Comment: “Worlds Youngest CCIE” not so All That.

There is some buzz going on at the moment about a guy that has managed to pass his CCIE at something like 18 years of age. First of all, congratulations to him for a job well done. However, I would point out that this isn’t exactly a great achievement. In my opinion, there are people who are much more worthy of recognition for passing a certification.

Time and Energy

There are two prerequisites to starting a study program ( for whatever certification you choose), the first is time. Time to read, absorb information, attend training courses, etc. The second is energy, the desire to do something better and be something more than you are today.

Money and Commitment

After you have the prerequisites, you needs the means. You need money for two things: purchase study materials, or courses if you need them and pay for the examinations. Second, money to sustain yourself during the process.

Commitment means that you must be able to prioritise study time ahead of other projects. Simple enough.

Motivation and Execution

And finally, you need to turn all of this into an ongoing process of motivation to keep going until you execute on the exam and pass.

Who is better able to achieve this ?

If I consider someone who is, say, mid thirties, married with two kids at school, mortgage, extended family commitments, a job at a reseller working for five or six clients and compare them with an teenager with a job who has a limited number of external commitments. The married guy has more motivation but the ability to commit, execute as well as find the time and money are very limited. The younger person can more easily change their life to make plenty of time, put money aside – the greater challenge for a young person is motivation to complete the program.

Who is going to find it harder or tougher to complete a study program ? That’s right, the married person with a life full of commitments and responsibilities needs to work a lot harder, and be more focussed. And probably has to re-learn how to study (ten years since school) and their mind is slower to learn.

Be Aware of the Everyone

So by all means, recognise the achievement, but the people that you should truly admire are the older people, who managed their time, resources, commitments and personal energy to be able to complete a certification, run a family, hold a job, and stay sane. The “youngest something ever” looks good on an advertising banner, and your lizard brain responds to these kinds of words ( like the “10 Best Tips for” or “Top 5 Reasons”) . But take time to think about it, at eighteen years of age I had time, energy, commitment – I just didn’t have the opportunity or access to money.

Please don’t believe what you read and take time to think about the back story and what other people might be experiencing. Here is what I would celebrate – the “Oldest CCIE to Pass” because they would have worked harder and sacrificed much more, and probably been humble enough to say nothing. Anyone know who that would be ?

  • Roland

    100% agree with you Greg. Another aspect to consider is the experience. A customer could be more confident to have his network managed by a mid-30 CCNP than a 18yo CCIE.
    Technology knowledge is just part of the job and CCIE is simply not enough. Imho you can learn a lot from the books, but you can’t be an Expert without real-life experiences, you really need both.
    This 18yo guy will have a succesfull career in networking but he can’t skip the years of experience by early achieving his digits. He’ll have to work hard his first years like everybody.

  • Kurt Bales

    I was actually just thinking about this over the last couple of days. I have a young guy at work (~21) who has just passed his CCNA, and working towards his CCNP. He said to me last week that he wants to start the study for his CCIE by the end of the year.

    Part of me got a little defensive at first – “What if he passes his CCIE before me?”, “He has more disposable time” etc. I started thinking about a lot of my commitments at work, home and externally and started trying to put my own study plan into perspective.

    As Roland said, experience is as large a part of moving forward in your career as certification, though I have recently changed my opinion so that certification is a requirement for all new staff.

    Youngest, oldest, [s]he who sacrificed the most… a good engineer is a good engineer. I need someone with the knowledge to implement a solution, and the wisdom (experience) to know which solution to implement.


  • Lethe

    +1 to that I could not agree more and more or less your thoughts/words were my first comment to this.

    Even if I’m not in the networking field as I used to be I still follow it with interest and I considered this “youngest ccie” thing for what it really is.

    Lately there has been buzz for the youngest RHCE out there, and the feelings were the same. What’s the point of it all? Congratulations for the achievement but that’s it, not a lot of sense in it… specially when, as you said, the people who should take the respect are older “guys” who managed to pass such a difficult exam, spend money and time on it while not going totally insane…

    Lately this seems kind of “trend’ to my eyes, like one of those marketing crap more often then not start to circulate around…

  • Daniel

    I also agree and I feel that the CCIE is at risk right now. A lot of people seem to find a way to pass the lab (dumps etc) that have very lacking real skills. This seems to be very overrepresented in the asian region, might just be because of more people living there but Cisco needs to adress the issue before the CCIE looses it status to the same level of the MCSE which used to be a high level cert but no so much any longer.

  • 7elfathi

    Totally agree with you Greg, personally I waited to have enough experience and hands-on before studying for the CCIE it was last year at 34 (14 days exactly after my birthday lol) and i am proud of the achievement (succeed in 1st attempt) because I have to conciliate studies with family (married with one little child), job and i have to pay all of this with my money :).

  • Amplebrain

    Thanks for the post.
    The CCIE is just an exam, a relatively difficult one at best. Whether you’re 15 or 50, if you study hard enough, you would pass the exam.
    Experience, IMHO is a totally different thing. You do NOT need experience to pass the lab and the fact that someone is 30+ doesn’t ‘necessarily’ mean he has more ‘relevant’ experience.

    IMHO, the age of passing doesn’t really make a difference. What we do, when we do it is totally a function of the choices we make and the opportunities at our disposal. Everyone who has spent time and energy studying for and passing the CCIE (the right way) deserves some commendation.

    I passed my CCIE lab(s) at a relatively young age (and legitimately too :) ).

