CCDE: One year later

I got my CCDE a little over a year ago and since then I have had quite a few people ask me about it. I wanted to lay out my experiences after attaining the CCDE, what I do as a CCDE and my thoughts on the future of Cisco’s CCDE/CCAr program.

Facts about the CCDE:

  1. The CCDE is a MUST HAVE certification. Whether you work with/for Cisco, VARs and other networking OEMs in a highly technical capacity, this one is worth all the effort.
  2. There is no demand for the CCDE. What is interesting about #1 is that to date little to no jobs are requesting/requiring it. This includes the OEMs and VARs!
  3. CCDE notoriety is slow growing. When the CCIE first came out it was the same thing, but the fact still remains that recruiters not working for an OEM or VAR do not know what the CCDE is.
  4. The CCDE naturally moves you closer toward the business side of things and moves you away from the engineering and implementation world. Now this does not apply to everyone by any means, but it is a reality. I wrote a article about it
  5. The CCDE certification is better than a CCIE certification. Wait what!? Yes, you read that line correctly. While this is a topic many would debate, I would ask that you listen to folks like Russ White, Alvaro Retana, and John Cavanaugh on the subject. So why is it better? Because design, architecture and business are constants. These three topics are the core of the CCDE/CCAr and most importantly, the real world of IT as it changes rapidly. While the six CCIE tracks have a very important role in the industry, they will always be based on a ever changing blueprint heavily focused on Cisco products and proprietary solutions. Look at the CCIE Storage vs DCv1 vs DCv2 or CCIE Voice vs Collaboration or CCIE SECv4 vs SECv5 ect.


What I do as a CCDE:

This one always comes as a shock when I talk to people about what I do as a CCDE. I spend most of my time managing programs, projects and engineers, talking to them about their field, researching and preparing briefings for execs. In general this entails painting them a picture and telling them a story of a company they could be; using presentations, technology roadmaps, architecture frameworks, business impact analysis(BIA), risk managment analysis and tons of stats, finacials and forecasts. The primary goal of the CCDE/CCAr is to make the business vision a reality. Technology is just the thing that you have to integrate into the business to make it more money. Now this is the part where you say “Wait, I thought that was what my CTO and/or CIO do?” Most of the time they are the execs/c-level customer audience I am briefing (sometimes directors too) and in my case within my company, they are also both my direct bosses. For me and most of my colleagues this is true, your are the right hand and trusted advisor to the CTO/CIO.


Future of the CCDE/CCAr:

This topic is VERY near and dear to my heart and to be honest, I am a little worried about the future of the program unless Cisco makes some much needed changes. The very first change Cisco needs to make is a better marketing campaign. The CCDE/CCAr is scarcely known in the IT world (Cisco, VARs and networking OEMs excluded). They are doing a great job of promoting it internal to Cisco which is always the first step however, they have done little to motivate the VARs(which is the second step). Cisco does not currently provide special incentives to their Gold partners for having CCDE/CCAr personnel on staff. The CCDE can fill an Architecture Systems Engineer position in a few of the specializations and the CCAr can fill NONE. Yes thats right, the highest Cisco certification is not even mentioned and that is a huge RED FLAG about the future! My recommendation is to start by giving Gold partners a extra X% off for having a CCDE and another X% if they have a CCAr (the two %s combine if your a CCAr). This will help drive the initial demand within VARs. Later down the road they will need to mandate that every GOLD partner retain one CCDE. So that is four CCIEs and one CCDE. For those Cisco Partners who hold Multi national and/or Global certifications, they should be required to have one CCAr per each given Cisco GEO territory.

The primary reason I got the CCDE was so I could attain the CCAr, and that future looks very bleak for all CCDEs. Besides the above mentioned issues it gets far worse than most CCDEs know. This year (2016) I could not apply or attend the CCAr board because Cisco could not get the board members together at all! I submitted all my requests, pleads and complaints on the matter but to date there is no resolution. This included making myself available year round to fly to any Cisco Live or other Cisco event/location and have the board convene there. After that didn’t work out, I requested that the board convene via video teleconference which was denied. The CCAr failing is the first step to the CCDE failing, and this is why all CCDEs should be emailing their Cisco rep demanding a change ASAP!


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Summer is over!

I haven’t been blogging over the summer due to other priorities, but it is time to pick it back up again!

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Update: Juniper’s Design Track Progress

Juniper has been working very hard on their new design track and I have to say that Janice LaTourette and her team have been doing a great job! With the JNCDS-SEC exam soon to be released and the training course to be completed by the end of the year, this will conclude the specialist level development of their design program. Some of the more interesting rumors are that there may be new complementary training for current Juniper Champions on the horizon and the addition of a Solutions Specialist Design track to the Champion Program. With the professional level development on the roadmap for 2017 there is still no decision on the highly anticipated news of a JNCDE, which is disappointing. One has to ask, why would Juniper Networks invest so much into this new design program and stop short of their main competitor’s design program?


For current news on Juniper’s certification program, follow the link below.


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Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC)

Before the holidays I was asked to write on Cisco’s CCDE blog. Being one of the few CCDEs (if not the only one) working in the US Federal market space, I was happy to bring a different perspective with CSfC as the topic. Below is the link, let me know your thoughts!

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Engineer vs. Architect, Is there a real difference?

