Do Cisco Certified Internet Engineers (CCIE) Get Special Privileges from Cisco ?

I’m regularly asked the question: What privileges or special access does Cisco give to people when they pass the CCIE™exam ?

Short answer: None. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zero. 

Longer Answer:

If you work hard to pass your Cisco CCIE™exam, Cisco will allocate you a number and validate that you are certified. After that, Cisco provides very little support, privileges or access. Today, the CCIE™program is maintained by the wider Cisco Learning team and certified CCIE’s are treated the same as any other certified person. CCIE’s are a minority community in the Cisco Learning environment and get very few resources allocated (because Cisco Learning focuses on numbers not quality).

In the past, Cisco offered accelerated TAC access by inserting TAC cases directly to L3 resources but this was stopped some years ago.

All access to Cisco resources is determined by your employer. Thus, if you work for a Cisco reseller, then you personal access to special resources is determined by your partner status as Gold, Silver or Premium partner.

Cisco partners have access to additional information on products, practical labs, and some limited competitive information.

If you work for a customer, then your access to technical resources is determined by the size of the your account spend, your Cisco account manager, and whether you are purchasing support directly from Cisco or a Third Party. Since most customers purchase their support from Third Parties to reduce costs, many people have no direct access to support from Cisco.

If you can afford to attend Cisco Live, a current CCIE™can get a small discount on sign up. It’s about USD$300 (whoa there!). At each Cisco Live there is a CCIE™appreciation event – basically a building, some cheap food and cheap booze (which I no longer bother to attend).

Shoe on the Other Foot

But let me ask you another question: What does Cisco ask from CCIE’s ?

Cisco Sales Reps are taught to target CCIE’s within customer account. People who are CCIE-certified are expected to be loyal and aligned to Cisco. And many people will be – after all they spent a lot of time and effort to become skilled in Cisco IOS and networking technology. It’s also human nature to prefer to buy what they are familiar and comfortable with using. That’s human nature.

It’s also true that the person with extensive skills will be able to match products to business requirements. For example, explaing the difference between Cisco ACS and ISE takes a fair amount of fundamental knowledge at a product level plus an understanding of how the business operates. Therefore, making sure that a person with strong technology skills is part of the sales targeting plan will reduce the pre-sales cost for Cisco.

Of course, there are always some people will also be one-eyed and bigoted but that’s likely a personality trait than the result of training & discipline.

Are CCIEs, as a whole, happy with that ?

A few years back the CCIE™ program was much more focussed on building strong bonds with CCIE candidates and certified individuals. That was before the CCIE program administration team was absorbed into the Cisco Learning Team. From this time forward, there has been no support, outreach, or partnership with successful exam candidates. All previous privileges have been lost and nothing has replaced them.

It’s a common topic at Cisco Live events – I’ve been to “CCIE Appreciation” events in the last five years and this was a common topic – “what happened to our privileges ? ”

The only outreach that occurs today is a specific event at Cisco Live where John Chambers meets with NetVets and CCIEs and listens to the them talk. And then absolutely nothing gets done about any of the issues raised there.

The EtherealMind View

So if you ask whether I get support and special access to Cisco services, the answer is no. As a reward for the commitment that I have demonstrated to Cisco for studying, learning and mastering their technology and products, and being the target for their sales calls and becoming a gateway/influencers to many millions of dollars sales every single year I get absolutely nothing from Cisco.

That’s why I no longer put my CCIE status/number in emails – why promote a product that does nothing for me ?

I point the blame for this problem at the Cisco Learning Team for not standing up and fighting for resources (money & people) to support this key business resource for Cisco.

I also think that company executives really need to do something about the Cisco Learning team – few people like them, or the leadership of that business unit. The overall attitude is domineering and much like a Hollywood B-grade movie High School Headmaster – bumbling, fascist tosspots and with all kinds of dumbass educational ideas (don’t get me started). They need to learn business skills and the real world isn’t how they like it.

But then, there are lots of other vendors to buy from, so it’s not really a big deal. Use your CCIE study program to learn technology, don’t get caught up in loyalty to Cisco, they simply don’t repay it.

  • Stole

    Greg, thank you for your excellent post!

    A bit off topic, I’m engineer by heart, but I decided not to pursue CCIE as I had 4-6 years of implementation expirience which was enough to be thrown in one of the biggest implementation projects at my company. The time that I’ll spend to learn Cisco bullsh*t CCIE details that I’ll never use is enormous and I decided to use the time to get some Wireless and Voice certifications instead of that. In meantime I vent back to classroom for MBA and I’m enjoying every single class there and it is opening my eyes. By doing MBA I’m getting another perspective on Engineering as well. So, my advise would be, in case you dont have expirience go for CCIE, otherwise is becoming worthless for professionals with many years of expirience

    • Lindsay Hill

      You’re right that there are a lot of details that you need to learn for CCIE, and it will take a lot of time. However, it’s not about the details per se. It’s about making sure that you know how to learn things to that level of detail – that’s what they really want. You can then use those skills to learn new tech.

      Nothing wrong with taking your approach though, of going down the MBA route. It’s just a matter of working out the right path for your career. They may be a more technical path, it may be a management path. Up to you really.