    I do not think I am anywhere close to some folks who have been in the game for a while and all I have for them is pure unadulterated respect. When I grow up, I would love to be like them (literally).

    • 7elfathi

      Yes everyone deserves some commendation but i think it is more grateful when you pass the CCIE exam by experience and not solely by studying even if at the end it remains an exam :).

  • MiniMe

    How about the oldest CCIE candidate?
    Would such a guy deserve some consideration, that in the light of what greg just said about family and other obligation someone might have?

  • Ryan B

    I passed the CCIE at age 22 and speak from experience when I say this post is spot on. Now, at 33, if would be very difficult to balance the demands of family and work with the time needed to study for a lab attempt…

  • Rob

    Bottom line – that 18 year old is a total PIMP

  • Dan

    I’m a little jealous, I have NO motivation for any cert study, I’ve had a CCNA study guide sitting in my back seat for 6 months, read it at lunch a few times. But, I’ve completely rebuilt my company’s LAN and WAN over the past couple of years, installed an iSCSI SAN with no training, installed WAN optimization for SAN replication, participated in the complete virtualization of our server ecosystem, set up SNMP & NetFlow monitoring throughout our sites, completely re-wired two data centers and countless other things… now learning to be a Wireshark power user. I feel like I’ve been a motivated EMPLOYEE for 20 years, I hope that if I’m ever up for a job against some little test taker f*&K that someone with a clue is interviewing me.

    • Greg Ferro

      So you would be one of the couple of hundred resumes sitting on my desk claiming to know to know everything but no proof. Even if I managed to read your resume it would look like bragging or key word filling, or desperation.

      One thing for sure, you donít care enough about your job, yourself or your skills to take the few hours to go and sit an exam to demonstrate your talents.

      Iíll never know you have the skills, because you canít prove it. And Iím not wasting my time interviewing fifty idiots to find just one person who might know something.

  • Greg Ferro

    So you would be one of the couple of hundred resumes sitting on my desk claiming to know to know everything but no proof. Even if I managed to read your resume it would look like bragging or key word filling, or desperation.

    One thing for sure, you don’t care enough about your job, yourself or your skills to take the few hours to go and sit an exam to demonstrate your talents.

    I’ll never know you have the skills, because you can’t prove it. And I’m not wasting my time interviewing fifty idiots to find just one person who might know something.

  • Pete

    It’s simple – if you know it, do the cert to show it. Real life experience is irreplaceable but operating at a high level and not backed up by certs then you must show you know it, lots of companies or people won’t normally give time or trust for you to let rip in a new engagement. Proven history maybe they will.

    A little sacrifice is needed, just do it. I agree with Greg.

    Recognition is deserved for anyone passing CCIE, thou not necessarily for being simply a book worm. I know people young & old who academically have a long list, but get something done in real life then it’s a problem.

  • shawn

    Congrats to anyone who takes the time to pass specific testsÖ esp. a 30 year old with kids, mortgage, etc. I’ve heard this same argument about people going back to school in their 30-40s.

    Just to rant, the certification stature has just let me down in the past week. I met a person who has their CC(N&D)P but doesnít truely understand routing protocols. I was stunned about their lack of knowledge about redistribution using route-maps and prefix-lists knowing they are CC(N&D)P. They also never troubleshot a network issue by analyzing packet captures. Maybe thatís not what passing the exams area all about, but I would figure a CC(N&D)P has the holistic network experience of design, administering, and troubleshooting. So I got disappointed. But the friendship is young and Iím sure I will be impressed in the future.

    Personally Iím studying for my CCNP-Route test. Iím at OSPF and I have read (reading) Moyís book & RFC twice, Doyleís book, Cisco whitepapers, Ivans blog posts, and a lot of GSN3 scenarios… All this with practical experience with OSPF in an ISP world. Iím thinking now that Iím doing too much here just to pass the Route exam. But I like to know a topic as to teach it to somebody. I’m guessing you really don’t have to for these exams.

    Greg, are you stating you only look at resumes with vendor certification numbers attached?

    By the way, I love the podcasts. It makes my morning commute go by very smoothly. I loved the pieces about switching architectures and silicon. That opened a whole new world for me. You and Ethan make a good team.

  • TheBeast

    Do be a hater.

  • apoorv rai saxena

    Guys I am 21 i am a ccie secuirty(written) will give my lab attempt in march… studying 14 hrs a day….blv me younger age is d best …… cant expect a ccsp or ccnp knowledge person even with a xx years of experience to work like a ccie..until he really knows d ccie stuff and just lacks d cert!!……d point is you cant fake a ccie by dumps at all..i bet even if i give a ccnp guy d same lab topologies he will surely fail….80% is d passing …not to forget the core one on earth can make you pass that stuff until u deserve it!……so the difference….so all dat matters is d passion and dedeication to defy the given…..

    • Greg Ferro


      You are not a CCIE until you pass the lab. Please use the correct terminology. You have passed the pre-qualification exam, that is all.

      Otherwise, you missed the point. The guy has a father who is a CCIE and a CCIE instructor, with no distractions in life. Makes it easier to do. It’s still hard, but if you had a wife, two kids and a job – well, thats much harder.


    • cody

      apoorv rai saxena:

      I have a hard time believing you are even CLOSE to the caliber of any Cisco title with your grammar skills.

  • jamie

    @cody – you are biased… nothing is wrong with the text the guy wrote in a hurry and yes you are jealous because he is studying more than you.

  • jamie

    He is CCIE @ 21 , cisco celebrates his ccie

  • aTeenager