Cisco Announces the Cisco Certified Technician

A New Cert - is it for You?

Practical. That's the one overriding word that keeps coming to mind when I think of Cisco's new Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) cert announced today. But then again, I've always been a fan of the Cisco TAC, and it's not surprising that a cert developed by the TAC, for a very specific purpose, would indeed be practical. All three of the new CCT certs focus specifically on hardware installation tasks, including hot swaps, verifications, and troubleshooting. This posts looks at the basics of these new certs.

The Core: Things Break, TAC Dispatches, Technicians Install

The backstory for these new certs comes from the whole break/fix world of Cisco service as driven by the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC).

Of course, things break, both hardware and software. When hardware breaks, depending on the service contract, Cisco may not only give you new hardware, they may install it for you. So, you have a problem. You call TAC. You all agree the hardware needs replacing, so they send both hardware and technician to replace the old with the new.

Some of these installs require only a little knowledge, but some require more than screwdriver skills. Sometimes the technician simply replaces one rack-mounted box with another - remove old cables, unscrew the box to remove it from the rack, screw in the new one, and re-cable just like it was before. But they still have to identify the right box, install the cables the right way, and so on. Also, some installs require more savvy - for instance, maybe it's a card or a SUP in a 6500 switch, hot swappable cards, and the technician needs to follow certain steps. Not following those steps could cause an outage, or fry the new card, or fry all the cards, all bad things. And maybe it would be a good idea to connect to the CLI, make sure the router or switch recognizes the new card, before leaving the site.

Finally, Cisco does not keep badged Cisco employees in every town or village of the world just waiting for a part to show up in the local shipping office. Instead, Cisco uses 3rd party service companies who do keep staff in various geographies. For a long time past, when TAC dispatches someone to install a box or card on-site, it's not always a badged Cisco employee that shows up, but instead it's a contractor.

The 3rd party technicians need skills, and Cisco needs to know that they have the skills before dispatching them to go on-site. In years past, all the work to certify the technicians was through internal processes between Cisco and their partners.

CCT: Public Certification Credentials for What Cisco's Always Done

Cisco's new CCT certifications essentially create three different public certifications that the Cisco TAC will use for 3rd party technicians. Quoting from Cisco's press release:

Developed by the Cisco Technical Assistance Center, the CCT certifications validate the job skills of hardware field engineers who perform onsite support, maintain Cisco equipment and effectively work with the Cisco Technical Assistance Center to resolve onsite support issues.

Cisco did say that they will consider other CCT certifications, but initially, the three CCT certs are:

If you follow those links, and look at the exam topics, you'll see what's on each exam. Just based on that info, if I had to pick one word to describe my first impression, that word would have to be "practical". For instance, consider the RSTECH 640-692 exam, the exam that gets you a CCT R/S cert. Your job: install and troubleshoot routers and switches. So the exam topics include things like:

  • Setting the configuration register
  • Using ping, Telnet, SSH
  • Identifying different types of interfaces
  • Upgrading IOS (TFTP, FTP, XMODEM, etc)
  • IP settings on a laptop so you can connect to the devices

In short, if you show up as the on-site technician, you need skills to get the hardware working well enough so that the remote TAC engineer can gain access, at a bare minimum. Ideally, you can confirm the problem the TAC already identified, replace the hardware, and verify it's working. It might even be routine, planned maintenance, but you need to do the work, and make sure the new card of box really works. Regardless, all the exam topics zero in on those practical tasks you better know how to do if you are the person, and the only person, onsite.

CCT Training Matches the Technician Workstyle

Cisco has taken a different approach to the training for CCT compared to many other career certifications. For CCT, the training is shorter, more modular, and online.

Focusing on CCT Routing and Switching for a moment, to get the skills to pass the CCT R/S exam, you can spend $299 directly with Cisco to get an e-learning course called RSTECH (which is the same name as the exam). You get a year's subscription. You can take the course from anywhere that you have a web browser and Internet access. It's modularized so you can take it in small chunks. And it's only 5-6 hours cumulative.  So it's not going to require technicians to be out of the office for a week, and it lets them fit in the learning as time permits.

If you think about this from the TAC perspective, they obviously want their 3rd party technicians to have solid skills, so making the training easily accessible aids that goal. The employer saves the travel, and at $299, the price doesn't seem to bad.

However, just like with their other certs, Cisco does not require that you take the course to take the exam. The exam is offered at Vue, just like most other Cisco exams. To take the exam, you register at Vue.com, and show up at a Vue testing center, just like you would for the CCENT, CCNA, or any other Cisco career cert exam. Per the pre-announce briefing info, it's a 90 minute exam, with 60-70 questions, of the same general style as CCENT (multichoice, testlets, and the like). In the US, the cost is $125 for the exam.

CCT R/S has no prerequisites, but CCT TP and CCT DC do: namely, they require CCT R/S. So, start with CCT R/S, and then take the other two as needed. For recert, you can re-take the same exam, or just pass most any of the other career cert exams - CCENT, CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, etc.

Links and Other Collateral

Those are the basics. Here are some of the key links. I'll look at adding some opinions in the next post.

CCT Main page:

CCT Routing and Switching:

CCT Telepresence:

CCT Data Center:

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