Monday, August 31, 2009

Recap of Cisco Certified Architect Update

On Thursday I attended a Cisco meeting on the CCDE and Architect certification programs.  There was not a lot of new information offered, so some of this has already been discussed on the blog.



October 2009:  Blueprint available on Cisco Learning Network

November 2009: Application process open on CLN

January 2010: First board review availability

Candidate Application Process

To apply, you need to be an active CCDE.  The next step is to submit a resume, which should demonstrate 10 years of networking experience and some architect/design responsibilities (not necessarily 10 years of these responsibilities).  The candidate also needs to submit a Project Summary for an architect or design project that he/she led.  During Q & A, I asked if there would be a specific format for this.  That hasn’t been determined yet, but I don’t see how the application review team could handle this without a specific format, since we all use unique project documentation.  The resume and project summary will be reviewed, and questions will be developed to be asked during a short (15 minutes?) phone interview.  This will allow the application review team to be certain the candidate is qualified to take the exam.


Test Pre-Work

Assuming the candidate has passed these checkpoints, he/she will submit payment and receive the project documentation / test materials.  The candidate will have a few weeks to develop an RFP-style response, which will consist of a Functional Specification, High-Level Architecture Diagram, an outline of the Board Meeting presentation and a few other documents that I failed to note.   The presentation used during the meeting is not yet available for download, so I can’t look up the missing documents at this time.  This documentation will be submitted in advance of the board review, to allow the board to develop questions based on its contents.


Board Review

The board review is scheduled for six hours.  No mention was made of where it will be, or if Telepresence will be used for the reviews.  There seemed to be a hint or two of using technology during this process, and I believe the initial board is physically located in separate offices, so I’m expecting a Telepresence presence, so to speak.  The timeline for the review is:

1 hour – Present design solution to Executive Team

1 hour – Respond to questions from Design Team

15 minutes – Presented with “What If” change to original architecture challenge

2 hours, 45 minutes – Create solution based on new “What If” requirements

1 hour – Present and defend new solution

Out of the six hours, three hours are spent presenting or defending solutions.


Other Notes

- I don’t believe anyone mentioned when the candidate will receive a pass/fail result, or what sort of feedback is expected.  As a potential candidate, I’d like feedback with either result.  Even successful candidates have room for improvement.  That’s one of the negatives to receiving only a “Pass” result to the CCIE/CCDE exams.

- Someone from Cisco on the call suggested that there would be around 100 successful Cisco Certified Architects in year one.  I’m sure most of the call attendees (and a few of the presenters!) did a double-take at that news.  One of the Q & A questions bluntly asked “If there are 7 current CCDEs, how can you get 100 Architects?”  The response was that the CCDE program is expected to pick up steam over the next year, and many CCDEs are expected to immediately pursue the Architect certification.  I have my doubts.. my guess is 15 in 2010.  I don’t think there have been 100 unique CCDE candidates to date.

- There will be a recertification process, and it will likely consist of contributing to the program via content development or serving on future review boards.  It’s a good strategy, as developing this content will be highly time intensive.  It will not be possible to ramp up this certification program to hundreds of candidates without significantly expanding the certification team.  This should be a cost effective method of accomplishing that.

- I was a bit surprised at the lack of questions from the meeting participants.  Perhaps everything is too new at this point.  I was going to also ask about the expected pass rate, but I doubt they have a target, so it didn’t seem worth the time to me.  The only notable question was about the cost, which I don’t believe was addressed in the presentation.  The $15,000 price tag was confirmed, with some mention of it being comparable to Microsoft’s top-level certification.  I have no knowledge of their programs, so I’ll take the Cisco team at their word on it.

- The presentation is supposed to go up on CLN soon.  It went into nice detail on the Candidate Objectives, so it will be nice to see it on my own time.  That part of the presentation went a bit too fast for me to absorb all the info.  If I had known in advance, I would have taken some screenshots!

- The presentation team went into a bit of detail on the differences between Network Designers and Architects.  Most people I know (including me!) use the terms interchangeably.  The basic point being made was that Network Architects take business requirements and turn them into functional network specifications.  Network Designers take the specifications and create a network.  I don’t know of anyone who functions as an architect without also creating the network design.  I certainly know of engineers who only perform the second step.  So who creates the functional network specifications for them?  In most cases, it isn’t really created.  I have been guilty of this.  I’m told of a business problem that needs to be solved, and almost immediately I fire up dynamips and configure a solution.  I would like to think that intuitively I’ve thought through the architecture and concluded that my solution is the best one, but without explicitly going through the process, I can’t truly know that I am correct.  Over the last year, I have made a point of incorporating architecture/design reviews into my project planning, and asking for more input from project team members.

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