I’ve seen a bit of lively discussion recently about a topic that has vexed many an engineer for years. It revolves around a select few that put “CCIE Written” as their title on their resume or their LinkedIn account. While they have gone to great lengths to study and take the 100-question multiple choice written qualification exam for the CCIE lab, there is some notion that this test in and of itself grants a title of some sort. While I have yet to interview someone that has this title, others that I talk to said they have. I have been in a situation where some of my co-workers wanted to use that particular designation for me during the period of time when I passed the written but hadn’t yet made it through the lab. I flat out told them “no.”
I understand the the CCIE is a huge undertaking. Even the written qualification exam is a huge commitment of time and energy. The test exists because the CCIE has no formal prerequisite. Back before the CCNA or the CCNP, anyone could go out and attempt the CCIE. However, since lab spots are a finite resource, some method of pre qualification had to be in place to ensure that people wouldn’t just book spot after spot in the hope of passing the lab. The written serves as a barrier to entry that prevents just anyone from grabbing the nearest credit card and booking a lab slot they may have no hope of passing. The written exam is just that, though – a qualification exam. It doesn’t confer a number or a title of any kind. It’s not the end of the journey. It’s the beginning. I think the rise of the number of people trying to use the CCIE written as a certification level comes from the fact that the exam can now be used to recertify any of a number of lower level certifications, including CCxA, CCxP, and almost all the Cisco Qualified Specialist designations. That’s the reason I passed my first CCIE written. At first, I had no real desire to try and get my brains hammered in by the infamous lab. I merely wanted to keep my professional level certifications and my specialist tags without needing to go out and take all those exams over again. However, once I passed the written and saw that I indeed knew more about routing and switching than I anticipated, I started analyzing the possibility of passing the lab. I passed the written twice more before I got my number, both to keep my eligibility for the lab and to keep my other certifications from expiring. Yet, every time someone asked me what my new title was after passing that test I reminded them that it meant nothing more beyond giving me the chance at a lab date.
I’m not mad at people that put “CCIE Written” as their title on a resume. It’s not anger that makes me question their decision. It’s disappointment. I almost feel sorry that people see this as just another milestone that should provide some reward. The reward of the CCIE Written is proving you know enough to go to San Jose or Brussels and not get your teeth kicked in. It doesn’t confer a number or a title or anything other than a date taken and a score that you’ll need to log into the CCIE site every time you want to access your data (yes, even after you pass you still need it). Rather than resting your laurels after you get through it, look at it as a license to accelerate your studies. When someone asks you what your new title is, tell them your lab date. It shows commitment and foresight. Simply telling someone that you’re a CCIE written is most likely going to draw a stare of disdain followed by a very pointed discussion about the difference between a multiple choice exam and a practical lab. Worst case scenario? The person interviewing you has a CCIE and just dismisses you on the spot. Don’t take that chance. The only time the letters “CCIE” should be on your resume is if they are followed by a number.