Category Archives for "Careers"

September 26, 2016

How To Get CCNA Certified And Boost Your Earnings

How To Get CCNA CertifiedThere is no doubt that obtaining CCNA certification is an important first step for anyone aspiring to create a career in IP networking.  In this post I describe how to get CCNA certified and boost your earnings as you climb the ladder.

All it takes is a little planning and commitment.  Commitment is the motivation to keep going after the initial rush of enthusiasm wears off.

When I first passed the CCNA exam in 1999 it was a test that proved a basic understanding of IP networks, subnet addressing, the OSI Reference Model and several other core subjects.  In the years since the CCNA has evolved to reflect the rapid changes in technology and there are now nine different types of CCNA.

Unless you are already certain of your path you will probably choose the CCNA Routing and Switching exam. This is the original CCNA updated for modern times.

Cisco CCNP Study Bundle SWITCH blue

Why get CCNA certified?

Passing the CCNA exam takes effort, time, and expense, so why bother?

The CCNA certification is an industry recognised benchmark.  It demonstrates an appreciation of the fundamentals of IP networking and proves to any prospective employer that you have the necessary knowledge in this area.

Not everyone who passes the CCNA becomes a Network Engineer who configures and troubleshoots Cisco devices on a daily basis.  It is also the certification that opens doors for Network Administrators, Customer Managers, and many other roles.

Obtaining this certification is an assurance to the employer, the company’s customers, and yourself that you have reached a level of understanding that will enable you to do your job.

It gives you an advantage if you’re competing with others for a position.  It is also leverage for a pay rise if you’re already employed.

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How to get CCNA certified

Let’s assume you’ve elected to go down the Routing and Switching route.  There are no prerequisites and you can take the exam whenever you feel ready.

  • Take the 200-125 CCNA exam -Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices: Accelerated (CCNAX)

Alternatively you can take two entry level exams which combine to give you the certification.

How to prepare for the CCNA exams

When I first started studying for the CCNA exam in 1999 there were very few resources available.  Today there are too many to list.  Of course it’s a big advantage to have so many options online but in order to make your exam preparation efficient you should choose one or two resources and stick with them.  Jumping from one to another will only distract you and waste time.

Cisco themselves offer several e-learning options.  There is free content to get you started but to view the full courses and all the videos you will need to pay one-off fees or subscriptions.  It’s high quality training material straight from the people who provide the certification path so you know you’ll be getting the best tuition.

Independent online training is available from companies like INE.com. They have online courses for most Cisco certifications right up to CCIE.  However, I see that another long standing provider has gone out of business.  IP Expert is now offline.

Global Knowledge provide classroom courses all over the UK and in many other countries.

Personally, I find there is nothing better than the tried and trusted method of having a book in my hands.  Let’s assume I was about to take the CCNA Routing and Switching exam again (I last did so in January 2014).

  • Buy the latest CCNA Routing and Switching 200-125 Official Cert Guide Library by Wendell Odom (CCIE #1624) or a similar selection of CiscoPress.com guides. Make sure you’ve chosen the latest edition as they are revised and reprinted as the exam changes.
  • Review the contents and work out a study program
  • Set aside study time each day or at least 2-3 sessions per week
  • Stick to the schedule and establish the routine
  • Review the previous material before going on to the next
  • Repeat until all the material has been covered
  • Answer all the practice test questions
  • Whether your answers are right or wrong make sure you understand the answers before moving on
  • Other Ciscopress books are available.  The Portable Command Guide is worthy supplement to the main study guides.

The above method works if you are renewing your certification or if you already have plenty of experience on Cisco IOS devices but you might be approaching the CCNA exam for the first time with little experience.  In that case you will probably benefit from some training.  I’ve listed a few options above.

You can self-sponsor or you might be able to persuade your employer to pay for a course, either external or online. External courses are the most expensive option.  As well as the course fee there may be accommodation and travel costs as well.  However, there are advantage to classroom study that cannot be obtained from e-learning. Being able to put questions to an instructor and have things explained until you fully understand them is invaluable.

Sitting the CCNA exam

Everybody loves taking an exam, right?  OK, maybe not but there are some ways in which you can reduce the stress levels.

  • Choose a time for your exam that suits you.  I’m a morning person so I always choose exam times that are mid morning or thereabouts.
  • Make sure you know how to find the testing centre and where to park. I once went to a testing centre in an unfamiliar town and spent anxious minutes driving around looking for somewhere to park only to find each car park was full.
  • Allow enough time for your journey, parking, and going through the reception area.  You may have to check in at the front desk, walk across a campus to another building and check in again in the testing centre on another floor.
  • Don’t forget your ID.  To prevent exam fraud you have to prove your identity with some photo ID like a passport or driving licence.
  • Relax.  Practice some deep, abdominal breathing.  You’ve put the hours of study in so you will be able to answer most of the questions.
  • Read the question slowly and read it twice.  I say again, read the question twice.  Like many others I have been caught out by questions that read differently on the second pass.
  • Remember, these are questions about Cisco products and IOS.  There can sometimes be a conflict between what you understand to be the answer and that which Cisco expects you to mark as correct.

How to deal with exam failure

How to deal with exam failure

Exam failure is not the end of the world

I know the feeling. Been there, done that, got several t-shirts.  Over the past 17 years or I’ve taken many Cisco exams.  I don’t like to count how many I’ve failed.  The important thing is that eventually I’ve gone back and taking the exam again and passed it.

That’s true of most of them.  There are a few that I didn’t re-take due to changes in funding, position, and other circumstances.

Failure is disappointing. There is no way of sugar-coating it but as the old saying goes, it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up again that counts.

