ZNDP 002 – Honor, Courage, and Commitment…For the CCDE!!

This is the Zigbits Network Design Podcast (ZNDP), Where Zigabytes are faster than Gigabytes. We strive to provide real world context around technology. As always I am Zig your host. You can follow us on twitter @zigbits and on our website at zigbits.tech.

This show is about Honor, Courage, and Commitment in regards to the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) Certification!!  Honor, Courage, and Commitment are core values in my life which were instilled in me at a very young age. These are also the Marine Corps Core Values.  We are going to start out this show by discussing what these Core Values mean to me then we will jump into the CCDE Practical Cancellation and all of the information surrounding it.

Core Values:

What does Honor, Courage, and Commitment mean?

Honor is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers us to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior: to never lie, steal, or cheat; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commits us to act responsibly, be accountable for our actions, fulfill our obligations, and hold others accountable for their actions.

Courage is the mental, moral, and physical strength ingrained in our beings that sees us through the challenges of our live’s and the mastery of our fears, and to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, to lead by example, and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. It is the inner strength that enables a person to take that extra step.

Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication that leads to professionalism. It promotes the highest order of discipline and is the ingredient that instills dedication to maintain our obligations 24 hours a day, our pride, concern for others, and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor.

Throughout today’s show I will be referencing these core values as they play a pivotal role in understanding the perspectives of the events we will talk about.

Announcement regarding the CCDE Cancellation:

By the time this episode is released, I’m sure the general community would have already heard about the recent CCDE Practical Cancellation that occurred around May 3rd – 5th, about a week before the May 11th, 2017 exam date. The cancellation was specifically for the May 11th, 2017 exam date and CCDE Candidates were welcomed and encouraged to schedule for the next date which is August 29th, 2017. Take a look here for all posted CCDE Practical exam dates.

There have been a couple of social media posts from Brent Morris (brenmorr@cisco.com) who is a Security Enforcements Project Manager at Cisco, detailing the situation from a Cisco Perspective. I will post the screenshots of these messages from Brent in the show notes for this episode. I will read through the verbiage in the email message I received from Brent now:

“It appears that due to irregularities found on the delivery of the CCDE(p), Cisco has made the appropriate adjustments. The adjustments are required and have resulted in rescheduling the exam to August 29th 2017. The adjustments will also result in a better testing experience for the customer. Cisco did not make this decision lightly and we apologize for any inconvenience. However, this administration on August 29th will be the same blueprint used from the previous CCDE(p) administrations. All the information currently provided in Cisco’s authorized training materials for the CCDE(p) will provide you with the knowledge needed to pass the August 29th attempt.

Unfortunately, Cisco will not be able to provide any compensation towards your non-refundable travel expenses. We truly understand the inconvenience of this reschedule but it is for the greater good for the CCDE certification and the test taking experience for the customer. Cisco will not be able to provide any additional details on the reason why the May 11th attempt was rescheduled. Good luck on your CCDE(p) exam attempt in August 29th and let me know if you have any additional questions.”

A few days after all of this occurred, I did find out that if your CCDE Qualification Exam expires before the August 29th, 2017 exam date and you were scheduled to take the CCDE Practical Exam on May 11th, 2017, Cisco is allowing you to schedule for the August 29th, 2017 exam date without having to renew your CCDE Qualification Exam.  If anyone didn’t know about this opportunity and the process for it or has not gone through this process yet I highly recommend doing so. You will need to send an email to Brent Morris (brenmorr@cisco.com) and open a Support Case with Certification & Communities Online SupportReminder, you had to have been scheduled for the CCDE Practical Exam on May 11th, 2017 for this to be an option for you.

Why was the CCDE Practical cancelled?

Of course, I should preface this with the fact that Cisco has not officially stated any of these details on record, and I personally do not believe they will but I can go into detail on that in a bit.

This community that I love is generally not stupid. We are a group of highly technical and highly intelligent people. We all can put one and one together to figure this out. Especially with the amount of evidence out there with the slander campaigns and public bashing going on between the different blog forums and social media sites.

In summary, there was a company allegedly selling the CCDE Practical exam scenarios, also known in our world as an exam dump, in a boot camp style training environment. This company was supposedly guaranteeing their students a 100% possibility of passing the CCDE practical exam with this “training” program. I’m not going to name this company here as I do not believe this is right or professional. I’m sure you can easily find it with some simple google foo if you are so inclined.

