In 2001, I landed a job with Cisco Systems in the UK doing architecture support and then moved to the WAN support team. I was surrounded by around 40 engineers all focused on pretty much the same goal. Passing the coveted Cisco CCIE exam.
I’d get up at 5 am most mornings, went for a run and got into work two hours early to study. I’d study for two hours after work and every weekend. All my holidays for two years were spent at home studying and doing labs.
I booked the lab exam for my first attempt knowing I still wasn’t ready and when the time came I flew to Brussels to take the test. I failed. I got 100% in some areas but in others, I did poorly. I’d made the mistake of doing all my home labs on the same topology, I misread the instructions and wasted an hour configuring OSPF router IDs when there was no need. The guy sitting next to me walked out after three hours saying he had finished. I later found out he’d passed! It was his second attempt, though.
The results came in the next day, and I’d failed of course. I felt dejected, but I knew I didn’t deserve to pass. Then I did something I rarely do. I quit.
There were a few reasons. We were all made redundant, and I started my own company. I found out that I could easily hire CCIEs while I ran the company and did all the sales and marketing. I realised that my passion was entrepreneurism, and I’d been forcing myself down the CCIE path because of the high pay the role offered.
The problem was that by 2005 CCIE pay was on par with that of an experienced CCNP. It just didn’t make sense for me to spend another 12 months doing 5 hours of study per day to prepare for another lab attempt.
So, this brings me to the point of this blog post. Where is your passion? If it isn’t technical, then don’t do technical exams. If I had to go back, I think I’d choose the project management track along with ITIL. I have a good friend who went this route and he ended up travelling internationally and advising company boards of directors on strategy. Really interesting stuff.
In my younger days, I didn’t take the time to think about what I was excited about and what I found interesting and stimulating. I just went along with what I thought I should be doing. I don’t regret all that studying because I ended up doing some consulting and training and, of course, I could work out who the top engineers were to hire.
Where is your passion?
Richard Prout says
I usually don’t read stories about “quitting” because of how I feel about quitters.
“Quitters never win and winners never quit”.
However, your blog has inspired me.
I too was on the CCNA R/S path and of course, move up with more networking certs.
The funny thing is I was basically forced into ITSM and IT Service Delivery with over 15 years experience.
As it turns out, I’m a natural, a leader and all around team player.
I have my ITIL v3 Foundations and I’ve taken the Project Management Professional exam course last year.
After getting laid off and getting intimidated by the PMP exam; I hesitated….until today.
One of my classmates from the PMP class actually reached out to me then another person did after months of no contact.
To top things off; I just read your blog. To say that I am re-energized would be an understatement.
Thank you so much for giving me the kick in the pants I really needed.
My next goals are to pass the PMP exam and become ITIL Expert certified.
Believe it or not, I still want my CCNA R/S because I’ve been in it so long it would be a shame to waste the knowledge.
You’ve inspired me and I thank you.
Robert bowsher says
Hi Paul I got into IT about 5 years ago as I wanted to do a job that I felt rewarded me for the work I did.
I had already had a successful career in logistics and was leaving this stressful industry after reaching the role if operations management which was a well padded role to follow my passion for IT.
Now in my early forties I am climbing the ranks within an IT Field based roles.
I love every minute of the jobs I do and continue to love the study.
One of the reasons I subscribe to this site is to understand more and more.
I do seem to suffer from exam planning and even though I try and structure my exam goals within the Cisco realm there seems to be no clear one line criteria for the objectives for the topics.
I had an attempt at the CCENT Exam and failed but got 764 and I felt I knew all the topics.
It would be nice to find some lead up preparation to taking these exams in a document format to help steer people like me in the right direction as it is ok studying but piecing all the info together seems to be the hardest task.
djazym Mohellebi says
very interesting! Thanks for the advice Paul. Good luck with your new life and projects.
Thanks for this. Studying Cisco is very time consuming and can take over your life. I was certified with ccna in early 2000 and studying for it again. At least trying. I’ve been in IT 10 years and jumping from company to company cause most didn’t want to spend the money on good equipment or I couldn’t advanced in positions. I now am stuck again at a company doing all the IT work. Cisco/hp switches, trunking, voip, sonic wall firewalls, point to point tunnels, 3 buildings vmware 5.5 with multi host, Qnap San storage, veeam backups, office 365, powershell, Dell power edge r720s, goverlan, eset antivirus, windows 2008 domain, Peachtree 2016, 45 servers in vmware environment, 200 end users. I am the only IT and days I just want to give up on IT and find a new career. I work and work and work and never appreciated by management and they see IT as costly.
Mario Smith says
wow, I have the passion but not the time. I am a 55 year old man living in NJ, with a wife and 2 teenage sons. I enjoy coaching basketball, and spending time with the family. In my professional life, I manage a technical staff for a very large Telco company, covering desktop support to LAN/WAN using all CISCO equipment. I recent completed my BA degree and now will focus on the CISCO CCNA and CCNP certs. The CISCO CCIE is totally out of my reach. I would hope I am not alone.
