Cake mix, icing, or both?

As I continue to gain experience and traverse the network engineering landscape, I have encountered many types of engineers and the varying  attitudes about certification. I sometimes have an internal struggle about them. (Am I up for the time commitment?) However, the issue for me is not doing certifications, more about when to do them and what they mean in value.

To get an idea of what I mean by when, think about baking a cake. We all know the steps: Gathering ingredients, mixing you dry ingredients, then you wet ingredients, making the cake batter, baking the cake, cooling and then icing the cake. The gathering, mixing and baking takes precision, patience and passion. The cooling and icing is simple, an art, and displays your final product in a intriguing (and tasty!) way.


These look delicious!

As this relates to certifications, my experience is that when I was starting out, getting the CCENT/ CCNA certification was making the cake mix. I wanted to get my foot in the door and get an opportunity to show case what (little) I had learned.  Reading, lab work, and working in study groups were me gathering and mixing the ingredients. Working in the field has given me time to gather experience (baking) that will solidify my learning.

Working on my CCNP is a bit of icing and a bit of making cake. To do the work at the CCNP level, there has to be a mastery of CCNA topics and skills. This mastery has come through experience. This is like putting icing on the finished cake.At the same time, with new skills to learn,  it is again me working to get my foot in the door to more senior level engineering work. (Making cake mix)

In conclusion, network engineering like most careers, there is a circle of learning. In some cases you may need a certification to help you get started with new skills and access to new work (making cake mix) or you will using it to solidify your status as an expert(icing the cake!).

What is your experience? Do you agree? Sound off below.

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