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Does anyone remember the MCSE crazy back in the late 90’s? In Western NY we had a company called Ikon that promoted “Tech 2000.” The cost was $10k and they offered you the promised land after they taught you and helped you pass all your MCSE exams in either NT 4.0 or 2000. Now I remember the MCSE being the big thing back then until these training companies where helping push out MCSE’s non stop for a few years. Now in the end the training company was really the only people that made any money off of this. Most of the people I know that did this ended up either bankrupt or back in college ;).

Now my concern is that our present day CCIE training companies are starting to do the same thing. Companies are offering 12 day lab bootcamps now for 10k. Everyone else is pushing new end-to-end programs for some big bucks. Is anyone else concerned about the CCIE label? Am I just paranoid from the MSCE craze? With the CCIE being a tough lab exam make sure it never suffers the same fate?


9 Responses to “I have a question for the ten readers I have here ;)…”

  1. Ethan Banks on May 16th, 2008 8:32 am

    I was a participant in the MCSE craze of the last 90’s. I became and NT4.0 MCSE while the craze was on the rise. My company at the time bought a set of VHS training videos. I watched them, studied hard, and passed all 6 tests.

    In the following 2 years, I watched my MCSE become progressively de-valued as the braindump sites grew and thousands upon thousands of MCSE’s who couldn’t properly perform “must know” tasks like name resolution using DNS and WINS, backup domain controller promotion, redundant DHCP, etc. were flooding the market with their resumes. As a tech services manager at a small SMB integrator, I even hired one of these guys. Great resume and references, interviewed well, hopeless in the field – unsure of himself, confused about what certain technologies really did, always over the time budget for engineering projects. Why? “Paper MCSE Syndrome”. The cert was next to useless. I needed another MCSE on staff because of our Microsoft partnership, but sadly, his MCSE status didn’t guarantee the success of our customers.

    Can that same sort of thing happen with the CCIE certification, particularly the routing and switching track (by far the most popular)? Certainly passing the CCIE written qualification exam is no great achievement anymore. One can go do pass4sure.com and download the entire 350-001 v3 question set for $99. Memorize the answers, and it’s conceivable that you’ll pass the written, just as ignorant as you were before stepping into the exam room.

    The CCIE lab can’t be passed in that way, however. There is no one “lab exam” that candidates are up against. There is no single course of study to follow. Cisco’s blueprint requirements are broad, implying a deep knowledge of many complicated topics. The lab exam scoring is challenging, requiring a minimum score of 80 points earned. Those 80 points come in the form of long, multi-task questions, where it’s “all-or-nothing”. You must correctly perform every component of the multi-task question to earn the assigned points. Some of the lab exam points are awarded for obscure, tucked-away tasks that most engineers, even experienced ones, have never seen, and possibly have never even heard of.

    A vendor that offers a $10K bootcamp to make you a CCIE isn’t offering quite exactly that – not really. With the possible rare exception, no one can walk into a CCIE-level bootcamp cold, walk out 2 weeks later, and ace the lab. There’s too much to know and practice to truly grasp what’s going on such that you can apply the technology correctly in the lab. I don’t think any vendor would make the promise of CCIE success after 2 weeks with them.

    I will concede that some insufficiently experienced engineers will become CCIEs with the help of an end-to-end program. However, I don’t think that will become the general rule. My opinion is that the lab exam is too difficult to fake. If you pass, you earned it. When I took my lab exam, at least 3 candidates told me they were making their 3rd attempt in their particular track. All were experienced engineers working for large enterprises or large Cisco partners.

  2. Carl Yost Jr. on May 16th, 2008 8:48 am

    Thanks for the reply Ethan! I will be honest that fear has been slowing me down the last few months amongst other things. That fear alone though becomes a morale killer for me.

  3. Ethan Banks on May 16th, 2008 10:07 am

    I understand the fear. I went through the same feelings off and on, all the more as my lab date approached.

    I’ve been a bit scatter-brained since passing the lab, but I will be blogging my idea of a CCIE R&S course syllabus that I hope will help people to overcome their trepidation and soldier on.

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  5. ahenning on May 17th, 2008 1:20 pm

    Its shocking to know how many people use dumps to get to ccnp/ccie written level, I believe that is ‘one’ of the reasons why the lab pass rate is so low.

