Respect and I salute you sir
Congratulations on this accomplishment…25 years CCIE…wow! I enjoyed your story. Mine experience is so different, but my appreciation of accomplishing this goal is so similar. I got my CCIE-R&S in 1996, #2034. At that time there were not many African American women in our field and before I got my CCIE my skills, experience and capabilities was always questioned. But this certification changed some of that.
Congratulations Phillip! #inspiring
Very Well Said! The CCIE program made a huge difference in the Industry, for me 22 years and counting!
Nice write-up Philip!!
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