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That which is wrong with our field

By stretch | Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 2:14 p.m. UTC

In perusing some miscellaneous study material today I came across a review question I can't help but share. (Yes, I realize I'm violating someone's copyright. I don't care.)

SONA is an architectural framework that guides the evolution of what?

A) enterprise networks to integrated applications
B) enterprise networks to an intelligent information network
C) commercial networks to intelligent network services
D) enterprise networks to intelligent network services
E) commercial networks to an intelligent information network

All too often I have to reprimand a novice engineer for designing an enterprise network instead of an intelligent information network. Glad to see such meaningful terminology employed as a benchmark for a reputable certification.

Posted in Humor


August 11, 2009 at 2:24 p.m. UTC

Most people that go through these certifications are not qualified to build any network.... at least, from the people that I've dealt with in the past.

Curtis LaMasters
August 11, 2009 at 2:51 p.m. UTC

CCDA I take it?

August 11, 2009 at 3:01 p.m. UTC

Must be the result of sound technical writing. Comforting to know a CCDA would be able to tell me the difference.

August 11, 2009 at 3:22 p.m. UTC

I often find myself questioning myself if I am one of thse novice engineers that deserves a reprimand. I guess its probably good to be critical of yourself? Dont look at my network, its not ready yet. =)

Jesse Krembs
August 11, 2009 at 4:33 p.m. UTC

Cisco reminded me of any organized religion. You don't have to know or do things the "right" way, just the Cisco way, and you will be rewarded, eventually.

August 11, 2009 at 4:41 p.m. UTC

I subscribe to Tony's comment. Too often I see CCNPs after 1 year or less of experience. I don't argue with the fact that some of them were self-learning and then experience is not relevant but is most of the cases is different...

August 11, 2009 at 7:06 p.m. UTC

The "only" problem of the utterly stupid certification questions like the one you've included is that they are not written by people who understand what they're talking about but by "knowledge management experts" that think they can fish the questions out of the raw course material regardless of whether it covers growing oranges, catching snails, driving space shuttles or building networks. Long live the certification experts!

Todd Vierling
August 11, 2009 at 8:33 p.m. UTC

This is bad for the same reason that strict implementation of "design patterns" is bad for programming:

Excessive terminology builds nothing but excuses.

August 11, 2009 at 9:55 p.m. UTC

I relate harmoniously to this post as Intelligent Information Networks killed my father.

However, to be fair to Cisco, you have to fill the Design track up with something, right?

August 12, 2009 at 5:08 a.m. UTC

And yet, what's the likelihood that your next potential employer will list some minimally useful certification as a requirement? It's just another profit center for the vendors. Especially the ones that insist your certification needs to be renewed periodically.

Alternatively, your CIO will bring in some consultant with a bunch of letters after their name and they will tell you to do inane things to your network. Not only are they from the outside, but they have these letters you don't have, so they must be smarter than you.

I've been considering getting certified just to fend off this kind of problem before it happens again...

August 12, 2009 at 8:41 a.m. UTC

I gave up on certs years ago and have never looked back. In my opinion they only prove that you are another brainwashed Cisco clone seeking a shortcut to success. Sorry if that offends anyone. One of my CCNP exams presented a question that was ambiguously worded and had no correct answer.

August 12, 2009 at 11:13 a.m. UTC

@ Al : I have used the comments box once or twice to point this out in cert exams. Perhaps Cisco use these as a flag to catch out the braindumpers?

John Burns
August 12, 2009 at 7:47 p.m. UTC

The important thing to know is that engineers are not respected, even the money is in sales. He who can use the most buzwords to impress a client and make the sale is rewarded. That is why i have seen a good number of engineers get their CISSP or QSA certification and go into sales an audits. Lots of $$$$ for little real work or productivity and way better hours.

August 13, 2009 at 9:51 a.m. UTC

i have passed a lot of certification exams, and i completely agree with @Disgusted - exam questions seem to be written by incompetent people. questions are borrowed from study guides, questions are ambigous, questions are not related to technical knowledge, and so on. but still, certification is very important - for cisco partners, for hr crowd, for better salary, etc.

XB Cold Fingers
August 13, 2009 at 5:40 p.m. UTC

I am the first CCUG, "Certified Certifiable Unix Guru." I made up the certification, gave myself the test, graded it, passed (shocking) and slapped the designation on my resume. then they dragged me kicking an screaming into the merry world of Windows NT, where the certification was useless.

I remain the only CCUG because no one wants to pay me $199 to take the exam.

In all seriousness, however, there are some important certifications. Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and Accounts need to pass licensing exams.

Larry Furman
August 13, 2009 at 5:42 p.m. UTC

Back in the mid-90's the population of C++ programmers was doubling every 6 months. This meant that at any point in time 50% of the C++ programmers were doing it for 6 months or less and 75% were doing it for 1 year or less - which kind of explains a lot of things, like buggy software and certification exams.

I might have read this in Holub's excellent book on C++, Enough Rope To Shoot Yourself In The Foot.

August 13, 2009 at 6:01 p.m. UTC

I agree with invalid and maybe not s much disgusted, obviously I wouldnt hire someone who is just a cert, but isnt there something to be said for the guys that are both experience and cert? I guess what I am trying to say is that I dont see certs as being entirely useless.

August 14, 2009 at 9:42 p.m. UTC

Yes, this acronym is a joke.

