Certifications / Cisco

Life After CCNA Q&A with Keith Barker

by Team Nuggets
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Published on September 8, 2014

People loved our recent webinar, "Life After CCNA," with trainer Keith Barker!  Participant questions came flooding in, but Keith didn't have time to get to every one. So we asked him to address some of the questions he didn't have time for at the event — read on for his answers.

What is your opinion on vendor-specific training vs. broadening your knowledge across vendors? I would focus on the "vendor specific training" that is in demand where you currently work. Within each of the vendor's training will be some aspects that don't really apply while others do, including area that apply regardless of which vendor is being used. I would find a technology that is in demand as well as one that you enjoy and become good at it. For example, I am certified by Cisco, Check Point, Juniper and Palo Alto and more important than the certs, I have hands on knowledge of how to implement, monitor, and troubleshoot those environments. The reality is that the employer is going to want a technician/engineer who can provide value to the company, regardless of what technology is currently in place.

How do you balance work and striving to learn with the home and family? What are some good ways to separate out work and personal time? While at work, I really work. Avoid wasteful activities and focus on objectives you want to accomplish. Regarding studying, there really isn't a shortcut besides allocating time to learn and practice. I would recommend setting small chunks of time aside like 1 to 2 hours, which specific goals of what you want to accomplish during that study time. When the time is up, leave the computer and spend time with your family. When you do spend time with your family, leave the phone in the other room and really enjoy the time you do have together.

Is there an age factor in pursuing an IT career? How old is too old? If you can still provide value, and still learn, you are not too old. Learning new things and assisting others assists me in feeling younger than my years. I turned 50 in March 2014. 

I have been studying for my CCNA, I have a hard time with the test. I work in the field and know a lot of the beginnings, but when the question comes on the test I completely drop my train of thought. Any suggestions on taking the test that seems too daunting at times? For ICND1 and ICND2, check out the Exam Walkthroughs from myself and Anthony Sequeira. That will assist in showing the logic and methods we use when going through an exam. If you are not yet a subscriber, try a free 7 day trial and you can watch the videos there.

What do you recommend for a newbie who just got a CCNA and has a new job as a network engineer? Are there any sites that give examples to work on GNS3 or packet tracer? Or do we just come up with problems to solve? There are tons of them out there, including this link: https://www.gns3vault.com/labs

I have a master's degree in Internetworking along with a CCNA RS and CCNA Security. I've been working as Service Desk Analyst for the past 3 years. Would you suggest I get another advanced degree so that I may get a grad role (considering I graduated in 2009)? I want to get into Security field [Cisco]. Would not want to do any higher-level certifications until I get started working in networking field. Unfortunately there are no roles in networking in my current workplace. I don't feel that the time and effort of getting another master's degree would be a good return on investment in order to get into Cisco networking. You may want to look and see what jobs are available in your geographic area, and then focus on getting the skills they are looking for regarding those positions.

From an employer's standpoint, does having a CCNP hold much water without having experience? CCNP is better than no CCNP, and experience is better than no experience.

So you recommend doing CCENT->CCNA->CCNP, then specialization of choice? Yes, CCNP Routing and Switching first, then move on to the specialization or other vendor that is most relevant to you.

Any advice for finding an entry-level job for someone fresh out of college with entry-level certifications, but no production/enterprise experience? Volunteer, and build your own practice lab and use it several times a week to keep current.

How important is it to know the history, to understand the current technology?

There is a lot of history, and many times we do things similar to the past, but for a new person, don't even worry about the past, just focus on the current technology and how it works today, and you will be fine without the history lessons.

Are there any recommended netsimulators we can practice on (aside from the CTN videos)? I recommend using GNS3 for the routing and/or purchasing a small amount of routers and switches for a physical home lab. 

Are there any options out there for hands-on labs while studying for the Data Center track?

INE and IPexpert have some offerings, but I haven't used them so I can't comment on their content. Gigavelocity may also have some rack space available for Data Center.

I am done with my CCNA R&S, do you know any certification regarding optical networks linked with Cisco?  I am not familiar with any Cisco certs focused on optical.

I'm taking my CCNA R&S in December, but hope to have my CCIE Security within the next 3 years. Is there any room in networking in the Indianapolis area? Also I'm moving to Santa Clara, CA, within the next 4 years. What's the chance in getting a job with Cisco with a CCNP Security? I don't have any inside knowledge on specific markets or companies. You may want to monitor services like Monster or Dice to see what is in demand in which areas.

When will CBT Nuggets update their videos for the updated CCNP? Those are being worked on now, and will likely be done by the first of the year.

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