Home > Articles > Certification > Cisco Certification

Twitter, CCNA Wireless, and Attempting the CCIE Routing & Switching Program in 90 Days: An Interview with Brandon Carroll

  • Print
  • + Share This
Linda Leung and Brandon Carroll discuss job prospects for Cisco certified engineers, Cisco's imminent unveiling of the CCNP Wireless program, why IT pros should Tweet, and his next goal of doing the CCIE Routing & Switching program in 90 days.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

If you're a Cisco certified network engineer or studying for a certification and are active in the social networking world, you'll either already be following the Tweets of Brandon Carroll or follow his Cisco Study blog. A prolific writer, he authored Cisco Access Control Security: AAA Administration Services, CCSP SND Quick Reference, and the CCNA Wireless Official Exam Certification Guide. Brandon is a course instructor with Ascolta and teaches most of the routing and switching, and security courses that are delivered out of Ascolta's Bellevue, Wash. office.

A CCNA, CCNP, and CCSP, Brandon in March, on a Friday the 13th, passed his CCIE Security lab exam and is now CCIE No. 23837.

I chatted with Brandon about job prospects for Cisco certified engineers, Cisco's imminent unveiling of the CCNP Wireless program, why IT pros should Tweet, and his next goal of doing the CCIE Routing & Switching program in 90 days.

Linda Leung: First, many congratulations on passing the CCIE Security Lab Exam on March 13, 2009. In May you announced that you're attempting to do the CCIE Routing & Switching certification program in 90 days using nothing by IPexpert products and Cisco documentation. How is that coming along? What surprises — good or bad — have you come across that you were not expecting?

Brandon Carroll: What I found is that I am in way over my head. It's interesting how you can look at a certification from the outside and think that it's going to be pretty easy, and then once you start to work on it find that it's much more difficult. I think that I can certainly do it, but only because of the training I've had in the past related to routing and switching and the fact that, as an instructor at Ascolta, I teach the CCNP track. I don't know if I will make it or not in 90 days, but I'll get there eventually. I need to make sure my family comes first.

LL: How long did it take you to study for the CCIE Security certification, and what was the most challenging part of your study journey and the exam?

BC: I studied for two years for the CCIE Security, but had a fairly strong background in security beforehand. For three years or so prior to that I had been a CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional) and had been teaching various security courses for some time. The most challenging part of studying was probably making sure that I got enough in while holding down a full time job and with a newborn. I know everyone has their own situations, but for me there were times when I was so overwhelmed that I had to walk away for a few days at a time. After a break it seemed that the study time I spent was more meaningful.

LL: Let's talk about Cisco's wireless certifications. Building a home lab is a hot topic among certification candidates, and some say that building a lab for the CCNA Wireless program is potentially more expensive than for other CCNA specializations because you can't get away with using older equipment. You've mentioned in your blog posts that you prefer to rent equipment because you frequently travel. How much money do you recommend candidates put aside for the lab if they buy? What are the pros and cons of renting vs. buying? How much cheaper is it to rent vs. buying?

BC: This is a tough one because the only experience I have with paying for a lab is with the lab I assisted in setting up for Ascolta. That lab was pretty pricey because we decided to go with the Cisco 4400 Series Wireless LAN Controllers so the higher-end classes could use the gear as well. That lab was eight pods, or eight controllers, and you certainly don't need all that for a home lab. However, you do need a controller, AP, client, and so on. Still, with that you will not be able to do any roaming. So it really depends. To tell you the truth, I don't know of anywhere to rent CCNA wireless equipment that is set up outside of what training partners provide. I think they run around $500 a day. This makes an ILT (instructor-led training) class even more valuable, because many times it's the first and only time people will have to see some of the equipment.

LL: Cisco is expected to detail the CCNP Wireless program at Cisco Live. What are you hoping the program will cover?

BC: I've seen the program highlights and I think it's going to be a great program. Certainly site-survey and security will need coverage.

LL: Other trainers say that the CCNA Wireless program is a tough challenge as an associate level certification because it covers leading edge technologies. Do you agree with this, and what does it say about the forthcoming CCNP Wireless program? What are the steps that candidates should take before embarking on the CCNP Wireless program?

BC: The CCNA wireless is very tough, and it's sometimes because people in a data world have a hard time with the RF (radio frequency) terminology and concepts. The leading edge technology is also a factor, but once you understand the fundamentals, the technology will begin to make more sense. But there is no doubt about it: it's hard. What does this say about the CCNP wireless? Hold on to your hats — it's going to be a bumpy ride. You can bet it's not going to be easy.