James Turner says
My passion is what your friend does, PM with ITIL. I love fixing problems whether technical or not. Its what I did in my military career and desire to do now. Especially if you can educate “leaders” on being effective/efficient in projects. In my experience it keeps your staff happy, engaged and ready to come to work. I have taken the PMP and Lean Six Sigma courses but having a hard time getting to the PMP exam. I think Im intimidated by it! I blew away the six sigma. I am taking your ITIL course and doing well in it, just need to know where I can test at once I am done. If I dont test within a month or so I really put it to the back burner. A bad habit I have been trying to break. Any suggestions on all of what I said?
Thanks for sharing this.
I am currently split between both Technical and IT Management.
Having passed my ITIL Foundation with a 93% score, and having loved the course and the material covered, I got a great deal to go to Expert level via Capability route.
I am eyeing a PMP as well as Agile but at the same time I still want to do my MCSA which I have been on and off for so many years it is embarrassing to say.
I tried the 70-410 in December of 2014 and was just below passing mark which really depressed me.
I went through your videos (very good stuff by the way) and I am split between these two broad areas. I am now also interested in Azure/Amazon cloud services and have some push from my company to do Azure.
So, where do you think the most “bang for the buck” is at the moment?
P.S. any idea if you will provide Azure training any time soon??
Pete Stephens says
I can certainly relate to what you are saying. My passion is music, not networks. However, I’m 45 years old and I decided that I will leverage my experience, education and now Cisco certs as a stepping stone to buy my freedom back so I can spend more time with music or whatever else interests me. I don’t hate working on networks; I love troubleshooting and I’m pretty good at it. But… the corporate world is not for me. I can’t go back 25 years and take another path, but I can use what I have done to make more $$$ to escape from most of the corporate crap. I’m ready for a change for sure. But I would love to teach so maybe someday I can teach Cisco and music for a living, working from home. Well, I can dream anyway. But it is possible. Or stay at home in my shorts and design networks when I get that CCDP 🙂
I was surprised to see the difference in salary between CCNA and CCNP is not as much as I thought…. but then I remembered, the CCNP tests were updated a year or so (correct me if I am wrong) after the CCNA was made to be so difficult. Perhaps over the next year, those that never really understood it that well will be losing their certs and less people certified means bigger salaries. I know a few people that no longer have their Cisco certs because of the difficulty level. Hell, it took me 7 attempts to pass ICND2 and I have experience. These tests are not easy and to spend a year 5 hours a day to probably fail that lab test again…. you are thinking straight in my opinion.
My real passion is programming, particularly low-level programming. But I’ve found that without at least 2-5 years of commercial “experience” it’s near impossible to get into, even having a portfolio of work doesn’t help – it has to be commercial.
Hopefully when I get my CCNA it’ll give me a few other options.
Paul Browning says
It’s really hard to find trainers and the Microsoft route on the site isn’t that popular!
I’ll look into it.
I completely understand. Even though I don’t believe in quitting, one can get disheartened and slow down to nothing. The proof of it is that I have been paying monthly for your fine learning site for two years and haven’t completed a single class yet! I lost my fierce edge of desire to just do it.
For me, it started about three and a half years ago after much prep I was totally ready to do the CCNA cert exam (killing test and labs with high scores on practice exams) but then I lost my job and money was too tight to take the CCNA exam with two college aged kids. Now, time has passed and it’s a whole new exam. I’ve heard that it’s tougher and some folks have who have taken the exam have made me question whether its worth the time (and money) at my age and starting nearly from scratch. The work isn’t out of reach – its just tough to get back up on that horse and be as fierce as I was before.
But I haven’t quit. I did recently pass the Security Plus exam cert (I won a free exam after being high scorer in a CC class), and I plan to take some of the other Comptia exams. I’m slowly starting to study again for CCNA – this time with a group of students where its a matter of PRIDE! I can’t wait to take that cert back to my teacher from three years ago and have him put it in the success files!
Glenn Wilson says
Wow, I think you really struck a nerve with this post. I’m actually very much like Pete Stephens. Music is my passion and I got the certs for the purposes of eating and having a roof over my head. I’m 50 years old and am teaching myself how to play the bass. I plan on eventually leaving IT altogether (or maybe doing it part-time) – I have the CISSP, CCNP Security, C|EH, ITILv3 and am working on the AWS SysOps and ISC2 new CCSP. I’m done after these two; I want to work remotely on IT as I transition into more music.
To comment after reading your blog Paul plus the comments is REALLY not my thing…yet here I go…(interesting to say the least).
Me…58 yrs young…..CCNA 11/2014…….IT job—-never, none nad-da, nothing
Me….studying (right now) for CCNA-Security 210-260……just failed CCDA 12/15 $#%!$#@!