I seem to find myself getting pulled into discussions too frequently concerning the topic of the difference between an engineer and an architect. Most organizations only define the distinction based on a pay scale, seniority or both. My witty response to this question, architects handle layer 8 so engineers can focus on layers 1 through 7. To help better illustrate this statement look at the example org chart below(click the photo to see it enlarged). Let’s presume that this org chart is of a large IT reseller. As you look at each position you will see how the focus changes from technical to business. I also included Cisco’s certification track since it’s the most widely known and marries up nicely with the topic. Let’s now go through the org chart bottom up and define the roles and responsibilities of each position.


Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 5.09.24 PM

Delivery Service Engineer: This position is generally an implementations expert in at least one area with 5-7+ years of experience. While there are varying levels of the DSE e.g. Junior, Senior or I, II, III the commonality is that they are all implementations engineers within professional services. They show up to the customer site and execute what the technical solution architects have designed/provided. The senior DSEs will often be technical team leads.

Consulting Systems Engineer: This position is a subject matter expert with 5-7+ years of experience. This position falls under the sales side in the reseller and is the technical advisor to the account manager and their customers. The CSE has reach-back to the technical solutions architects for definitive answers concerning the customer’s questions for a given technology/solution. Depending on the expertise area of the CSE and the technology/solution of interest by the customer, the CSE may present demos to customers.

 Technical Solutions Architect: This position is a subject matter expert in at least one area that heavily focuses on design with 7-10+ years of experience. Normally this is the person coming up with the high and low level designs, build guides and templates that will be handed off to the DSEs. For larger and more complex projects the technical solutions architect will travel on-site, oversee the implementation and serve as the technical lead. Additionally they may travel to a customer’s site to demo a technology/solution. In the event the reseller does not have technical and consulting solutions architect positions, both functions will be handled by solutions architects, possibly with varying levels of seniority.

Principal Consultant: This position is a subject matter expert in at least one area with 10-15+ years of experience that focuses solely on the largest customer accounts within sales. This position is for those very talented and senior consulting systems engineers. In many occasions this person will be briefing the customer’s C-level executives along with the assistance from the consulting solutions architect, who can further technically articulate how their business needs are met with the proposed solutions.

 Consulting Solutions Architect: This position is an expert in IT infrastructure with 15-20+ years of experience. The CSA is the glue that ensures the sales account team’s efforts and the professional service’s technical solutions align for a major account or new lines of revenue from emerging technology. Products produced for customers and/or the principal consultant will include; an IT architecture that maps to business needs, solution architectures to address individual business need specifically, technology roadmaps, and briefings for C-level executives that effectively communicate how the reseller, its solutions and its staff are best equipped to handle their business needs.

In conclusion, while many technical experts will argue that the primary difference between engineer and architect is purely salary and technical experience. I believe that while those both may be true, the real difference is in your understanding of business, how technology can solve the business requirements of your customers and your ability to effectively communicate it to them.


November 2, 2015 · 4:31 pm

Review: Juniper Networks Design Fundamentals (JNDF)

Back in September I received my JNDF course books in the mail and I could not wait to get home and see what Juniper had in store for their first design course. For anyone who is starting out in the field I can assure you, you have no clue where you will end up. Whether you find yourself starting out in presales, professional services, operations or if you happen to be a implementations engineer that wants to get into more than sitting in a cubical knocking out configs and tickets all day, this course is for you. The industry has recently placed a tremendous amount of focus on design and there is a very good reason, money.

It is very expensive for an organization to rollout an ineffective IT design that does not meet their business requirements, and understanding an organization’s business requirements is the corner stone of creating a proper design. Have you ever heard the saying measure twice and cut once? Planning and preparation in a careful and thorough manner before taking action is at the core of design best practice. This course does a great job of walking you through the specifics of the very things I have mentioned, while also providing you with examples in various technologies so that you can see what right looks like.

What to know more? Follow the link below.


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Cisco Announces Design Track Version 3 Updates

I was pleasantly surprised to notice this week that December 14th 2015 will be the last day to take the current CCDA and CCDP exams. A quick look at the Cisco Press store however shows no new CCDAv3 or CCDPv3 publications in the coming soon section. It has been a long time coming for Cisco to get these courses updated with relevant topics of the day. Especially since Cisco’s Design track has become the hottest certification track recently due to the coveted CCDE and CCAr.

While I am on the CCDE topic, a new Cisco Press publication titled, CCDE Study Guide was just released a few days ago. I look forward to reviewing this book to see how it will attempt to guide the reader into thinking like a design expert! Unfortunately, there has been no official announcement on when the CCDE will get its v3 update, so I guess we will all be waiting in suspense for a little while longer.

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Juniper Networks Announces a New Design Track!

On May 27th 2015 the networking industry got the long awaited good news that Juniper will create a new design track. As a Cisco CCDE the first question that popped in my mind was, will Juniper’s design track rival Cisco’s design track, or will it be completely different? I soon found myself daydreaming of being a Juniper Networks Certified Design Expert (JNCDE); Wait, what if Juniper never takes it that far and ends up treating their design track the same as their support track, which only goes up to the professional level?

I couldn’t wait to have the answer I craved. I hastefully typed up an email to my Juniper Rep. and pleaded for any inside info on if/when a JNCDE would be decided on. The answer I received was “We haven’t decided on a JNDE level yet and are currently focusing on the development of the JNDS courses.” My frantic excitement to open and read the response turned to disappointment. As I walked out of my office to get something to drink I thought, hey its still possible! and my mind was back to daydreaming of what challenges the JNCDE could bring.

If you would like to see the Juniper Networks Certification Program Framework follow the link below.

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Getting this blog up and running

I am just getting this blog up and running and plan to start adding content no later than November. In the mean time, I will be drafting up a few posts and focusing on my pursuit of IT knowledge.


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