Interview with Liz Burn, Juniper Networks Certification Program Director

Liz Burn interviewed by

Juniper CertificationThe subject of Juniper Networks certifications is becoming more and more popular here on RouterFreak – just check the post You Don’t Need Cisco to be a Great Network Engineer and Junos Genius: your APP for Juniper Networks certifications.

The question many of you have in mind is: why get a Juniper Networks Certification?
Is it time to study JunOS? Is it a smart career move to invest in Juniper?

We asked those questions directly to Liz Burn, Director of Juniper Networks Technical Certification Program!

Below the interview with Liz, enjoy it and please do share it with your friends and colleagues that might be interested.


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Liz Burn!


Liz Burn interviewed by
Liz Burn interviewed by

Hi Liz, it’s a pleasure to have you here on RouterFreak and thanks for your availability. Can you tell us something about you and what you do in Juniper Networks?

Hi Daniel! And thank you for the invitation to talk about one of my favorite topics – Juniper Networks certification!! I have been at Juniper for three years and am responsible for the Juniper Networks technical certification program, as well as our new Junos Genius product and our Learning Bytes program. I am very interested in helping Juniper users acquire knowledge and skills in our products – and ultimately be successful in their careers. I have almost 20 years’ experience in this area, most recently with Juniper and previously at EMC, Sybase and i2 Technologies.


Learning Bytes program? What is that?

Learning Bytes is a GREAT program – with a tremendous response. Over 55,000 views of approximately 94 different topics. Our tag line for Juniper Learning Bytes is “Expand Your Knowledge Bit by Bit” because that is exactly what it is. A Learning Byte is a short (15 minutes or less) explanation and demonstration of specific features and functions of Juniper technologies. All Learning Bytes are written and delivered by Juniper subject matter experts. You can get detailed information and see what is available at the Bytes Program page.


Can you share some numbers about Juniper certifications? How many certified engineers are out there?

Well, we do not like to share the certification numbers because the program is growing so fast that the number I give you today will soon be outdated! I can say that while we are definitely still smaller than the BIG C, Juniper certifications are growing faster, driven by significant demand for a Juniper certification in the marketing place. A recent study conducted by IDC (to be published in January) shows that network engineers and their managers see the Juniper certification as one of the most valuable IT vendor certifications available. And over 98% of those certified would recommend the Juniper certification – based on their own experiences as a Juniper certified engineer.


Is your primary focus growing the number of certifications in the market place?

I can tell you that my focus is definitely growth – but HIGH QUALITY growth.  We follow industry best practices for exam development to ensure high quality and relevant exams.  In addition, we have a very comprehensive exam security policy to protect the value of the credential our candidates work very hard to achieve.  Numbers are definitely important – but only if done in a way to protect the relevance and validity of the credential.


I guess that part of your role is also understanding what certified skills the market is demanding. What are the trends that you saw/see?

This is definitely one of our biggest challenges – and opportunities. The networking industry is changing constantly! The big trend we see out there is the need for programming skills as networks become more automated. I know you have heard a lot about SDN – and Juniper’s leadership position in this next big leap in networking. The new technologies incorporated in SDN will definitely drive a need for new competencies for Network engineers. [ndr: we recently posted an article on What’s SDN about]


A couple of years ago the entry level certification, JNCIA, was a per-product exam. Now it’s focused on JUNOS, reflecting Juniper’s efforts towards a single OS. Did it make it more appealing to engineers?

I would say that JunOS – and what a single OS represents – has made the JNCIA-Junos, as well as the JNCIS/JNCIP and JNCIE exams that use this as a pre-requisite certification, very popular. Hence our growth numbers that I mentioned earlier. The three core JunOS tracks are definitely the fastest growing certifications in our overall JNCP framework.


Most of our readers have a Cisco background. What good arguments can you provide to make them interested in a JunOS certification?

