What am I doing?
I travelled to Chicago and went to the House of Blues.
I travelled to Australia and bought an boomerang.
What we are doing and where we are going are tied together. Where am I at? Where am I going? What should I be doing? Since June I’ve passed three Cisco exams and have two CCNA’s. I’m planning on at least one more CCNA exam. I wouldn’t recommend four Cisco exams in a year. Even though they are associate level, I still find them challenging. I spent a fair amount of time reading, writing, putting together simple labs, etc. I spent a good amount of time studying.
I have similar feelings about both certifications and college degrees. If I am going to put in a huge amount of effort to get a substantial increase in knowledge, enough to come close pass a cert or get a degree, I may as well put in the extra work.
When I was working on satellite networks, I also spent a good amount of time studying. However, there was no certification path that I was aware of to demonstrate what I had learned. It was demonstrated in the workplace. The workplace directed my learning. I have found this is the common experience in many workplace duties and advancement.
The extra work for a cert or degree will probably cover topics I don’t need for my present task. However, understanding those extra topics will probably make me better all around. For my college degree, the ethics class doesn’t help me code better. It did help me write better, which was an unanticipated benefit. There are lots of aspects of professional development that are not immediately apparent.
In my limited experience, talking and working with someone who has put in the effort to complete certifications and university coursework is a lot different to someone who has focused only on the task at hand. I know there are exceptions on both sides. There are people who get degrees and act like they know more than anyone who doesn’t. I also know people who see opportunities to learn and demonstrate they know more through their work and work ethic. More often though, I run into people who study and put in the effort to pass the exam and show a higher level of technical excellence than the people around them.
Taking advantage of what I have already done
In my case, as a result of the work I have been putting in, I also have a home lab that is almost complete in the gear I need to use for a couple more CCNA and CCNP level exams. I have a couple GNS3 setups that I was using as well, which also are good for the next exam. This work is already started or completed, so it would be a shame to waste that effort on my bad memory.
This brings me back to Where Am I At, Where Do I Want To Be, and Where Am I Going? For me, the combinations of certifications I have been working on largely reinforce each other and are relevant to the work tasks at hand. I like the work I am doing. I would be studying and reading regardless of certifications. I’ll add that I’m not just studying the topics for the certs. There are a lot of things that interest me and steal attention from routers and switches. Working on the thing that I can’t stop thinking about is usually the most productive place to center my attention.
There is one thing I would like to add regarding all education, certifications, and advancement, is to go back and review. There is little worse than to work with someone who passed a bunch of tests but struggles to understand an unusual subnet mask or the basics of a routing protocol. The exams are meant to be a demonstration of what we know, not just what we crammed into short term memory long enough to pass. The little details can slip into our subconscious, but the big things should be reinforced so that they are part of our overall understanding of our technical worlds.