I received the following email:
I have recently found your show on my podcast catcher.
After listening to the show, I am worried I have made a poor choice to start my career. I began to study the CCNA. As professionals in the networking field, please could you provide advice on a networking certificate that will give me a leg up.
While studying at university, Cisco was God in the networking program. I have never used an alternative company.
In terms of first steps towards an IT career, you are on the right path for now and in the current climate. The CCNA program will give you a good grounding in some basics and prepare you for long term career.
Today Cisco remains the ‘big dog’ in data networking and you are much more likely to get your first few jobs with a Cisco certification on your resume. So I feel you are making the right choice right now. In the years ahead, I doubt that Cisco certifications will be as dominant.
One significant factor is cost – its very expensive. You definitely need to consider whether you will get a return on time and money spent. As Cisco Learning continues to increase charges for courses, exams and study material there is less chance that you will make a career break to pay off that money.
FWIW, I have abandoned my own Cisco certifications so I can spend time on new skills like GCP/AWS, Linux and programming. I can always re-learn the old networking if I need it again. And the new stuff from vendors isn’t much different so there isn’t a big learning curve for me.
My advice is that you should learn as much as possible whenever you can. It is a certainty that you will be learning new technology for the rest of your career. Your CCNA is just first step on that path and you will have many more things to learn in the future, the majority of them will not have a curriculum and test.
For example, learning Linux is not taught in 40 hours of classroom time and some extra hours of self-study. With some good learning around fundamentals, you can easily learn Palo Alto or Fortinet firewalls.
In terms of University education that you highlight, Cisco has spent large sums to provide course resources for teachers and institutions. This saves money and makes it easy for them to deliver a course with recognised source. Of course, Cisco gets a bunch of graduates who will be keen to use what they have learned which is good for selling more Cisco products (in psychology terms its called exposure bias, you like what you know).
At the same time, the market is changing and Cisco isn’t growing or changing with it. There is public cloud networking like AWS/GCP/Azure, there is security and monitoring where Cisco is not a leader as a couple of examples. Thats not a negative, its a reality and Cisco has to keep selling legacy technology to keep the money rolling in.
So my advice is to keep an eye on what is happening in the market and adapt your career, change direction as needed.
If you are surrounded by Cisco technologies and career choices based on Cisco, then go with it. Cisco is successful company and has large footprint in the Enterprise and you could have a strong career just following that path for many years. But be wise and evaluate your choices on a regular basis. Don’t overcommit to anything in your technical life – you don’t want bet your house payments on be the worlds best spanning tree person when people are moving into the public cloud.
Remember: The goal is to earn money so that you can live your life. It doesn’t really matter which brand of technology you are using, it is networking that will keep you employed for several decades. Its high likely that you will change employers every few years. Your skills must be portable to make the transition regularly.
Mere-exposure effect – Wikipedia Retrieved 15 Aug, 2017