I think the value of certifications does vary greatly from one company to the next, based upon industry, etc. If you work for a Partner for instance, or a company that relies on having a number of certified individuals on staff, there may be cases where the certs are key, regardless of skill or experience level. Love it or's out there.

August 15, 2009 at 3:41 p.m. UTC

I was excited to take the CCDA, as I had just finished off the worst certification exam I had ever taken (ITIL v3 Foundations). The ITIL was dry, useless, and filled with nothing but buzzwords that did nothing to further my knowledge of anything other how to pay EXIN 160 dollars. Imagine my surprise when I started studying for my CCDA and found it to be the same stuff. An entire exam of full of Cult of cisco BS. Supposedly the CCDP is when you get into the meat of the design side, but Im not holding my breath...

August 15, 2009 at 6:24 p.m. UTC

I am a certified pro certification network admin. The main reason people come up with the "certs are no good" argument is that they cannot achieve a cert themselves. Sure they can show you a neat trick every now and then, that would be great if this was "stupid router tricks" on David Letterman. Having said that, I might have answered the question incorrectly myself. That said, it is a fundamental thing to know what in the heck you are trying to do in the network world so the question is very relevant. Now I would agree that the ITIL is useless, mainly because it is for unskilled managers who usually only manage to much things up.

August 16, 2009 at 3:17 p.m. UTC

The purpose of test taking is whether or not you have the intelligence to pass the test. And to pass a test you must realize the difference between a test and reality, humans make tests, equipment breaks down where humans least expect it. Consider the damage Pres. Bush has done to the educational system by turning the simulated reality of the school room into a simple dumb test. Kids don't enjoy school, it's become just another stupid test you can take and get out of school early, without learning any skills.

August 18, 2009 at 10:26 a.m. UTC

I don't see any of these comments that seem to address the core issue here. MARKETING. Cisco is trying to MARKET their solution hence they want anyone sporting their certification letters to be a cheap way to MARKET technologies they are trying to push. It's less about 'knowledge experts' fishing and more about a targeted less than subtle approach to advertising their wares.

August 21, 2009 at 12:19 a.m. UTC

Questions like there are marketing pure and simple. Nobody likes them and I usually get them wrong anyway. What does ay of that mean anyway?

I can't help but comment on some of the statements about those of us who are certified. Clone? Seeking a shortcut to success? Hardly. Some of us had to get certified just to be given a chance.

There's that problem of needing a job that grants experience but nobody whats to hire you because you don't have it. Getting certified gave me a crack in the door that I had to push wider at interviews. They do have worth, but you ca no more rely on them solely than you can anything else.

Ron Arrendale
August 21, 2009 at 3:07 p.m. UTC

In the old days, certifications used to be worth something because an individual would have a means of demonstrating a level of proficiency in the field of networking within the specific technologies one was dealing with. I've obtained CNA, CNE, CCNA, CCNP, CISSP...blah, blah, blah. Now all I see is money making operations with folks getting these certs with little to no experience or skills at all. I think I'll just leave my title as is...Senior R&D Engineer...and call it a day.....

Kyle Cohne
August 21, 2009 at 5:04 p.m. UTC

I would have to agree with DEDAN. Certification is by no means the end all measure of knowledge. I personally have chosen them as a base measure of learning stuff that I would otherwise not get any exposure to at all. Certification is not all bad. Is it the stick that we should be measured by not in necessarily. I have people working with me that have been working on the same network and in the field twice as long as I have and yet I could run rings around them. The point I am trying to make is that it all comes down to the individual. I have my CCNA and working on CCNP. It is way to learn and get experience that you may just not get otherwise. The key difference is that I am using as a learning tool and not just a way to add letters to my name.

August 22, 2009 at 7:19 p.m. UTC

That is exactly what I was trying to say though my grammer and mispellings show I was doing it on my phone. For some, I'd say more than not, it's about learning something not titles. The point is being diverged from though. Just as Timothy said, it's marketing. We all can see that. I'd be concerned if I worked with someone who DIDN'T see that.

September 9, 2009 at 4:44 a.m. UTC

Cisco developed their certification tracks due to customer request. Too many people were lying on their resumes so customers asked Cisco for a program to validate a minimum competency level. The CCIE had been around for a few years, but Cisco could not provide lab exams for the numbers of people who would want to attain associate and professional-level certifications. Hence the test-only model which had been used quite successfully by Microsoft, Novell, and others.

I've worked as a SME on several tests for the CCNA, CCNP, and CCVP tracks. It is not easy work to develop test questions which are valid. I remember taking a test I helped develop when it was released 6 or eight 8 after we developed it. I came across one question which seemed really stupid and asked myself, "Who's the idiot that designed this question?" I realized I was partly to blame. In retrospect, the question seemed appropriate during our review, but viewed from a distance, it wasn't so appropriate.

December 20, 2010 at 11:04 p.m. UTC

Quite playing with the baby certs (CCNA, CCNP, etc.) and step up to the plate. Get your CCIE number and be done....unless you want to be double or triple (family permitting) CCIE.

I don't see too many CCIEs getting frawned upon. You can't braindump your way through that 8-hour lab and the chances of passing it on the first attempt are severely against you.

I currently hold a valid (baby certs) CCNA and CCNP. I'm working on my CCIE and should be taking the written in June 2011. Then the lab in early part of 2012.

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