LL: What are the common mistakes that students make when going through the CCNA Wireless training program and also when taking the exam?

BC: I notice that people focus more on the technology that doesn't matter for the test. They get side-tracked. I notice that people also have a hard time understanding the relationship between an exam and the course that it's based on. For example, if I were to draw a picture, and you were to ask people about that picture, they couldn't explain it based on a different picture. This is what people try to do. They bypass the certified training and go straight to the Cisco documentation and miss the fact that the exam is based on the material in the course. If a course developer explains a technology one way and then the test is written based on that, it could vary slightly from the Cisco documentation. You can't really say that the test is wrong because it may not be based on versions that are used and so on, but this is really a hindrance for those who take things literally.

LL: You specialize in wireless and security. Why did you choose these specializations, and would you recommend this avenue to people interested in a career in IT over other specializations?

BC: I chose security because I knew there was a need for security, and at the time (10 years ago) there wasn't a huge focus on it. After 9/11 security became an even bigger topic and the job market was good. As for the wireless, I just enjoy the technology. When you look at the way networks are today, I can't imagine that people are going to shift focus from wireless and focus more on wired connectivity. I've seen various vendors working on solutions for hi-def TV over wireless, and I think LG has a TV that only has a power cable coming out of the back of it. Wireless technology makes so many things possible, and it's certainly a growing market. As far as recommending anyone get into these types of specializations, I would have to say yes. Mainly because you must set yourself apart in these economic times, and when you can do that in a market that is growing yet lacks certified professionals, I think you are taking a step in the right direction.

LL: The Cisco CCIE exam is notoriously the hardest exam to pass because Cisco sets the bar high for its expert-level certification. But is it healthy to maintain this exclusive club and isn't the high salary associated with CCIEs beyond the reach of the average midsize organization?

BC: I think its great to keep the bar high, and the salary being high is simply a company's investment in quality work. Consider the alternative of paying multiple employees to do the job of one CCIE; factor in the time it takes them to research complex topics and the money spent to bring in contract help, and I think the CCIE salary is more cost effective for a company. Is it out of reach? No.

LL: On the other hand, Cisco has a Global Talent Acceleration Program to fast-track IT pros in India, Jordan and South Africa to the CCIE-level. Do you think this will result in an overabundance of CCIEs and drive down CCIE salaries?

BC: I think we have seen CCIE salaries decrease over the years anyhow, and I don't think there is an overabundance. If you can pass the test you deserve to be a part of the club. The fact is that it's an extremely difficult exam, and that keeps down the numbers in and of itself.

LL: You are very active in social media. You have your own blog, Brandon Carroll's Cisco Study Blog, have an active Twitter profile, and welcome friends on Facebook. How has social media helped you in your career? Why should IT pros embrace social media and where should they start?

BC: I think that social media has helped me to get more in touch with readers of my books, people who are working on projects similar to mine, and even people who are studying for exams I am working on as well. It gives you such a reach that it's just amazing.

I actually was talking about this at dinner tonight with a few other guys who are on Twitter and who are either working on or are already CCIEs. The comment was made that there is no other forum where you can post a question once and have multiple CCIEs see it and reply, see others reply, and chime in on conversations. It's like a global meeting of the minds — all the time.

As far as others getting started I would recommend a Twitter account — an app for your phone and desktop — and just search for Cisco and follow people who are talking about similar topics. It's hard to get started if you don't follow anyone. Follow @ciscolive, @ciscosystems, and even me, @brandoncarroll. Watch what we are talking about and with whom and follow those people as well. Look for blogs that have a Twitter badge and follow that link to follow that person on Twitter. Also, a number of news networks are starting to advertise that they are posting on Twitter, so watch for those and follow the ones that interest you.

LL: Final question, what will you be doing at Cisco Live?

BC: At Cisco Live I will be jumping into some breakout sessions, hanging out at the Ascolta booth (1040), and speaking at two breakout sessions on the SNAA Cisco Certification exam and training. I'll be going to the tweetup on Monday, the CCIE party and author reception on Tuesday, and the customer appreciation event on Wednesday. I'll probably be answering a number of questions, as my wife is attending Cisco Live for the first time as she is preparing for the CCNA exam. I'll also be meeting up with a number of friends I've made via Facebook and Twitter.

Linda Leung is an independent writer and editor in California. Reach her at leungllh@gmail.com.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020