First of all, congratulations to Jonathan Topping, CCIE #30002. He passed back on August 25th, which means that CCIE #30000 passed on the 24th or 25th. That person is still unknown at this time, but the milestone that it represents is pretty impressive.
I chased my CCIE all the way through the 20000’s. From reading Ethan Banks’ first blog at CCIE Candidate as he got his number (20655) all the way up until I got mine just shy of the 30k mark, I’ve been entrenched in the lore of things. 30,000 is a big mark. Sure, CCIE #31025 will be the actual 30,000th person certified, but you can’t ignore the significance of how many people out there have chased their goal and achieved it. Ethan passed his lab in April 2008, and with a little fudging on the math with the pass rates, it took about 3.5 years to get from 20,000 to 30,000. Pretty impressive for what some have considered to be the hardest exam in the industry for a number of years. The rate of passing seems to be accelerating. It fluxuates from about 50 per week up to 150 per week depending on when the test is being taken and whether changes are rumored to be coming down the pipe soon.
There was a time I can remember people saying that anyone with a 5-digit CCIE number was just too green to be of any use in the industry. Those same things were said just after Larry Edie passed to become #20000. I’m sure someone will say that now that we’ve broken through 30,000 as well. It doesn’t matter in the end though. CCIE numbers are like grade point averages. I was worried when I graduated college because my GPA wasn’t as outstanding as those kids that spent every waking minute studying for tests and turning in homework two weeks early. However, on my first interview I wasn’t asked about my GPA. They asked about my experience and what I was capable of. The same is now true of my CCIE. People are impressed with the certification itself, not the number. The number only exists to prove you are who you say you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re #1027 or #31027. The fact is that you’ve all passed the same rigorous test to achieve your goals. Sure, Greg Ferro may have had to study Token Ring and Ethan Banks may have had to study ATM, but we all passed a lab exam with requirements and tasks. I’m sure that the IP tasks on my lab exam will look foreign in 3 years when we’re all running IPv6 and configuring OSPFv3.
Other vendors are starting to see the light, too. Juniper has lab exams for its Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert (JNCIE). Microsoft added practical-type questions to the Server 2008 certification track a while back. Novell took a shot at a practical exam with the first iteration of the Novell Certified Linux Engineer 1.0 exam. I still have nightmares about that jewel. I can see more people starting to look at practical exams at the expert level. I know they are pain to administer and grade. They are difficult to study for and the material has to be refreshed frequently. However, they provide something no written multiple choice test can – experience. I know that someone who has passed the CCIE or the JNCIE can actually sit down and do the things on the test. There’s no multiple guessing or subject board to award a certification. It’s down to merit, plain and simple.
CCIE #40000 will probably be certified in March 2013 if the current passing trends stay stable. Sounds closer than one might think. Milestones come and go, but the aptitude is always there for those that pass. Don’t worry about getting vanity numbers like 31,024 or 31,337. Whatever number you get will be the one 5-digit number you will never forget in your entire life. Don’t fret over getting a number in the 30,000s. You’re still a name after all. The number just comes after it.
If you’d like to lookup some milestone CCIE numbers, I highly recommend Marc La Porte’s CCIE Hall of Fame. He verifies every CCIE number, so the information there is better than anywhere else on the net.