Congratulations to Chris Martin, CCIE# 34310, according to IPExpert’s Successful Candidates page. Thanks to Windows Calculator and my non-binary math skills, that means we’ve had 5,000 new numbers since my pass back in June. That’s not counting the repeat passes that keep the same number. The new numbers have been skyrocketing in the last 3 months, shooting up over 2,000 since Blake Krone passed his lab at the end of October.
I’ve heard a lot of interesting theories in the past couple of weeks about why the numbers are shooting up so quickly. Some attribute it to the official Cisco 360 training program churning out candidates left and right. There are also those that believe there is something hinkey is going on with the numbering scheme. Is Cisco pre-allocating numbers to each lab seat every day and then discarding them if the lab isn’t passed? Are they counting by even numbers now? Is the numbering now logarithmic? Add in the recent troubles that Marc La Porte has had with Cisco and his unofficial CCIE Hall of Fame Webpage and the conspiracy theories started spreading like wildfire. Why is Cisco trying to take down the page? Are they trying to hide something?
After listening to all the theories and rumors and some of the more outlandish theories that I didn’t even bother to put down, I keep thinking back to a conversation that I had with Terry Slattery back at Cisco Live 2011. Being the fanboy that I am, I had a chance to ask Terry what he thought about the CCIE numbers climbing ever so higher. Some of the thoughts he shared with me were rather intriguing and got me to thinking about things in a light that I hadn’t really considered before. With the acceleration of the new numbers being spit out, I think now more than ever that Terry might have been on to something.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that there isn’t anything funny going on with the numbers. Let’s also assume that there isn’t rampant cheating going on, as some have suggested to me. That means that we have a large number of people taking and passing the lab. But we aren’t hearing about them. They don’t have blogs or spend time on Groupstudy or post success stories on LinkedIn. There isn’t any information about them out there. Almost as if they didn’t really have a big presence on the Internet. As if they weren’t really looking to market their skills to others and instead were either already at jobs that required the CCIE or had one lined up and ready to go. Where would such a thing be possible?
Stop and think about it for a minute. According to Cisco, China is seeing explosive growth in networking, everything ranging from power systems to survellience. They’re ramping up and infrastructure that’s going to need to support over a billion people all looking to get connected somehow. China is leading the way in deploying IPv6 internally as a way to alleviate the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. Ask yourself then: Where are they getting all these engineers? How many of your friends and colleagues are flying to China to work on these massive projects? I’m guessing hardly any. Why’s that? Where is the supply coming from to meet this massive demand?
I believe that there are sponsored learning facilities inside China that are essentially functioning like advanced technology vocational technology centers in an effort to train a workforce to go out and assume the roles needed to build and maintain advanced networking and computing infrastructures. That way, they don’t need to sort out all the details of arranging for a large number of visas to allow foreign engineers to come and work for months at a time. They also don’t have to worry about bad press from said foreign engineers coming back home and discussing things like the Internet filtering policies. Instead, they can focus on creating a highly-skilled group of workers to go out and tackle these huge projects. Because these facilities are likely sponsored or run by the government, profit is of less concern than results. And if you have a populace that is willing to clamor toward a job that doesn’t involve manual labor or other undesirable work, you would have a motivated pool of talent to pick from. Taking into account the mind-bending numbers of people available for these jobs, passing even 1,000 extra CCIEs into the global pool is a blip on the radar for China.
One other thing that I’ve mentioned before lends credence to the Chinese CCIE theory in my mind. Remember those dastardly Open Ended Questions that I hated so much? Guess which testing facility instituted the in-person interview process that led to the OEQs before the new troubleshooting section? That’s right, Beijing. I’m not accusing anyone of wrongdoing. But the fact that the OEQ program originated there means they must have had a very high pass rate they were suspect of in the first place. What if the pass rate is still legitimately high even with the new safeguards against impropriety? Since Cisco doesn’t release numbers on pass rate per lab, I guess we’ll never know.
At this rate, we’re looking at seeing CCIE 40,000 before the end of the year. That’s really going to hit home for people if it took almost 3 years to go from 20,000 to 30,000 and then only takes a year to climb up to 40,000. I don’t like to think about the idea that lab cheating is so rampant that Cisco has given up trying to protect the value of the CCIE. Quite the contrary, I’ve heard rumors that the difficulty of the lab is as strong as ever and people are working as hard as they can to get their digits. To me, that says there is a large contingent of people passing the lab and not talking about it, either by their own choice or the choice of someone above them. And since we in the U.S. aren’t seeing the workforce flooded with new CCIEs daily, that must mean those passing are someone other than the U.S. (or Europe). Add in the fact that there aren’t many network rock stars studying Mandarin or watching Ni How Kai-Lan and I am guessing that means that many of our new unknown CCIE brethren are from the Orient. No crazy conspiracies or funny math. Just a group of dedicated people doing their best to make it in the world.