“I got it.” I breathed a sigh of relief, looking at my wife Maria. The interview with Cisco Advanced Services a few days prior had gone well, and I had just gotten off the phone with a recruiter who called to make an offer.
The position was with Advanced Services where I’d be performing network consulting to companies that paid Cisco for access to our engineers and high touch help with design and optimization. I did not know exactly what I would be doing day-to-day in practice, but I was excited to find out.
In truth, I had been on 40-ish job interviews, not all of them with Cisco. We had spent the last three years in rural Idaho, and while we had enjoyed living there, we wanted to come back east and live closer to family. In my previous role, I was also doing a lot of international travel for long periods and it was tough on my wife and two daughters, Josephine and Fiona. This call was a result of months of searching, interviewing remotely and even taking a few flights to North Carolina. But all that aside, it was finally time to pack the bags.
While our family was certainly ready to move, unfortunately, the house was not ready and would not be ready by the time I had to be in North Carolina for my first day at Cisco. So, there was one more trip for me to take. I headed off to Raleigh, while my wife prepared the home to put on the market.
I stayed with my wife’s parents (who live about an hour outside of Raleigh) for a month, commuting back and forth daily while the dates approached for my family to join me. The next month flew by as I settled into work and began learning everything about my job – I also began studying in earnest for my CCIE!
On nights and weekends, I frequented a local coffee bar called Geeksboro as I studied for my CCIE. I cannot remember how many audiobooks I listened to that month, but it was a lot. An hour’s drive each way every weekday gives you a lot of time to listen. I became good at my work very quickly, having years of experience to draw upon.
Of course, I was always in touch with my wife and kids, we talked all the time over chat and video calls. And just like that, the month was over.
A year later, we were loving life in Raleigh – and I have been loving life at Cisco! As my family settled into our new home, our oldest daughter was doing well at school and my youngest was adjusting to life in North Carolina. My wife was happy to be able to see her parents more often (and they were happy to see their grandkids). Coming to work for Cisco was definitely the right move to make!
Although I started as a contractor, my performance netted a full-time position with Advanced Services, and my CCIE studies were progressing as I passed the written exam and was working towards the lab.
I’d spend early mornings and full weekend days at the office studying, labbing, and finalizing my CCIE readiness. Cisco values the certification, and my manager helped me prioritize my commitments to ensure I would have time at work to study as well. There were a few times when I was able to clear my calendar completely to do practice labs all day (the CCIE Lab exam is eight hours long).
I put in my first CCIE lab attempt the next January, having reached a point where I thought I could seal the deal. It turns out I was terribly wrong! I bombed my first attempt, but it was a great eye-opener. I learned a ton from that first attempt and redoubled my efforts for the next one. One of the perks of working for Cisco is that you get three lab attempts for free. I was anxious to get the lab exam done within the three, if possible.
My manager understood and appreciated my final push towards my second attempt. Cisco supported me every step of the way, allowing me to access training and labs ahead of my second attempt. I went in respecting the lab more but unwilling to be beaten. It was a tough exam, tougher than any I’ve ever taken. After it was over, I didn’t know if I had passed, as I had taken it on a Friday, and it needed to be double-checked. Since I didn’t know if I’d passed yet, I spent that weekend studying as if I had failed, ready to try again.
On Sunday night, right before I went to bed, I logged into the CCIE Lab Scheduler, where the scores are reported. I had not gotten an email, so it was a vain hope, but there it was. My heart stopped and I felt icy chills.
“Congratulations! You passed! Your CCIE# is 58615.”
My wife looked over, concerned because she had no idea what I was looking at. I cleared my throat.
“I got it!”
What a way to start my Cisco career!
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