Cisco advice - Career change

Caporegime
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Hi all, I'm wondering if some of you guys can give me a little advice :)

Have just turned 33 and come to a bit of a crunch point in my life & found I want a bit of a career change - Specifically into the realm of Network Engineering. I have a lot of general experience with computers (and an HND from my previous life) so I know my way around a keyboard/hardware as such. I do realise this might not count for much in such a specific role but I'm guessing it can't hurt ;)

Have found that a Cisco CCNA is probably the best start-off point and my local (Staffordshire) Uni run a course Sept-May which I can get on np but I'm eager to start! I was maybe thinking of doing an online CCNA course (or similar) over the next 9 weeks and then try to hop onto the CCNP course that the Uni will also start in Sept (I can spare approx 20-22 hours per week)

Although I've done a search in this forum for Cisco-related stuff & picked-up some bits & bobs I'd appreciate any additional advice you guys experienced with this stuff can give :)

thanks

Si
 
Soldato
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I've been working with Cisco stuff for nearly 7 years, I currently work for VirginMedia (NTL:Telewest) There is a pretty large shortage of young people moving into networking, in our office out of the 10 people in our team only 3 are english. And a lot of current gurus are getting older and retiring leaving quite a largish gap, there are plenty of well paid opportunities.

The problem you're faced with is that the CCNA/CCNP game has been done to death and the bandwagon everyone has jumped on has been literally driven over a cliff a thousand times. The amount of foreigners which have fasttracked the certs by cheating has ruined the reputation to the point of which CCNA and CCxP has become practically worthless. I moderate one of the largest certification forums on the net and some of the people on there are doing entire certs with 4-5 exams in as many days, many of these people really struggle to get jobs as they get interviewed by people like me who tear them to shreds. Many of these people have never even worked in I.T let alone networking and networking has some very very complicated subjects.

Its important not to concentrate on certs, although doing the CCNA would be a pretty good idea and may help you land a position in a junior position or a support role at a smaller company. You will probably be more realistic starting nearer the bottom of the chain and not worrying about salary to start with, 15-18k should be reasonable for a pretty basic 1st line support job, but once you get into it and you get your hands on the technology you can get lots of experience and move jobs pretty quickly. Its much better to have lots of experience as opposed to lots of certs,, we frequently have CVs for people who have things like, "CCNA, CCDA, CCNP,CCSP, CCVP, CCIP" listed on their CV, but they only have a years experience loading IOS onto 800 series routers.
If you get your CCNA the proper way and get a pretty low end job but learn the tech and get your skills up you could within 2 years be on around 25-30k a year and on your way to CCNP and beginning to specialise.

I can tell you that if you know your stuff you won't have trouble getting a job, I know some top recruitment consultants and they're really struggling for people in the big companies. Its just getting to that level in a catch 22 situation. If you don't have experience you won't get a job, but to get a job you need experience - go figure. The best way is to be realistic start from the bottom and work your way up.
 
Associate
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I also work in the Networking area for a business ISP. I know a lot of people in the industry and cisco certs are almost worthless now. I have heard you can do a CCNA in some sixth form schools nowadays.

The key thing is experience. I have no certs but quite a bit experience as I worked for a gobal IP carrier for 5 years before my current role. In both companies the majority of the techies don't have Cisco certs (some did but did not bother to renew them) and I have worked with some of the most renowed people in the industry, Luca Martini for to name one.

It may be difficult but as the previous poster said you will most likely have to start at the bottom or maybe with a company who have a broad product base as your PC skills may be a way into them and once in you can move over to networking dept.
 
Associate
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If you have any specific questions regards the CCNA and CCNP networking classes at Staffs uni please fire away.

I've completed both of the above as part of my Network Engineering degree at the university.

(Currently on Sandwich year working in network admin.)
 
Caporegime
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Thanks V-Spec (R33, yum!), pdw8 & Stu you've all given me food for thought!

Cheers for the advice about Certs esp. Although I'm currently on 25-26k (bonus dependant) I'm not very happy & feel I'll be ok with a short-term loss when/if I take on a junior support position.

I'm thinking instead of 'winging it' with an online course (which let's face it will only teach me what I need to pass only) it might be best for me to either take up a boot-camp style course which has actual Cisco equipment for use (instead of simulators) or to do the Uni course (which has a brand new fully-equipped Cisco lab) which will take longer but will provide me with the hands-on experience I'd need to be able to tackle actual problems & not just to pass an exam ;)

What do you think?

Si
 
Associate
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You really need to take your time with it, if you do a boot camp and get your ccna all you've done is tick the "MUST HAVE THIS TO APPLY" box on your job application forms. I started my CCNA after college and only finished it last year (im 22 now) however a few people at work ask me for help on the course rather than their teacher at uni for a reason..
The trouble with CCNA is that you can actually pass the course by parrot learning the material without having a true understanding for it. I fail to believe anyone new to networking can fully understand things such as ospf vs eigrp after 8 hours on the subject and then remember it 2-3 months later.
Its still 100% worthwhile doing it, but only do it because employers expect it. Its your ticket to get them in a room and show them how capable you really are.
 
Soldato
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Be careful with bootcamps, they're not for everyone.. Very intense and grueling especially if you have no previous experience, many people gain absolutley nothing from bootcamps.

The best way to begin is just to buy a decent CCNA book and read it properly they do some of the transcender tests when you're closer to taking the exam.
 
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How much would you have to pay in order to sit the ccna/ccnp in the evening classes at Staffs?