Waiting……to find-out if I get that IT job where I work—a Veterans Hospital
Why not private sector?……14 yrs on job & remember 58
Why IT?….dropped out of college after three years…….engineering & computer science major…….CCNA & Security is self edification
All of the comments have surprisingly given me inspiration….so thanks to all!!
Now I have a favor to ask…even though I am a CCNA (if u don’t use-it —you will lose it)……I have a CCNP level home lab & I am
catching hell trying to put my IOS on a tfpt-server and also to GNS3*****Paul I followed your video for this once but now somehow I cannot make it work now.!@%!#$%
A very timely blog for my situation. Towards the end of last year I was planning for my CCNA exam and an opportunity at work was advertised for a ICT Business Liaison officer, I was the successful candidate 🙂 . Although I did not sit the CCNA exam the knowledge that I gained has served me well in my past position and will in my new position. As much as I enjoy networking, I also enjoy solution design and business process management, and in my new role I have been teamed up with a business analyst which is proving to be very advantageous. To add to this, I am getting involved in enterprise cloud storage and so have began studying for my AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam (very interesting). Just to add, I got my Prince2 and ITILv3 certs last year.
So in short, I don’t feel that I have wasted the time too much time studying for my CCNA, it just has not been formalized with a cert.
I think once a goal is set it should be completed..builds confidence for the next big goal someone sets for themselves. Just my opinion
Richard Prout says
Dear Mr. Turner,
Don’t give up on your PMP.
Yes, those formulas and scenarios are very difficult.
See if you can find some friends, colleagues or classmates taking the same courses you are.
You can do it sir. 🙂
I have been in the IT field for 20+ years including BSc (Hons) and PGDip – which were useless in getting me any jobs! If you’re in your 30’s or older, forget University degrees – go for vendor certs, like Cisco.
I got my CCNA 5 or 6 years ago but didn’t do anything with it as I was working as a teacher, and was getting interested in Internet Marketing.
I had to quit my teaching job in 2013 due to ill-health and decided to go into Internet Marketing full-time but was stripped bare by “sharks”. Dead Broke.
Beginning of 2015 my health took a turn for the worse, I am on disability benefits. If I wanted to, I could be like a majority of ‘scroungers’ out there and leave on benefits for the rest of my life. I am nearly 55 after all!
But no. You can take the man out of Cisco, but you can’t take Cisco out of the man. I have decided to get back to studying. I passed my ICND1 last week and planning tom take my ICND2 next week. Then onto the CCNP.
My disabilities and photophobia means I am restricted from working in 99.999999% of workplaces, so my plan is to start my own online/weekend CCNA/Networking Bootcamp academy. (Maybe Paul can guide me here).
I’ve been approached to teach the A+ course but after spending years in hardware (inc teaching the darned thing) I don’t want to do it any more – so I’ve turned the opp down. I also taught Microsoft Office for dozen years and now don’t want to do it anymore. Right now, it’s Cisco R&S. Collaboration is looking good too.
I’m not ready to quit yet. I can definitely relate to your experience. I enjoy the challenge and I am in the older age group. I should not be doing this and I should be enjoying other things. I spread out my activities and interests, but technology is one that holds my attention. I don’t think I will be going for anything this bold. After completing my degree I will have a CCNA – security and will stop there. I was one who did the MCSE route instead of finishing my degree, and now I am completing it. Too many doors are not open now days without the degree. I look for the equivalent experience and it is not on all of the jobs as it used to be. I am enjoying your book and have been using it over the official Cisco guide (provided my my school). They assigned 24weeks to the CCNA ICND1,2 series. I am not able to keep up your 5hr/day regiment and ICND1 to way too long. I hate the CBT videos – too many and too long. It seems like he is padding out his time and making us suffer through meaningless dribble.
By chance got to this blog now as I was searching for any comments on studying for CCNP.
I’m a 52, female, former musician, currently IT Engineer with over 3 years of experience in IT (not much I know).
Love Networking a great deal. Passed my CCNA in 2013. Wanted to go for CCNP but my owkr mate discouraged me sying I would just waste my time and money as I would never get a networking job. Though at that time I was close to going for the Route exam, I paid attention to what my colleague said and quit studying for CCNP. I thought he was right, and maybe I was too old for a networking job.
But, as Faruk mentioned here – ” You can take the man out of Cisco, but you can’t take Cisco out of the man.” I’ve really fallen in love with routers and switches, even learned HP devices, and going back to recovering my Cisco knowledge. Really want to study for CCNP, but being at my age gets me into a doubt. Would I have a chance at all? Any thoughts?
Hi, I have failed a number of times and felt like I was very incapable and gave up with the exam idea and just study and learn for my own sense of knowledge, which keeps me interested and using my brain instead of watching TV wish is worst. I also have the same problem you mentioned I forget what I have learned the next day.
I’m getting burned out in a PC Repair/Helpdesk/Network Tech role, going on 5 years now. Does anyone have any advice or insight into other areas of I.T. I could pursue?