The Road Best Traveled
With so many roads to choose from, which certification path should you follow?
I have an MCSE (4.0) and just
attained my CCNA (2.0). My ultimate desired
Cisco path is CCIE; on the way, I’ll be working
on my CCNP. I have two years’ experience with
NT 4.0 and am gaining experience with Windows
2000. Is it worth it for me to recertify my
MCSE or should I just forge ahead with Cisco?
Recertifying my MCSE will take me off the Cisco
track for almost a year, whereas, I could already
have my CCNP by then. But some have told me
that keeping the MCSE current is an important
— Ron Devito, MCSE, CCNA
Staten Island, New York
Crandall says: Ron, I must say that
I agree with everything that Greg says. It appears
you’ve given some thought to your future and that
your path takes you along the OSI model instead
of through Active Directory. Why would you then
take a year’s detour and pursue something that
has marginal benefit for you? In your case, you
really need to take a hard look at the return
on investment of your time and money—I think you’ll
see that you’ll get a better payback with the
Cisco, kid. (I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited
to write that!)
But this applies to you because
you want to be a network engineer and you’ve already
started your Cisco training. Let me, for a moment,
take a look at the case of someone who’s just
starting out, trying to decide which path to take.
This is a major career decision, so take your
time. Get a sheet of paper and list all the reasons
for and against MCSE certification and do the
same for the Cisco certification. Do this as objectively
as you can—looking at training costs, number of
job openings, starting salary and any other factors.
When you’re done with your list,
see if you can come up with a rational decision.
Objectively and rationally, which is the better
Now, once you’ve completed this exercise,
take that piece of paper, tear it into little
bits and throw it away. Why? Because happiness
and satisfaction on the job are not rational.
What you need to do now is visualize—take some
quiet time and picture yourself doing that job.
If you’re not sure what the actual job entails,
find someone who does the job you think you want
and talk to them. If you don’t know anyone, find
a local users group and go to a meeting. Point
is: if you’re not satisfied and challenged by
your job, you’ll have spent all that training
time preparing for misery.
“Follow the money” is a classic line
from “All the President’s Men.” Well, when you’re
thinking about a career, that’s only partly true.
Yeah, you want a good-paying job in a growing
industry, but you also want a job for which the
commute isn’t torture because you really don’t
want to be there. Balance what you want and what
Also, try to figure out if the jobs
will be there when you finish. When I started
college, a lot of my friends went into accounting
because, at the time, there was a shortage of
accountants and there were plenty of well-paying
job openings. They really didn’t want to be accountants,
but they were told that was where the money was.
Unfortunately, by the time they graduated, the
shortage was over and some of them had a hard
time finding a job. Take it from a historian:
Yes, I know, I’ve seen the forecasts
of dire shortages of IT workers well into this
century. But I also get plenty of e-mail each
month from qualified people who are having difficulty
finding those jobs. How many MCSEs can the industry
support? How many Cisco CCN-whatevers? Remember
the cycle: the certification is announced; at
first, certified people are scarce; because of
that scarcity, they command more money; the higher
salaries attract more people to get certified;
soon we have thousands of certified people; certifications
become a commodity to employers; the higher salaries
are trimmed back down—the classic supply and demand
Go with what you want to do and become
very, very good at it—hard work, dedication and
excellence never go out of style.
OK, enough of the sermon—back to
Ron. One piece of practical advice: Because you
have your NT 4.0 MCSE, you’re entitled to one
free shot at the Accelerated Exam until the end
of this year. Don’t divert a lot of time and energy
away from your Cisco goal, but you might want
to pick up a self-study guide for the exam and
spend some time in the lab with Win2K. For a relatively
small investment, you just might pass it—then
you’re that much closer to re-certification. As
Greg says, keep your MCP status—it just might
come in handy!
Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology
at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.