In 2001, I landed a job with Cisco Systems in the UK doing architecture support and then moved to the WAN support team. I was surrounded by around 40 engineers all focused on pretty much the same goal. Passing the coveted Cisco CCIE exam.
I’d get up at 5 am most mornings, went for a run and got into work two hours early to study. I’d study for two hours after work and every weekend. All my holidays for two years were spent at home studying and doing labs.
I booked the lab exam for my first attempt knowing I still wasn’t ready and when the time came I flew to Brussels to take the test. I failed. I got 100% in some areas but in others, I did poorly. I’d made the mistake of doing all my home labs on the same topology, I misread the instructions and wasted an hour configuring OSPF router IDs when there was no need. The guy sitting next to me walked out after three hours saying he had finished. I later found out he’d passed! It was his second attempt, though.
The results came in the next day, and I’d failed of course. I felt dejected, but I knew I didn’t deserve to pass. Then I did something I rarely do. I quit.
There were a few reasons. We were all made redundant, and I started my own company. I found out that I could easily hire CCIEs while I ran the company and did all the sales and marketing. I realised that my passion was entrepreneurism, and I’d been forcing myself down the CCIE path because of the high pay the role offered.
The problem was that by 2005 CCIE pay was on par with that of an experienced CCNP. It just didn’t make sense for me to spend another 12 months doing 5 hours of study per day to prepare for another lab attempt.
So, this brings me to the point of this blog post. Where is your passion? If it isn’t technical, then don’t do technical exams. If I had to go back, I think I’d choose the project management track along with ITIL. I have a good friend who went this route and he ended up travelling internationally and advising company boards of directors on strategy. Really interesting stuff.
In my younger days, I didn’t take the time to think about what I was excited about and what I found interesting and stimulating. I just went along with what I thought I should be doing. I don’t regret all that studying because I ended up doing some consulting and training and, of course, I could work out who the top engineers were to hire.
Where is your passion?