Calling All Network Pros: Obtain Expert Status

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Are you a mid-level networking professional? Are you looking to increase your skills and gain expert status? If so, you are part of an industry trend focused on building up the number of experts available to build out networks.

A recent study by Forrester Consulting shows that the industry is demanding more specialized and expert-level skills of employees. In response, Cisco recently launched the 360 Learning Program for the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching certification.

The first of its kind at Cisco, the program aims “to get experts in the right place at the right time,” said Christine Yoshida, senior manager of product marketing management for Learning@Cisco. “[While] we have previously focused on the associate level [in our certification and learning opportunities], we’re really focusing on the expert level this time and filling that gap around the world.”

The company has decided to switch gears toward experts because it acknowledges that gaps exist at all ability levels, and more work was needed in the expert area. “The ideal candidate [for the 360 program] is someone who is already working at a professional level, or who has their CCNP [Cisco Certified Network Professional] and has been working for a while in their role,” Yoshida said.

The 360 program takes a blended learning approach, said Yoshida, offering a number of modalities to accommodate different learning styles and schedules. These include on-demand classes, searchable lectures, practice labs, timed online assessments and optional instructor-led training.

The program’s most notable strength lies in its use of assessment, said Yoshida. “Pre-assessments and then assessments throughout the program will identify right from the beginning a person’s skill set,” she said.  “It can help individuals or teams who are going through the program track their progress.” It will also identify areas of weakness in which they need more training.

The program also focuses on teaching in-depth skills that learners will be able to apply directly to the field. It is not simply a training program that teaches to the test, Yoshida said.

Cisco ran a successful 360 pilot program in the spring, and those learners earned their CCIE credentials in August. The average learner should complete the 400 hours of instructional material in about six months, Yoshida said.

The program is now available through select Cisco learning partners. In addition, new Cisco Mobile Labs are being developed at locations around the world to give experts who might have been hindered by geography in the past greater access to sit for CCIE exams.

“[The 360 program continues] our theme of trying to get experts in the right place at the right time,” said Yoshida. “It’s going to be a value to businesses because, when businesses send people through this program, they’re going to have people who are experts who are bringing more value to the business, able to solve issues more quickly. And then for [individuals] who go through the program, they’re going to have a very effective program that’s really going to develop their skill set to the expert level.”

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Meagan Polakowski

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