I think it first began when I read the book Ender’s Game and the sequels. It’s a science fiction novel with a classic wonder child character who is super intelligent and becomes very successful. I really liked the series and I think it got me thinking that I can also be smart, and maybe I should do something more with my life than playing video games. I always was a fast learner, but I only really studied for 2 years (plus change) at university. Maybe I should continue my studies in some way? I actually did an IQ-test somewhere around this time which strengthened my belief that I could do more.
Even though I studied most of the materials for CCNP RS at school I never got certified. I always believed that I got the knowledge for CCNP so it wasn’t really important to get the certification. But then I thought that it might be a good starting point for my studies, so I decided to actually get my CCNA and CCNP certifications. I quite enjoyed studying again after some years working in the field. I realized that I didn’t really know CCNP that well after all and that I had a lot to learn.
After completing CCNA and CCNP with relative ease, I started thinking about what to do next. A colleague of mine which also did CCNP at the same time was interested in pursuing CCNP SP as a stepping stone towards possibly going for CCIE in the future. I thought it sounded like a good plan, since technologies like MPLS and Multicast which features heavily in the CCIE RS was also on the CCNP SP. In addition you also got to learn about IOS-XR which is a platform we use a lot at my current company. Said and done, and a few months later I was also certified for CCNP SP!
Now it got really interesting, should I really take the big leap and go for CCIE? I never thought I would do it, or at least not this early in my career. There was a lot of hype around SDN and people saying that the CCIE getting outdated and so on, so it was not a clear-cut choice for me. I could also pursue something in the programming realm but there are no well-defined steps to become an expert in that field. I could start becoming an active contributor to some respected project on Github maybe, or become a maintainer for some package in a Linux-distro. I knew I wanted to challenge myself, try something really hard. I eventually decided to go for the CCIE as it’s a very clear and well defined goal. I think the CCIE is still relevant today, but you should really consider why you are going for it. For me it was most importantly as a challenge to myself.
It is true that the CCIE feels old-fashioned when they bring up topics like PPP authentication or QoS-optimizations for T1-links when everyone is talking about the new 32x100G datacenter switches or whatever might be the new cool thing for the day. But the CCIE is still a great way to learn about technologies, and also to learn how to study in a methodical way. Learning how to learn is probably the most important skill in the IT-field.