(As a non student I'm presuming)
 
Caporegime
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if you do a boot camp and get your ccna all you've done is tick the "MUST HAVE THIS TO APPLY" box on your job application forms

Thanks for the advice Rick, that's exactly what I *dont* want - As V-Spec has stated actual learning experience would count for a lot over just 'passing' the exams.

Very intense and grueling especially if you have no previous experience, many people gain absolutley nothing from bootcamps

Thanks for the heads-up, possibly not for me then as I need as good a head-start as I can get. If that means taking the slower (more productive) route then so be it.

How much would you have to pay in order to sit the ccna/ccnp in the evening classes at Staffs?

(As a non student I'm presuming)

Been quoted £1800 by Staffs Uni for the CCNA course, Sept-May
 
Soldato
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pdw8 said:
I have heard you can do a CCNA in some sixth form schools nowadays.

I am doing mine in the sixth form. We have a very nice suit for it doing lots of practicals. We have a large class of 11 with 7 routers, 6 switches, a catalyst and some hubs they found. :o ) Of those 11, 2 (incl. me) are going to continue with it onto CCNP while doing some low end job.
 
Caporegime
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Trifid said:
I am doing mine in the sixth form. We have a very nice suit for it doing lots of practicals. We have a large class of 11 with 7 routers, 6 switches, a catalyst and some hubs they found. :o ) Of those 11, 2 (incl. me) are going to continue with it onto CCNP while doing some low end job.

Nice :cool:

Good luck with it dude :)
 
Caporegime
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V-Spec said:
If you get your CCNA the proper way and get a pretty low end job but learn the tech and get your skills up you could within 2 years be on around 25-30k a year and on your way to CCNP and beginning to specialise.

I can tell you that if you know your stuff you won't have trouble getting a job, I know some top recruitment consultants and they're really struggling for people in the big companies. Its just getting to that level in a catch 22 situation. If you don't have experience you won't get a job, but to get a job you need experience - go figure. The best way is to be realistic start from the bottom and work your way up.

I've done it the "proper" way, worked a year as a desktop support role spending as much time with the comms team as I possibly could, moved company to a more linear IT plane, and spent a lot of my time over the last 2 years working on 3900 series switches, 2600 and 1700 series routers, cisco 501 PIX's and our elderly 6509.

I then took my CCNA and flew through it, yet I can't find ANYWHERE that will take me on (at least remotely locally).

EDIT: Noticed your in S-o-T Jedi. I work for Wedgwood in Barlaston. :)
 
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Soldato
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JediFragger said:
Nice :cool:

Good luck with it dude :)

Thanks, I've got CCNA2 practical final on Friday with the multiple choice test the following week. :) I wasn't happy missing a point on the practice practical I had today. :(
 
Associate
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I've been working on Cisco kit for just over a couple of years now, CCNA is certainly the best place to start, over the last few years Cisco have certainly made it a lot more difficult to obtain (tougher exam) which will hopefully make it a lot more worthwhile to hold. I currently work for a large financial company in the UK, and started out in 2nd Line support, prior to moving into the network arena. I passed my CCNA fairly quickly after moving into the team, and am now an exam away from the NP. As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, the qualifications will help get you in the door to begin getting the real-world experience, which you can then use to move onto the NP/VP/IP type qualifications should you wish.

Price for the course you were looking at doesn't sound to bad, its similar to the price charged by a lot of IT training companies for the 5-day ICND course. My only advice is to query the amount of hands-on lab work you'll get to do, this will help considerably in obtaining the cert and moving into a full-time network role. I'd also suggest heading over to www.ciscopress.com and looking at the CCNA books available, these will give you a good coverage of all the exam topics.

Job wise, it will certainly help to be near a biggish city, as for salary again depends where you are and the company you work for. As a career move, I'd say go for it, there's such a huge amount you can learn, you could easily spend the next 5 years on a continuous learning path. Good luck........
 
Soldato
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im supprised about £1800 for a CCNA course. the Open university charges £585 for the course (but not the certification). that means for £585 you can learn all the cisco basics and get hands on expereince, then all you need to do is go to one of the places that do just the exams for CCNA and not the teaching. as long as the exams themselves are cheaper then £1200 then itll be cheaper then that £1800 place.

the other advantage for the CCNA course at the OU is that you can use it to count towards a degree/diploma if you ever decide in the future to go for one of them.
 
Soldato
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My previous jobs have been very Wintel based support roles. Trying to move more into a pure networking role now. Done a lot of PIX work, and a fair bit of general router/switch work. Got my CCNA and the SNPA and currently studying for my CCNP. Started job hunting on Monday so fingers crossed.

Oh and based in London so should be a fair few to look at (even if i don't get them)
 
Caporegime
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Cheers for the extra info guys :)

Job wise, it will certainly help to be near a biggish city, as for salary again depends where you are and the company you work for.

Fortunately I'm only roughly 50 miles from Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool so looks like I'll have a good selection to choose from to gain the relevant experience. The bad news is the comuting, but I'll just have to suck it up for a couple of years til I move up a step or 2
 
Soldato
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Hmmm, this topic has worried me slightly, Im currently doing a course which should result in me leaving with a CCNA, MCSE, MCSA, MCITP and A+ certs, considering what you're saying about the devaluation of the CCNA, are the Microsoft qualifications still holding water, and from people who are already in the industry (who might have these qualifications), what would you consider the best way to work into the industry with these? Basical job and work up, or try step in slightly higher and then again work up? (Or any other suggestions)
 
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