From what I have seen on social media over the last few weeks, this company’s and their “students” own down fall is their marketing photos, taking pictures of all of their students as they passed the exam(s) and posting them on social media. While this is great for marketing your success, its not very smart if your business plan is based on “stolen” material.

If you go to the Cisco CCIE / CCDE Verification Tool to check on any of these students on their CCDE status, you will find that they no longer have an Active CCDE. From what I can see, it looks like Cisco has revoked their CCDEs! Once again none of this is official just my personal speculation from looking at the Cisco CCIE / CCDE Verifiation Tool.

The different perspectives to think from:

The CCDE Candidate’s Perspective:

Let’s think about this situation from the CCDE Candidate’s perspective, someone that has been working tirelessly for months and maybe years, preparing for the May 11th CCDE practical exam. As anyone else going through this process should know, the CCDE practical exam is only given on specific dates each year, which is very different than its sister exams, the CCIEs, that can be scheduled on any dates that there is availability.

I can only imagine how this must have felt to receive the cancellation email from both Pearson Vue and Cisco just a few days before the exam date. Not only was the exam canceled, no information was given, which could only frustrate the CCDE Candidates more. It is my understanding that the CCDE Exam fee itself was refunded to these CCDE Candidates but any personal expenses such as airfare, hotel stay, and rental cars were not refunded.

What were the initial feelings for the CCDE Candidate?

A ball of emotions is all that really comes to mind. We are talking about a very stressful situation to begin with, and then we add this cancellation to the mix, which most definitely adds anger, rage, frustration, sadness…The list can go on and on. I could see some CCDE Candidates becoming so frustrated by this event that they stop pursing the CCDE Certification all together which is a little sad. I believe this could be a small percentage of the overall population of CCDE Candidates, with some eventually overcoming these initial feelings.

Why won’t Cisco give us more information is probably one of the first questions I would ask if I was in this situation? Let’s take a step back to think about this entire situation from Cisco’s perspective but with Legal, or a Lawsuit, in mind. If Cisco is going through any type of Legal action, there most likely are a number of regulations and guidelines they must follow to protect themselves and divulging any information could potentiality hurt this process. When we bring Legal into the discussion, I think we can start to understand why Cisco can’t explain anything in detail here. Better be safe than sorry!  I would want this company closed and all of the Certifications obtained through the company revoked. Maybe overtime we will see this happen.

What should be the long term feelings for the CCDE Candidate?

I’m hoping that the majority of the CCDE Candidates affected by this cancellation will understand the long term gains here. I personally want to be an expert in everything that I do in life. If people in the community are obtaining an expert level certification in any form but are not themselves an expert, and obtained the certification in any other way but an honorable way then they themselves are lowering the value of the Certification. Maintaining the integrity of a certification and the integrity of oneself is the top priority.

Being an expert needs to mean something, and shouldn’t be status quo for the mass populace.  The journey towards a goal, any goal for that matter, is more important than the goal itself.  Throughout the journey there are going to be changes that will help you towards that goal.  The CCDE Certification is no different in this respect.  This cancellation is just a speed bump for you in your own journey towards achieving the CCDE Certification.  If you think about this whole process in this perspective, you will eventually achieve your goal and will look back on this event like it was nothing in the grand scheme of your journey.

Cisco’s Perspective:

We talk about Business decisions and business requirements in regards to the CCDE; this decision is a great business decision for Cisco.  Hopefully everyone can understand what I just said, hopefully it makes sense.  Let me repeat it one more time…We talk about business decisions and business requirements in regards to the CCDE; this decision is a great business decision for Cisco. When we put it all together, taking everything into perspective, this is all it is at its core.

Cisco wouldn’t make this decision lightly and I personally am glad I didn’t have to make this decision. I can’t even fathom the amount of discussions and meetings that must have taken place for this decision to be agreed upon. My opinion is that Cisco isn’t making any of these decisions in isolation or in a silo, but were fully vetting these decisions with the appropriate parties such as Legal and the key stack-holders in the CCDE program.

This decision by Cisco shows that maintaining the integrity, quality, and credibility of the CCDE Program is the Top priority, or in CCDE terminology it’s the top business requirement. None of us can disagree with that. It’s not our place, just with any business requirement in a CCDE Scenario; we cannot disagree with it or argue it. The CCDE Program is theirs to government and protect as they see fit. We may not like this or the affect it has had on us in whatever perspective we fit in, in this situation.  We have no control over it because it’s not ours to control, its Cisco’s to control. Huge Kudos to Cisco for making this decision, I can only imagine what had to go into making this decision

In the Lifetime of the CCDE Program this cancellation is just going to be a speed bump in the road for the CCDE Certification as a whole.

