Cisco Partner Status
A Cisco Partner is required to have a certain numbers of Cisco certified individuals, this includes CCIE, CCNP, CCNA, Sales Associates and so on. Its a very good system that ensures that a partner has enough people to correctly sell and support Cisco products.
The exact details of the requirements change reasonably often, but the main one for us, is that a large Cisco partners must have a certain number of CCIE’s.
The Partner status is associated with purchasing power with Cisco so it is really important for the Partner to maintain that status.
Over the years, there have been shortages in CCIE numbers and partners were tempted to ‘poach’ certified CCIE from other partners. The problem was that a company might have committed a lot of money, time and support to that candidate, only to watch them walk out the door. (Or maybe they didn’t, but they certainly don’t want to lose their CCIE’s).
Queue the business people moaning about loyalty and overpaid technical staff (while conveniently not noticing how much they were getting paid).
Keep in mind that ‘making’ a CCIE® usually takes two to three , and only one in twenty people who start, actually even get to attempting the exam (my guesstimates) much less pass the CCIE lab exam.
Second, it became a game of musical chairs with a escalation in money and bonuses to attract scarce candidates. This was fine for CCIE® people in the early days, but the cost quickly became unviable and a new system came into play.
There might also have been some unscrupulous activity to impact a competitor by ‘stealing’ their people so they couldn’t make the required numbers with Cisco.
The basic idea is that once someone joins a company, you get a request to “attach” to the Partner CCO. Your certification status is then added to the reseller.
If you leave that Partner for another Partner, your status does not transfer for some time, typically between six months to a year. This allows the company you left enough time to train or recruit someone without losing status.
The new Partner does receive the benefit of your certification for six months to a year and thus their Cisco status cannot be improved by poaching from other companies.
Cisco also made a commitment to Partners not to recruit their technical staff unless the person can gain permission.
Free Agents are those individuals who don’t work for Cisco Partners. They work at End-User sites, as freelance / contract, or possibly Cisco themselves and their certification is not linked to any Cisco Partners.
This means that they can count immediately towards a Cisco Partners certification status, or can be recruited by Cisco. I have heard other terms for this e.g. unattached badge, free badge, open status. Cisco has a policy of not recruiting from partners – if you want a job with Cisco, don’t work for a reseller.
Recruiters like Free Agents
For very large Cisco partners, your status isn’t particularly important as they have so many people it doesn’t much matter. But for smaller Partners it certainly does. So if your status is attached, you are less attractive as an employee. And getting permission from your boss to get an open transfer to go to a competitor doesn’t happen too often.
A recruiter wants to make money by placing you into a job. They are more likely to make money with free agents for Cisco Partners as they are, in general terms, more desirable.
When you are looking for new jobs, make sure you understand your value in the marketplace. A Free Agent CCIE can reasonably ask for more money, and expect to get it.
This is only one feature of your suitability for job though, consider other skills like communication and business nous as well.
Let me know if anything isn’t clear. I will try to clarify.