More Thoughts on Network Engineers and the CCDE

Network Engineers are a unique group of people. Network engineers are definitely different from Server Admins. How often have you noticed the difference between a server guy and a network guy? Most people, including myself, could not switch between the two jobs. Servers are cool, but not as much as the network. I think a lot of network engineers feel this way; we like networking. And it's another reason why most network engineers are drawn to telephony. It's a form of networking. I've also hired a lot of network engineers and gone through interviews myself. I often feel management misses what makes a good network engineer. Management, via the results of a technical interview, is too often focused on: - Did he/she know the name of each OSPF LSA? - Can he/she recite BGP timers? - Does he/she have a CCIE? So, for the first two, my answer is, "I can look that up with Google". Let's be honest, yes, the network engineer must know how OSPF works and how to design it. I'm not suggesting a person's technical skills are not important. I'm suggesting you focus on the concepts and functionality of the technology, not Jeopardy-type questions that are best left to a search engine. A better test would be: "Describe how you would configure OSPF in a campus LAN with a WAN, LAN core, and LAN access layer". Then let the person explain the protocol and how they would use it. This also gives them a chance to show their interpersonal skills - can they talk fluently and explain a concept. For the CCIE part, I am very proud to be a CCIE. But, don't assume a person is not a great network engineer because they don't have a CCIE. Some people are bad test takers; some just don't want the CCIE. While the CCIE is a very good indication of a person's aptitude, don't exclude people who don't have the certification. Enter Cisco's new CCDE. Now there's a certification that can qualify a network engineer, not just a Cisco expert. But as a response to my last blog nicely summarized, how do you honestly score a subjective subject. There are well defined practices for network design that should be followed, but there is still a lot of opinion to it. Then you need industry (read "management" since they do the hiring) to understand the value of the CCDE. Sure, Cisco will do their marketing campaign, but the CCDE must stand on its own. This will be an interesting road for Cisco. They must (1) get qualified people to attempt and pass the CCDE, but (2) first have to demonstrate the benefit to the industry (engineers and management), while (3) not devaluing the CCIE line (4) without the benefit of a nice long growth curve for the CCDE (like the CCIE has had over the last 14 years). Should be interesting.

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