Where to Go From the CWNE
So, you earned your Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) certification. First off, congrats! It's a big achievement and you should be proud. Throw yourself a little party or treat yourself to a nice dinner. That said, the afterglow doesn't last forever. Here's the big question: Where do you go from here? Let's look at how you can build on your CWNE certification
1. Give Back to the Wireless Community
One of the exemplary parts of the wireless/WLAN community is its easy going nature and how members share information with each other so willingly. Whether a blog, a podcast, twitter posts or a book, there's so much shared knowledge. During your CWNE journey, you had to meet a publication requirement that, in all honesty, intended to prepare you to be able to give back to the community.
A good suggestion for giving back is mentoring another person. As IT pros, we have an obligation to help those who we can. Another idea is to try to get a speaking slot at a conference, and if not that, for sure attending one. They're amazing environments and you'll meet people that otherwise you wouldn't have a chance to otherwise. Speaking at one will be one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of your life.
2. Advance Your Career
There's almost as many reasons for getting a CWNE as there are other certifications. One of the most common reasons I hear is to advance in your career. The CWNE being a "numbered" expert-level certification gives you an excellent and tangible thing to point to in your next negotiation. There are two main mechanisms to using your CWNE to change position or increase your pay: internally and externally.
Internally may be the way for you to go if you've fallen in love with your company, but not your role. That's a plus, things won't change extravagantly, but they will still change. Maybe enough to keep things fresh for you. The hangup here is that it may actually be more difficult for you to have the conversation with your boss than with someone who expects you to be more money-oriented. If you do want to stay you may still need to be a bit more patient.
Looking for a role within your company that means you can use your newly validated expertise. Make it clear that you're wanting to stay and you're not dissatisfied with the company, but want to simply move up, or maybe even laterally to a more specialized position. Think a shift from a network engineer to a wireless SME, or a move from SME to architect as lateral and upward respectively. What you're wanting to avoid is to be seen as someone who is going to rabble-rouse or a risk. Really leverage your qualifications to bring increased value to the current business. You should know what brings in the bucks at your company — and how you can contribute to revenue generation.
If you're more concerned with just a pay raise, looking outside of your company is the way to go. Often within a company, even with new credentials and a great track record 10% can be seen as a huge raise. This is true even between positions. Going outside, however, can net you a raise especially if it involves a title change. The downside is that "job-hopping" can be frowned upon when you're going for one of these roles. This is much more of a concern for the very top jobs than it is for specialists, though.
Meaning if you're going for a network architect job, they're going to look at your rate of changing jobs much more than if you're applying for a consultant or SME position. Both can pay admirably, but you have to know what you're on the lookout for. Luckily for those of us who are more mercenary, managers and HR professionals are lightening up a bit when it comes to this. It's not the 50s anymore and you can't be expected to work at the same company for 20 years, get a watch, and retire. The world simply doesn't work like that any more. The bottom line here is that leaving your company will net you a bigger change than applying internally.
3. Build on Your Newfound Knowledge
While we're big proponents of certifications and career progression, we can all agree that they're not the entirety of your skill set. You can't stop at just that in IT. Let me explain with an analogy. A CWNE # is much like a black belt in most martial arts. A black belt is never said to be the end of your journey, but the beginning of another phase. To quote my martial arts instructor, "I didn't really start learning Jiu-jitsu until my black belt. I was learning how, but not learning what it WAS". He means that up until now he'd been acquiring information, but not really innovating or putting it all together. He may be exaggerating a bit, but the concept is echoed through black belts everywhere.
Now that you've arrived with your CWNE, you may find it's more of a signpost on your journey. You know far more than the basics, but you now realize that there's a much bigger world out there. Some suggestions here would be learning about chip design, or taking a swing at some other of the high-tier certifications to specialize further. Cisco CCIE is one of the most popular here, with some getting multiple. The CWNE is a great certification, but it does mean you still have to learn where all the buttons are; You know what they do, and what's going on inside the box.
4. Begin the IoT Track
CWNP also offers an IoT Track to mirror the one presented by the CWNE – Culminating with an Expert certification. The track consists of the following certifications.
CWISA. The foundational certification for IoT, much like the CWNA, but covering non-Wifi Wireless.
CWICP. The mirror to CWAP, focused on RF and protocol knowledge within the Wireless IoT Space.
CWIIP. A certification focused on the higher OSI layers, coding and integrations.
CWIDP. Designing IoT Networks. Releasing in summer 2021
CWISE. The culminating IoT Certification. The Requirements will be very similar to CWNE after the first 10 CWISEs are awarded.
IoT and alternate wireless PHYs are sneaking up on us and merging with our lives all the time, from the Alexa in your house to a WiHART system in an oil refinery. They're nearly ubiquitous and only spreading more and more. Don't be left behind! If you're here, you're looking for marketable skills, and the format and form factor of this series should be very familiar to you.
A word of warning, however, the subject matter covered by these exams is much, much more broad than it is within the CWNE curriculum. For example, there is only one PHY covered in CWAP. In CWICP, there is (in detail) 8, and many more mentioned.
The bottom line is to keep on getting better post certification. Make sure that you're always learning and trying to improve your wireless networking skills. Do this and you'll have no reason to doubt your place in your organization or in the sector at large.