I believe there are going to be a number of positive effects from this situation.  This is a wakeup call to the industry that Cisco is not going to stand by while something like this is happening.  Longer term, I imagine there are going to be better processes developed, improved content written, and a level of integrity of the certification that is unmatched in this community.

The Boot Camp Company:

I’ve debated what the perspective would be from the owners of the boot camp company and frankly I’m not sure.  Basing your business model on teaching your students actual exam content is just not a sound business model for a long term business.  Eventually you’re going to be caught and then none of this really matters.  Not to mention the ramifications of doing something like this is going to have on your future career outside of your business.  I wonder if the thought ever crossed their minds that following through with something like this would eventually have sever consequence, with the possibility of no longer having any Cisco Certifications, and maybe any other vendor certifications for that matter.  I’m sure the idea of a guaranteed amount of income is what drove the owners to do this but conducting business this way has a shelf life and lasting effects in their career and their students careers.  I sincerely hope the money was worth it for them.

The Boot Camp student:

Part of me wants to feel remorse or empathy for the students of this boot camp company. Maybe it wasn’t their fault, maybe they were unaware that the content that was being taught to them was actual exam content on the exam.  They can also be viewed as the victim.

With that said, I believe there is a black and white line, and when that line is crossed your integrity, courage, and commitment must be brought into question.  While not knowing the material is test material during the boot camp is one thing, once you take the exam and realize that you were given exam content you should have had the moral courage to report it to Cisco.  Maybe some of the students did, but I would guess the majority of the students didn’t, being more focused on the fact that they passed the CCDE Practical exam.  We all sign / agree to the Certification guidelines and regulations each time we take a Cisco exam.  I will post a link to the Cisco Certification Agreements in the show notes of this episode.

My opinion:

Where has all of the honor, respect, professionalism, integrity, courage, and commitment gone? At the top of the episode I talked about Honor, Courage, and Commitment, which seems to be lacking in a small pocket of this community.  I’m seeing a subset of this community that I love allowing themselves to act in ways that are just not honorable, respectful, or professional. How can we be OK with this or ourselves?  I ask all of you to take a real good look at yourselves and ask the following:

  • Are you an honest person?
  • Are you an honorable person?
  • Are you committed to this community?

For those that are cheating or have cheated, the public bashing and slandering campaigns need to end.  Stop trying to pass the buck or the blame around, just own it.  Try to maintain some level of dignity during this process instead of trying to drag others in this industry down with you.  It’s just not professional or honorable, and it’s a disgrace to the overall community.

Let’s not cheat ourselves, our peers, and this community.  The journey to your goal is more important than the goal itself be it a Cisco Expert Certification, a PHD, or losing weight.  The way you achieve the goal is what really matters. This is where and when you will learn the most about yourself.

CCDE Boot Camp References:

If you are listening to this episode and desire to attend a CCDE boot camp, Zigbits officially endorses and highly recommends the following two CCDE Boot Camp courses / instructors.

These are both amazing instructors with extremely great content supporting their courses.

Related Resources:

CCDE: Integrity, Transparency, And Trust – By Cristian Sirbu
CCDE May 2017 Newsletter – By Jeremy Filliben
May 2017 CCDE Practical Exam Cancelled: Details – By Orhan Ergun

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If you have any questions or potential feedback, feel free to add a comment to this post.

Guests: None
Hosted By: Michael “Zig” Zsiga

Michael “Zig” Zsiga II, CCDE™ 2016::32, CCIE™ #44883 has been in the networking industry a little over 15 years. He is currently a Lead Technical Architect at ePlus in the New England region of the United States. Zig holds an active CCDE and two CCIE certifications, one in Routing and Switching and the second in Service Provider. Zig also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Park University. Zig is a father, a husband, a United States Marine, a gamer, a nerd, a geek and a big soccer fan. Zig loves all technology and can usually be found in the lab learning and teaching others. Zig is a co-organizer of The Boston Network Operators Group (www.bosnog.org), runs multiple CCIE Study groups, and is a newly published author. Zig lives in New Hampshire, USA with his wife, Julie and their son Gunnar.