If you fail your Cisco exam take break from the studies and do something you enjoy.  Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t give up, but take time to relax and have some fun.  Forget about studies for a little while but don’t leave it too long.  Take a short break but not so long that you lose momentum.

When you’re ready, pick up the score sheet and go over the feedback you received.  It will give you some idea of where your knowledge was weak and you will probably know yourself which questions and what subjects you found difficult.

Work on those areas while checking that you are still comfortable with all the other subjects.  Eventually you will feel ready for another attempt at the exam.

Conclusion

Passing the CCNA exam could be the first step in an IT career that lasts decades.  With the evolution of networking technology there’s never been a better time to achieve this goal.

Please share this post with anyone you think might benefit from it and leave your experiences, feedback, and study tips in the comments section below.

Good luck with your exams!

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August 25, 2016

What your LinkedIn profile picture says about you

LinkedIn homepageLinkedIn is a thousand things to a thousand different people.  Perhaps you’ve completed your profile and use it for brief and infrequent messages to former colleagues, or maybe you’re a heavy user preferring it to all the alternatives.  Whatever it does for you there’s no denying that first impressions count, so here’s a few tongue in cheek suggestions of what your Linkedin profile picture says about you.

No Picture

You’re not really serious about this are you?  Failed at the first hurdle.  Sort yourself out and upload a head and shoulders shot.

The Non-Human

Are you a logo?  A building?  Do you have four legs?  The profile is meant to be about you.

The Face in Shade

I can see that you’re a human, aged 20-60, possibly male, but that’s about it.

The Over The Shoulder

Are you David Brent?  This is a business website not recruitment page for TV extras.

The Party Dress

The shot taken of you in that bar in Ibiza holding a half empty Pink Mojito at 2am.  You’re clearly someone who enjoys a night out, but what are you like in the office?

The Other Half

So you cut a picture of the two of you in half and uploaded the bit with you in it.  You now appear to be leaning to one side with a stray hand on your shoulder.

The Webcam DIY

The view of your nostrils with a slight fisheye effect while you frown trying to get the angle right is not a good look.

The ID

To save time you uploaded the same picture that’s on your name badge.  You know, the one taken when you were 123rd to be photographed on a hot day in 2010.

The Oldie

You’ve got one decent picture of yourself but it’s from 2003.  Scrub up and upload something more recent.

The Over-Posed

“Hello, my name is Larry.  Larry Lovemyself.”

The Pilot

Q: “If you’re in a crowded room, how do you tell which one is the pilot?”
A: “Just wait. He’ll let you know soon enough.”

The Décolletage

Yes, your cleavage can attract attention, but probably not the sort you might want on LinkedIn.  Try Tinder.

Have you seen other examples that made you wonder?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

August 15, 2015

Why You Should Learn To Fly (And Start Today)

learn to fly

learn to flyIn July 2015 the aerospace giant Boeing predicted that the world would need 558,000 new pilots during the next twenty years.  If this forecast for half a million pilots jobs is correct (and they should know, being Boeing) then there has never been a better time to learn to fly.  If you start soon and work your way along the path to a career in the airlines then you should be ready to catch this wave of opportunity as it gathers momentum over the next few years.

Learning To Fly

If you have no flying experience at all then the idea of one day being the pilot of an airliner and  responsible for the safe take-off, flight, and landing of a multi million pound aircraft, along with its passengers, crew, or cargo, may see nothing but a dream, but like all such ambitions they can be realised with the right amount of concentration, perseverance, money, and sacrifice.

At the very start of your journey into aviation you’re going to have a lot of fun and excitement as you learn to fly.  The milestones are many and come in quick succession; first solo, first solo navigation, first land away etc and within a few months you will become one of the privileged holders of a Private Pilots Licence.  This licence will entitle you to fly specific aircraft within the limits of the type of licence you have elected to obtain.

At this point the path for some pilots diverts into recreational flying and that journey can last for years.  For the lucky few it can last a lifetime and some pilots continue to fly into their eighth and even their ninth decades, but for those whose aspirations are firmly fixed within the world of civil aviation then the achievement of the PPL marks only the end of first stage of training.

From there they must move quickly on to twin engine ratings, a Commercial Pilots Licence, and Instrument Rating, and onward towards an ATPL (Air Transport Pilots Licence).

As you can imagine, all this training takes a lot of concentration and application. It also demands a lot of sacrifice.  If you take this path you will probably drastically reduce (and perhaps cut out altogether) nights out, holidays, nice cars, new clothes, and all the other things that working people spend their money on.

Obviously, if money is not a problem for you then this won’t be the case, but for most student pilots it is not uncommon for them to reach the end of their training in debt to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds and it is only the promise of a long career in the airlines, with increments of salary as they gain experience and seniority, and ending with a good pension, that gives them the confidence to continue with their goals.

Flight Training

learn to fly microlights Learning to fly isn’t cheap.  Yes, it can be done on a budget but since this post is about the airline career path it would probably be a false economy to learn to fly microlights or some of the other smaller, lighter aircraft.

The number of flying schools offering flight training varies from place to place and in quality.  You should try a few of those closest to you before committing to spending all your money in one place, and even if you find what seems to be the rights flying school don’t feel you have to stick to the same instructor.

It’s vitally important that you get the best flight training from the outset and that you have a comfortable and enjoyable relationship with your Flying Instructor.

If you’re in your teens or twenties with a mature and focused attitude to study and training, if  you’re the sort of person who looks skywards whenever you hear the sound of an aero engine, if you dream of flying and seeing the world above the clouds then perhaps you should delay no longer and start planning your career in the airlines over the coming decades.