      • Stole

        Lindsay, I fully agree with you. It turn out that I came to a point where soft skills are becoming more important in my daily job and I decided to take steps to improve them. I can imagine that for someone working at TAC even ITIL is too administrative and those people job is more about bits and bytes then any other soft skill

  • Thomas Christory

    “In the past, Cisco offered accelerated TAC access by inserting TAC cases
    directly to L3 resources but this was stopped some years ago.”
    This is not true

    • Etherealmind

      I haven’t had an escalation in five years. I always have to work through L1, L2 before I get someone who is barely competent. Are you working for a reseller ?

      • Thomas Christory

        I guess it might depend on some technologies, but CCIE -always- have some kind (again depending on teams) of priority.
        I work in TAC :)

    • Paul Stewart

      I’m just curious if you know when you’re escalate [unless of course you ask]. As far as I know, I’ve never been automatically escalate.

  • Ian Triggs

    Can you speak about what benefits a CCIE holder can bring to an enterprise who is an end customer? That is, an enterprise buying from a reseller who is a Partner.

    I’m guessing it adds no benefit apart from what you touched on with Cisco sales reps targetting to you specifically.

    • Etherealmind

      From a customer/end user perspective, it’s the same as a reseller. Choosing a CCIE certified person is, typically, a sign of someone who is capable of discipline, self learning, research over a sustained period. As a bonus, they are motivated, good at time management, and have solid core of validated networking skills.

      A reseller gets to use the ‘badge’ against their Cisco obligations as well. A reseller really needs people with skills because they don’t have enough of those.

  • Umair Hoodbhoy

    This post and its comments hit home for me. I am a CCIE and an MBA and I have worked in positions where either was a pre-requisite, so for me neither has proven bullsh*t. I have also worked in the TAC, about 10 years ago when cases opened by CCIEs would never go to the outsourced teams. Not sure if that’s still the case.

    So Greg, are you going to remove your CCIE number from your blog profile as well? 😉

    • Etherealmind

      I’ve thought about that. Haven’t come to a final conclusion on that point. The “cachet” or image of CCIE remains as strong as ever, you just don’t get any benefits or specific value from having it.

  • shivlu jain

    you will get the privilege only you joined Cisco :)

    • Etherealmind

      Cisco doesn’t pay enough to get that privilege :)

  • Shawn

    I feel this is a bit harsh on Cisco alone, especially considering that they actually do more for their IEs than any other vendor does for their own equivalent. While I agree that the benefits are lame at best, the overall tone implies that there is a standard out there being set by some other vendor, which is simply not the case.

    • Etherealmind

      While I agree that other vendors are doing even less, I’m actually comparing what Cisco provides today against previous support from the old Cisco CCIE team. In 2002, CCIE were truly valued by Cisco executives – today, they could care less even though we are still targeted for exploitation.

  • Ethan Banks

    The only thing I get from Cisco is an e-mail reminding me that I’m due to take the trivia exam again….which costs dearly. And for that money, I’ll sit in some dumpy “test center” in a cramped, dirty cubicle for 2 hours to bash through an exam delivered on an untrustworthy PC equipped with a filthy mouse and keyboard. I don’t get access to inside information. I don’t get escalation privileges with TAC. I can’t access software without jumping through the same hoops everyone else has to go through. Ergo, the benefit is solely personal. I was forced to learn a good bit of tech, which has been useful. I am tapped by recruiters in part because of the CCIE keyword match. That said, CCIE doesn’t translate to money like it once did. CCIE is less of a salary differentiator now. All in all, the CCIE shine and luster is fading with time. The larger struggle I’m having is letting go of it, because it was such a major commitment to earn in the first place.

    • Jeremy Carr

      As someone who wishes to have a CCIE number attached to my name someday, I’m aware the CCIE is no longer my ticket to a phenomenal salary.

      I do wish that Cisco would provide special benefits to CCIE’s since the recertification time is short, and the time involved to be such a highly skilled SME is significant, especially since CCIE’s involved with VAR’s are the front line architects and pushers of Cisco technologies.

      The above being said, I believe that given the salary differentiation is less, CCIE’s should be less about Cisco only technology and broad-spectrum solution experts.

      Most VAR’s are mutli-vendor, Cisco may be a first option, but being a responsible consultant, and most importantly a trusted advisor to the client, involves alternatives.

      The CCIE Program is the best training program I’m aware of and although the Voice, Wireless and Security tracks are highly product specific, the certification pyramid from CCNA to CCIE contains significant theory enabling Cisco Certified Professionals to provide best-of-breed solutions and architecture designs, Cisco or not.

  • mehd

    I do really love cisco and Salary and support is not too much important to me.
    in one hand we all need support to continue our way in network,on the other hand cisco system should be aware that these ccie certified people need to be different position from other IT people or other vendor experts.
    best regards dear Greg,

  • marcgq

    Since starting Cisco certifications my salary has increased 5 fold. After passing R&S and subsequently joining Cisco , I saw a 40% jump on taxes from year previous. Through it all… Cisco didn’t ‘give’ me anything… I went out and earned it but I don’t discount what the certification process did to help me along… More so than my degree in IS.

  • Brian Meade

    Cisco TAC still sends cases opened by CCIEs straight to backbone. I’m a recent ex-TAC engineer and CCIE who gets all my cases routed to backbone teams. It has to be properly associated to your CCO account though. It took me a week or two to get it fixed right and the TAC Front Line agents don’t know anything about the program so can’t help verify your CCO account is set up right.