    That said, I read a post somewhere a few months back that dumps for the lab exist, I thought that the post was quite funny, but recently learned that apparently these exist. Taking the rate of people that are dishonest regarding the theory exams, it would be interesting to know how many use them for the lab. Cisco should re-introduce the two day exam. The fist day is a series of polygraph tests, if you fail these you dont get to come back for day two and banned from the ccie track for life. At the end of the day its up to Cisco to protect the value of the qualification. Their training strategy has a large impact on their overall success.

    I did a search on google a few days for ccie workbook labs from different vendors… what I found took a big chunk out of my motivation level.

  6. Scott Vermillion on May 18th, 2008 5:09 pm

    Well, I prefer to just be honest vs. inspirational in these situations.

    Yes, I remember the MCSE craze days (no, I was not part of it). Do I see *some* parallels to the CCIE? Certainly. Once a certification becomes an industry unto itself, the value of holding will inevitably begin to diminish. Will the CCIE ever become as worthless as the MCSE of old? I sure hope not.

    My personal main concern is Cisco’s apparent obsession with the CCDE. Many public comments from within Cisco’s certification team seem to suggest that they now regard CCIEs as mere router jocks and that the true experts will be the CCDEs. As a design guy, that appeals to me on some level. But as someone who just sunk a huge $$$$ figure into a CCIE (after finally surrendering to the “reality” that no expert-level design track was forthcoming (LOL)), I’m concerned. I have zero intention of taking another six or seven months of my life off to pursue another major cert. And in looking at the CCDE blueprint, twice that number of months might be the better estimation!

    So yes, the CCIE can and, IMHO, almost inevitably will experience a devaluation based on many factors. For example, people renting their numbers out to partners drives down salaries (if I’m a partner, why hire a CCIE at six figures if I can just rent the numbers I need for one or two thousand dollars per month…and if I’m not a partner…well…if those who are no longer find it necessary to pay those kind of salaries, then why should I?!). And if the number of active CCIEs in the world reaches 100,000 in the coming years, then what’s all the fuss about at that point? Don’t laugh – there have already been around 1,000 new numbers since I earned mine in just February and even that doesn’t come close to what I understand Cisco’s internal (read: unpublished) goal to be for such a span of time!

    But should any of this dissuade you, personally, Carl? I think not. You’ve already made the financial investment. You’ve already laid the foundation you need in order to pass. You just have to find a way to strike that balance you seek and you’re there! And at least for now, there are still rewards to be had for earning a number…

  7. Eman on May 18th, 2008 7:39 pm

    Wow I cannot believe anyone would compare a Microsoft cert to the CCIE certification. The CCNA maybe but not the CCIE. The fact is no company get’s the credits from a certification as a VAR that Cisco partners do. The motivation is based upon levels of partnership and discounts for the VAR with the most CCIEs. Even though the numbers awarded now are approaching 21,000 there still only remains about 16,000 active CCIEs. As for the CCDE it does not compare to CCIE Voice or CCIE Security yet as far as demand goes. Even CCIEs who do pre-sales are in higher demand right now. The only real degradation in the cert came when the lab was reduced from a 2 day grilling to only 8 hours. I met with lab proctors in Brussels and RTP and asked about this very concern. The feeling is it was made easier but the washout rate remains high. The record is 20 attempts without passing. I would like to know what you guys think about retention and salaries though. What do you think about the salaries for CCIEs remaining flat for so long?

  8. Scott Vermillion on May 22nd, 2008 10:46 am


    In respsonse and in answer to your entire post, let me just say that I was contacted by a new CCIE last night with a number in the 20,900+ range. My number, 19953, was issued just over three months ago! So less than 20,000 CCIEs in the entire history of the program going into Februrary and now 1,000 more in three months. So 4,000/year and climbing. Don’t be surprised to see a doubling of even that number.

    So don’t worry about CCIE salaries remaining flat for so long — they’ll be headed down soon!


    But in truth I actually expect a tapering off at some not-too-distant point. To be sure there are many who are in it stictly for the money, and their flow will ebb when the increased supply eases demand. At that point, chasing the CCIE will be strictly the domain of those in search of a little professional self-respect. And that won’t be such a bad thing…

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