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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 http://www.businessandtheitarchitect.com/?p=45
- 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!