Don’t Drink Too Much of the Kool-Aid
First let me see a show of hands of how many people know what a vendor certification is? … A vendor certification is created by a computer equipment manufacturer, like a Cisco, Juniper Networks or Microsoft to help train their minions to operate their gear and help sell network equipment. Common certifications are MCSE, CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE.
Many aspiring network engineers begin their venture into networking by obtaining a certification from a network equipment manufacturer. Some aspiring network engineers feel that without a certification they can’t become a network engineer. And further, some engineers obsess about certifications so much that they are more concerned about the number of certifications rather than understanding real world networking.
This is called “drinking too much of the kool-aid”. They may know their way around a Cisco but put a redback, juniper, or brocade in front of them and you can see them begin to curl up into a fetal position.
Certifications can help – but they are NOT necessary
There are thousands networking professionals, engineers and architects who don’t have a single vendor certification and are just as good if not better than their certified counterparts. They have learned their trade through real world experience and the application of networking studies.
There are a lot engineers who don’t like certifications. After all learning how one manufacturers equipment works doesn’t really demonstrate that you understand networking concepts. There are plenty of engineers who study the test and pass, but they pass strictly because they study the test.
Another argument against certifications is that they are only used as a tool for interviewing, getting past resume screens and lazy hiring managers who truly can’t judge a good network engineer without a certification.
Its not the end of the world – Its just a piece of paper
A certification can however shortcut your entry into networking, by giving you a venue or guide line to study. The key is to not stop there, but to continue to research, study and learn EVERYTHING about networking.
Zebra is an open source OSPF implementation that allows for dynamic routing to occur with using just a unix server. The fact is, most appliance based routers run on an underlying unix operating system.
Playing and building your own systems like these in your basement, garage, or spare bedroom is a great way to learn networking from a real world perspective. And all of this fun is free, requires only an old pc and doesn’t take a single certification… The best part is that you will be learning networking and that’s what matters!