I have a couple of thoughts in that area – but obviously it is all about what will most positively impact your career. In the IDC study I mentioned earlier we learned that 75% of those surveyed carried BOTH a Cisco and Juniper certification. This reflects the fact that most organizations are multi-vendor, meaning a Network Engineer needs to be knowledgeable and experienced in many technologies. So the decision for most is not “either or” but rather “both”. And why Juniper certification? Because 1) Juniper solutions are present in most of the large employers globally with significant market share and 2) relative to the presence of Juniper solutions globally the number of Juniper certified network engineers is still an elite group, meaning a Juniper certification can really help distinguish you above other applicants for a job, promotion, new responsibilities within your company, etc.


What can you recommend to our readers preparing for the JNCIA-JunOS exam?

Wow – SO many options! First I suggest they go to our website and get familiar with the certification framework, learning paths, exam descriptions and resources page.

The most comprehensive self-study offering is our Fast Track program – which you can access from the JNCP website.
The Fast Track program offers free study guides for JNCIA-Junos, as well as JNCIS-ENT, JNCIS-SP and JNCIS-SEC.
In addition, after reviewing the Fast Track materials you can take a practice test, to assess any knowledge gaps. Once you pass the practice test you will receive a 50% discount voucher for your exam!

In addition to Fast Track, you can download the new Junos Genius application from iTunes or Google app stores. This is a fun and engaging flash card app that can help you practice for your exam. More details on Junos Genius are available here. [nrd: Check also our review!]


Juniper recently announced a new certification track focused on advanced troubleshooting. Can you tell us more? Who’s the ideal candidate?

Thanks for asking! We are very excited about this track. The target candidate is anyone performing upper-level technical support. This is an advanced certification – requiring a JNCIP in the core track to be certified. There are three different certifications, based on our three key pillears – JNCSP-SP, JNCSP-ENT and JNCSP-SEC. And unlike our other certifications, these certs require two exams. The first exam is basic troubleshooting (JN0-690 Junos Troubleshooting) and applies to all three tracks. The second exam is track specific (JN0-692 for JNCSP-SP, JN0-694 for JNCSP-ENT and JN0-696 for JNCSP-SEC) and addresses advanced level troubleshooting skills related to those specific areas. Detailed exam descriptions are available on the JNCP website.


How much hands-on experience is required compared to the traditional network engineer track?

For the JNCSP tracks we recommend 3 to 5 years of experience in general networking and several years in troubleshooting/technical support. However, I suggest that each individual review the exam descriptions and take the practice tests to assess their own readiness to attempt the exams.


What are the plans for 2014?

Unfortunately I cannot talk too much about our plans for 2014 as we are still firming those up. However, you will see additional flash card decks offered for the Junos Genius app, new certifications for strategic product releases coming in 2014 and, possibly, the often requested addition of simulations into our exams.


I’m sure that you often get this question: any plan to introduce a design certification? Something specific for network architects that are doing high level design and less involved in low level configurations.

Yes – I get that question all the time. And I often respond the same way – what exactly do you mean by a “design certification”? There are as many opinions about what this is as there are people requesting it!!! That is definitely one of the key components to define. We do review the business requirements for a design certification on a regular basis – asking what are the job role requirements that need to be tested, how is this role changing in today’s environment and what is the market demand for this advanced level certification.


Where can we follow the latest news from the Juniper certification program?

I suggest you follow our Twitter acct – @JuniperCertify. We tweet out all key JNCP announcements, often linking to another good source which is the J-Net Training, Certification and Career forum. In addition to program information there are often very active and lively discussions among the certification audience going on in these social media channels!

You can find a lot of good stuff when you participate – it is how I found your blog after all!


Thanks you so much Liz!


This concludes our interview. I hope you found it as interesting as I do!

As always I’d like to hear from you – do you have any question about Juniper certifications for Liz?



Daniele Besana

Daniele Besana

Daniele is a freelancer consultant with 15 years of experience in network security, customer support, Linux and Salsa. He worked for Juniper Networks in Netherlands, providing support and consultancy on security projects across Europe and Middle-East.

What do you think about this article?

One comment

  1. All good, and I have some Juniper Certifications, HOWEVER, there is a dirth of 1. GNS3-type “home” training tools 2. NO meetups/groups/associations for new Juniper engineers to be able to socialize and expand the knowledge. Really, Everyone is a Cisco engineer, and the general availability for Juniper knowledge—even CBTNuggets-type training is way way below that for Cisco–and I am a Cisco Certified person too.


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