Is the CCNA worth the trouble?

When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, my employer at the time didn’t take long to start outsourcing anything having to do with the Internet. Unfortunately, this included my department. Before, we were about to migrate to all new SPARC/Solaris servers and Cisco networking equipment which would have given us a rock solid platform on which to expand the dialup product from a regional to a national presence. Then management got involved. The company bought a national ISP and moved all our dialup operations under that company, which was running on Microsoft servers and bargain-basement networking hardware they found in the darker corners of eBay. The servers and network were about as reliable as a sand castle. And their employees were utterly clueless. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I’ve been spending the past couple of years in telephony. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the telephone network, and I could make anyone drool at a 2600 meeting if I went to them, which I haven’t in years. There just aren’t any around here. Maybe I’ll talk about the phone system later. This entry is about me.

I’ve recently seen signs that the IT industry in the U.S. is starting to recover despite all the outsourcing that seems to be going on. So this looks like a good time to move back. Don’t get me wrong, I like the phone system, but I’d much rather be working on the Internet. To that end, I decided to begin studying for the CCNA. I had intended to do this for some time, but it wasn’t until I found out my current employer pays for the training that I actually jumped in and started. Now if I can get them to pay the exam fees…

I haven’t touched a Cisco router (aside from the 678 which serves as a backup for my DSL connection) in years. And the 678 doesn’t even run IOS. Since I’ve just started this week, I’d like to know:

  • How effective is the Cisco-provided training?
  • I understand there are some virtual labs to play with during the training, and some simulators available. How effective are these in the learning process?
  • How difficult will this be? I’m an experienced Linux user, I’ve set up LANs, Linux based firewalls, and the occasional Cisco 2600 series in a few small businesses.
  • How long is this going to take?
  • What are my chances of getting a job with a livable wage outside of California? (I hate California. Again a topic for another post.)
  • When should I consider CCNP and/or CCIE? Or should I at all?

If you have gotten a CCNA or are going through the process now, and have any useful hints to share, please let me know. In the meantime I’ll be over here studying, so my blog entries will probably be fewer and farther between for a while.